[Content Note: Misogyny, Patriarchal Relationships, Disability]
You know what is not fun? I am still stuck in bed for pretty much all the times I'm not at work, because my back hates me! This is me giving a seriously negative look at my back! (ಠ_ಠ)
But the happy part is that being trapped in bed means I get to watch more Friends and now I have another disc analyzed thanks to the magic of typing! And positive thinking! ✽ ✾ ✿ ❀ ❁ ❃ ❋
An Annotated Index of Ross Geller: Disc 2
Episode 107: The One With The Blackout
Synopsis: A blackout over all of Manhattan results in wacky hijinks; Ross makes a belated move on Rachel but is interrupted by a cat which turns out to have an attractive Italian man (Paolo) as its guardian.
Analysis: This is the infamous "friend zone" episode (which I've covered in part in the mega-post). The Friends pass the time by playing the "weirdest place you've ever done it" game, and Rachel confesses to Ross that she's never had a deeply passionate sexual relationship--the weirdest place she's ever done it was "the foot of the bed". This doesn't really fit super well with Rachel's characterization throughout the series and backstory so far. It will be mentioned in just a couple episodes (Episode 117) that she had sex on her parents' bed with a boy whose father was a major financial rival to the family--that sounds somewhat more passionate than "the foot of the bed" with (we presume) Barry. Also, in the pilot (Episode 101), we had this exchange:
Monica: So how you doing today? Did you sleep okay? Talk to Barry? I can't stop smiling.
Rachel: I can see that. You look like you slept with a hanger in your mouth.
Monica: I know, he's just so, so... Do you remember you and Tony DeMarco?
Rachel: Oh, yeah.
Monica: Well, it's like that. With feelings.
Rachel: Oh wow. Are you in trouble.
So if none of this fits with Rachel's characterization and backstory, I feel entitled to ask why it is here. For one, obviously, this is a setup to her falling for Paolo and dragging out the Ross Nice Guy / Will They Won't They storyline. But I also have a sneaking suspicion that this is here so that Ross can continue to be superior to Rachel.
We learned a few episodes back that Ross was a virgin until he slept with Carol, and we the viewers may choose to assume that he's only ever been with her. Whereas we already know about a couple guys in Rachel's past (Barry and Tony DeMarco) and will learn about a third one (Billy Dreskin) in a few episodes. None of this definitely adds up to Rachel being more sexually experienced than Ross, but it's interesting to me that here we have Rachel turning to Ross (of all the Friends on offer!) for advice on whether there is the possibility for passion in her future. And Ross typically lectures her on how the thing she wants isn't that important ("Passion is way overrated.") before then turning cryptic and promising her the thing she wants ("See, I see.... big passion in your future.") with the subtext that she'll get that if she does things his way.
Anyway. Joey lectures Ross that he's "in the friend zone" and that he needs to go make his move on Rachel now. And so of course Ross has to do a big buildup ("OK, I have a question. Well, actually, it's not so much a question as.. more of a general wondering... ment.") instead of just saying, "Would you like to go out on a date with me this Saturday?" or whatever. And it feels like he can't straight-up say that and instead must do this circuitous confessional not merely because he's afraid of hearing No, but maybe also because he thinks he needs to do a confessional infodump of all his many feels for Rachel right there. And no doubt scare the poor woman to death.
Which sort of brings us back to the problem that Ross has spent so long building up this crush he has on the idea of Rachel (or, and here I quote LucyChi, his Rachel Goal), that he is officially in the Creepy Nice Guy Zone. Rachel would be starting this relationship from square one; Ross has been around the Monopoly board in his head for at least eighteen laps riding the little top hat. That's a fundamental mismatch of relationship expectations. But I digress, and a cat leaps on Ross' shoulders and startles him into a failure to ask Rachel out. And while Rachel and Phoebe try to find the cat's guardian, Rachel also finds Paolo who is supposed to look like sex on a stick and the episode will end with her in his arms, passionately making out.
