Last year, a fan theory about the acclaimed television show Friends made it’s way around social media. This theory, from Twitter user @strnks postulated the idea that the show was simply the drug addled imaginings of the show’s quirkiest character Phoebe. In this theory, Phoebe is a homeless person watching the rest of the group from outside the coffee shop and she inserts herself into various Friends shenanigans. It’s a solid fan theory but there might be a better one. In the same vein of “all in this character’s head”, what if the entire show was imagined by Rachel?
In this theory, Rachel never ran away from the altar and is now married to Barry. She lives in Long Island as a trophy wife to a husband she doesn’t love. To escape from her life, she spends her days imagining what it would be like to live a “normal” life in New York with regular friends instead of the Stepfordesque existence she currently resides in. The show we are watching are the daydreams that Rachel uses to escape from her life. Let’s see of there’s any evidence for this.
In the show, Rachel is best friends with Monica. But in the real life of our fan theory, Rachel is stuck with fellow trophy wife friends. So to start off her “waitress in New York” fantasy she imagines moving in with her old college buddy and best friend Monica. Now as we all know, in college, Monica was outrageously obese. On the show, Monica is rail skinny. The reason why she is so thin on the show is because, in real life, she never lost all that weight. Rachel has simply imagined her that way in an effort to make her daydreams more appealing. And in the mid seasons of the show, who is Monica’s biggest flame? Richard, a friend of Monica’s parents and someone who Rachel certainly would have known when they were friends in high school. Rachel is simply inserting Monica’s child hood crush into her daydreams. And what about Chandler who Monica ends up with? Same thing. From flashbacks, we see that Monica had a crush on Chandler in high school. Rachel is simply pairing Monica up with old infatuations. And speaking of Chandler…
There’s a reason Chandler is nothing but a walking rimshot on the show. Chandler was the funny man in high school and college so Rachel imagines him as her funny, goofy, comic relief friend. This theory would certainly explain the running gag of how nobody in the group of friends seems to know what Chandler does at his job. It’s because Rachel never imagined a specific job for him. All she imagined was, “works in an office somewhere, wears a suit”. His actual job isn’t important to the fantasy (transponster?). His sense of humor is.
Joey is just a stand in for “stereotypical Italian New Yorker” in Rachel’s daydreams. Rachel likes to imagine having a friend like this because it fits in with her “normal” life fantasy. Joey also just happens to be a soap opera actor, a genre of television Rachel loves.
Phoebe’s character is similar to Joey’s in the sense that she is a walking stereotype. Rachel has inserted this bohemian, hippie character into her fantasies because it is in direct contrast to her everyday life.
All that’s left is Ross. How does he fit into this? Ross is just an alternative to Barry and is an easy pick for Rachel because of his crush on her in college. We can also look at Rachel’s other beaus for evidence. She dates a rich man child who turns out to be scared of birds (a direct stand in for Barry). There’s Paulo, the hunky European who speaks no English which is convenient for Rachel. She can imagine a sexy tryst with a strange man without worrying about dialogue. But when it comes to a relationship, she picks Ross because she is imagining what could have been.
Sure there’s some holes in this theory but it is an interesting one. With this theory, the ending of Friends would have been Rachel fondly looking at a picture of her and Monica in college while breakfast burns on the stove, kids scream in the background, and Barry gives her a peck on the cheek as he heads off to work.