As the world mourns actor Matthew Perry’s passing, let’s delve into why his most famous character has had a lasting impact on media and culture.
Few characters have left a lasting mark on the realm of humour quite like Chandler Bing. Matthew Perry’s character on ‘Friends’, as the resident funnyman of the ensemble cast, became a symbol of relatable comedy for an entire generation and continues to do so even in 2023, which unfortunately became the year of the actor’s sad demise. Reminiscing on his most beloved role, let’s break down why it has had such an enduring impact on popular culture decades after the show drew the curtains.
Defined by his distinctive wit, Chandler was a crucial ingredient in the success of ‘Friends’. His quick one-liners and mastery of sarcasm quickly became the exact kind of comedy he would go on to be known for. More specifically, the character’s way of finding humour in difficult situations, coupled with Perry’s deadpan delivery, is what made the audience see themselves in him and fundamentally changed the way people appreciate humour.
Sarcasm had long been a powerful force in storytelling, long before the character of Chandler came along. Classic examples include Rick Blaine in ‘Casablanca’, who displayed the strength of humour as a coping mechanism in the face of adversity, or Alex Keaton in the sitcom ‘Family Ties’, whose witty remarks in family settings made him emerge as the hilarious fan favourite.
However, what perhaps differentiated Chandler from similar pursuits of comedy in the past was an added layer of relatability. The use of self-deprecating humour struck a chord with fans as they watched him face insecurities when it comes to both his personal and professional endeavours, and that is something that is inevitably tied to the human experience. Getting through tough times eventually, but laughing at yourself on the way there, proves to be better than sulking throughout. This is what Chandler Bing essentially embodied, and Matthew Perry’s charming portrayal made it look easy.
Another important aspect of Chandler’s likeability was that he portrayed vulnerability and sensitivity in a time when the’macho’ persona was the norm for most male characters. His shy and awkward demeanour made a generation of young men feel like it was okay to not put on a tough exterior all the time.
The sitcom’s success further helped the character reach a wider audience as it continued to gain international fame. For many Indians, ‘Friends’ was their first exposure to Western media. Chandler Bing became a cultural icon, with his most famous dialogues being quoted and referenced often. His influence permeated other sitcoms and characters, and classic meme formats stemmed from his character. His comedic style became and stayed a prevalent element in contemporary media.
However, like anything else, and rightfully so, Chandler Bing was not free from criticism. Given the social atmosphere at the time the show was filmed, various jokes that were made reinforced harmful stereotypes. Newer audiences therefore have a harder time accepting some of the humour used in certain dialogues between the characters and the show in general. Nevertheless, the legacy of Matthew Perry’s beloved character has remained, and his influence is felt everywhere in media and culture.
So today, as you mourn Matthew Perry’s passing, maybe rewatch your favourite ‘Friends’ episodes and let Chandler Bing reiterate the fundamental lesson that laughter has the power to make any situation feel at least a little bit better.
Featured Image Credits: Medium