The interesting thing here is how Ross reacts in order to head off the Paolo situation. He could go to Rachel and have an honest conversation: "Look, this might be a bad time now, but earlier I was hoping to ask you out on a date and I just really wanted to get the offer on the table. I really think we would be great together, but I understand if that's not something you want to try right now." But that would make Ross vulnerable and put the option to say No on the table and we're not going to have that. (Also: it would give a woman agency. Slippery slope.)
Instead, Ross tries to appeal to Paolo, which makes literally no sense in the world unless you think of women as objects owned by men. Ross tells him that "See, um, the point is that... Rachel and I should be, er, together." and that "if you get in the... way, of us becoming a thing, then I would be, well, very sad." Paolo has literally no reason to care if Ross is very sad. He doesn't know the guy from Adam! He could be a creepy stalker who tries to control Rachel's sex life. (Oh wait.) And yet I think we're supposed to see Paolo as kind of a jerk (and probably some xenophobic tropes about foreigners seducing our women) for not respecting Ross' dibs.
Furthermore, Ross' attempt to scare Paolo off is a huge trespass on Rachel's agency to pick which man she wants to be with. Ross wants to narrow the pool of available men (one man at a time, via heart-to-heart talks with them, apparently) until Rachel's only options are Ross vs. No One. Whereas if Ross were honest with her about his feelings and respected her agency to pick, then her options would be Ross vs. Everyone Else Who Might Be Interested. Because he refuses to extend her that agency, Ross is trying to control Rachel's love life by tampering with her available choices.
Episode 108: The One Where Nana Dies Twice
Synopsis: Ross and Monica's grandmother dies; Ross is injured at the funeral and takes truth-inducing pain medication.
Analysis: The problems with Ross in this episode are ones we've already seen. Once again, Ross refuses to leverage his privilege to protect his sister from her abusive parents--in the hospital when their mother goes on the verbal attack and Monica turns to Ross for sympathy and validation he silences her and makes a joke out of the ongoing abuse: "Okay, relax, relax. We are gonna be here for a while, it looks like, and we still have boyfriends and your career to cover."
I'm going to keep harping on this string, but Ross is about to be a father, it would not be totally inappropriate for him to have an ah-ha moment here and recognize that (a) this is a toxic environment that (b) he doesn't want to perpetuate and (c) he needs to stand up for his sister just as he would hope someone would stand up for his child in a situation like this. He never does. Later in the episode, we'll have this exchange:
Ross: Well, at least she's with Pop-Pop and Aunt Phyllis now.
Monica: Aunt Phyllis is dead?
Ross: Yeah, for like six years.
Monica: Where was I?!
Ross: Wher--Can we focus..please!
And I literally don't know what to do with that except to point and gape.
Anyway, under the magical truth-telling medications, Ross tells Rachel that he "reallllly" loves her and she humors him and he gets annoyed and passes out. Like you do, apparently. My complaint here is that after Ross sobers up, he probably should recognize that this unrequited crush of his is getting out of hand and just go ahead and maturely tell Rachel (Who has been dating Paolo maybe a couple weeks at this point? Tops? The timeline is never very clear.) about it rather than wait to ambush it on her the next time he's drunk or whatever--that's not fair to her.
Episode 109: The One Where Underdog Gets Away
Synopsis: The Friends have Thanksgiving dinner at Monica's, but when they get locked out of the apartment, the dinner burns and a big fight occurs. Ross spends most of the episode talking to Carol's stomach.
Analysis: Liss mentioned last time how Ross' biggest issue with Susan is that "he's pissed she's assumed ownership of his wife and baby". Exhibit Eleventy Billion: This episode. In the coffee shop, once it's established that Ross, Monica, and Phoebe will spend Thanksgiving together, Phoebe asks if they can't also invite Carol. Ross mocks Phoebe's enthusiasm:
Phoebe: Ooh, ooh! Why don't we invite her?
Ross: (mimicking) Ooh, ooh. Because she's my ex-wife, and will probably want to bring her, ooh, ooh, lesbian life partner.
In literally the next scene, Ross will learn that Susan is reading to the baby in utero and then the next scene after that will be Ross complaining to Monica that he's not getting his dues by letting him participate in the reading experience that he has already said he doesn't believe has value: "Look, if she's talking to it, I just think that I should get some belly time too. Not that I believe any of this." So just so we're all clear: Ross doesn't want Carol to be invited to things, because Carol would bring Susan, but Ross is angry that Carol isn't spending more time around him so that he can have equal belly-time-rights as Susan. Sure, seems reasonable.
The rest of the Ross arc of this episode will be him whining about the activities (talking, reading, singing); Carol telling him that he doesn't have to, just because Susan does; and Ross immediately going full-throttle with the activities because he's in a competition with Susan for ownership of the baby. When Susan comes home from work and the baby starts kicking to Ross' singing, three pairs of hands reach for Carol's stomach to feel the kicks... and Ross literally slaps Susan's hand away. Yeah.
The other thing to note in this episode is that when Rachel is despondent about not being able to afford a plane ticket to be with her family on Thanksgiving, it is Monica (not Ross) who organizes a charity campaign among the Friends in order to raise the necessary money that she needs. In fact, Ross is so uninvolved with this that he doesn't know he chipped in until after the money has been given to Rachel. (Weirdly, the transcript ascribes his "We did [all chip in]?" to Joey, but this is in error. You'll have to trust me on this one.)
On the one hand, I'm perfectly happy for this to have been Monica's thing because Monica is awesome and Ross is not. But it's worth noting that this means that Ross took literally no interest whatsoever in Rachel's genuinely big hopes of seeing her family over the holidays and he didn't care even a little bit over the sadness she would feel at not being able to see them. And he maintained this insular callousness even while he himself was distraught over not seeing his parents over the holidays, to the point where he drove Monica to distraction by his repeated complaints that she wasn't a sufficient substitute for his mom ("I don't know. It's just not the same without Mom in the kitchen.").
So Ross clearly understands the concept of being genuinely sad and upset over not seeing one's parents over the holidays, but he cares so little about the fact that Rachel is going through this herself that he apparently never even mentioned to the others that, gosh, isn't that sad for her and/or if only there was something we could do, because if he had said something to them, presumably they would have told him that Monica was organizing a thing to take care of it. That makes Ross seem (again) like he doesn't really care about Rachel as a person.
Best lines of the episode? Toss-up between Phoebe telling Ross to back off ("K, Ross don’t take this the wrong way or anything but…Back off!") and Susan teasing Ross when he comments that they have "a lot of books about being a lesbian" ("Well, you know, you have to take a course. Otherwise, they don't let you do it."). Can we please have an entire show based around Susan snarking at Ross?
Episode 110: The One With The Monkey
Synopsis: Frustrated by his failure to manipulate Rachel into a relationship with him, Ross gets a pet monkey so that he might have someone to dole out his affections to. (Or the writers just thought a monkey would be cute; I really don't know.) Otherwise not a Ross-heavy episode, but still valuable for analysis because of the relationship shown between Phoebe and David: they meet, fall in love, and amicably break-up because of a work/life conflict.
Analysis: The Ross high notes here include another one of those "cute" slips of the tongue where he accidentally reveals the contempt he has for his Friends (when Monica notes that a roommate might make the apartment less lonely now that Carol is gone, Ross says " I think you reach a certain age, having a roommate is kinda pathet-- ....sorry, that's, that's 'pathet', which is Sanskrit for 'really cool way to live'.") and his continued insistence that Monica play host to his monkey even though she doesn't like him messing with the TV remote, putting his paws on her cooking utensils, and peeing on the coffee table. Haha, Ross is super great about boundaries.
Then when Chandler ends up bonding with the monkey more than Ross does, Ross shows disappointment and anger, rather than being happy that his pet is adjusting well. I mean, I totally understand being bummed if your new pet doesn't seem to like you, but it just comes off (again) like Ross treats everyone in his life like an object that is supposed to be min/maxing his total happiness, and then he passive-aggresses at them when they fail to comply. At the end of the episode, Ross bemoans to Rachel how hard it is that his pet doesn't "love him back" and it's supposed to be cute (because Rachel doesn't love him back! Get it?!) only he's referring to Marcel (and therefore to Rachel) as a literal object:
Ross: (Watching Marcel and talking to Rachel) I wanted this to work so much. I mean I'm still in there, changing his diapers, pickin' his fleas... but he's just phoning it in. Just so hard to accept the fact that something you love so much doesn't love you back. Y’know? [emphasis mine]
The things in Ross' life, they just don't appreciate him. It's sad, ya'll. But moving on, this episode contains the brief-but-memorable Phoebe and David arc: Phoebe meets a sweet, nerdy scientist at the coffee shop and they immediately gel really well together, but David gets a grant that would take him to Minsk, and they have to decide what to do about their relationship. David initially wants to stay and Phoebe asks him to do so, but then she realizes that this is the opportunity of a lifetime and she can't let him pass this up for her:
Phoebe: Oh yes, yes, yes you can. Just say, um, 'Phoebe, my work is my life and that's what I have to do right now'. And I say 'your work?! Your work?! How can you say that?!'. And then you say, um, 'it's tearing me apart, but I have no choice. Can't you understand that?'.
We're going to remember this down the road because this is literally the exact opposite of how Ross will treat Rachel when her once-in-a-lifetime career opportunity starts inconveniencing him and their relationship.
Episode 111: The One With Mrs. Bing
Synopsis: Chandler's mother, who is a best-selling romance author, comes to town; she and Ross kiss.
Analysis: You know it's bad when the mother-kissing plot is probably the least of the Ross problems in this episode.
First there's the fact that Nora Bing's entire purpose in this episode appears to be to reassure Ross. When Ross drinks himself silly over Rachel and Paolo, Nora doesn't say something like "you love her" or "you wanted to be with her"; instead she says "She's supposed to be with you." This of course begs the question: According to whom? Well, according to Ross, obviously. And the writers are on his side, and therefore so is Nora (also apparently by virtue of previous association, since he is Chandler's college roommate and she is Chandler's mother and it's noted that they've been previously acquainted with each other).
But the question of who Rachel is "supposed" to be with is something that only Rachel can answer. And I would kind of think that a best-selling romance author who writes women-heroines for women-readers would understand that: the right man for Rachel is something that only Rachel can determine. But, no, the writers are determined to break up this relationship and step one is reassuring us that Ross is Mr. Right and Paolo isn't even close:
Mrs. Bing: Oh, Ross, listen to me. I have sold a hundred million copies of my books, and y'know why?
Ross: The girl on the cover with her nipples showing?
Mrs. Bing: No. Because I know how to write men that women fall in love with. Believe me, I cannot sell a Paolo. People will not turn three hundred twenty-five pages for a Paolo. C'mon, the guy's a secondary character, a, y'know, complication you eventually kill off.
Mrs. Bing: He's not a hero. ...You know who our hero is.
Ross: The guy on the cover with his nipples showing?
Mrs. Bing: No, it's you!
Mrs. Bing: No, really, c'mon. You're smart, you're sexy...
Mrs. Bing: Yes you are. And the fact that you don’t think you are makes you even sexier.
Like, really? The Best-Selling Romance Author has not only never written a story with a sexy foreign-language-speaking muscle-bound gorgeous-hair hero, she's also never heard of a popular romance novel with a hunky hero like Paolo? All the romance novels on the romance shelf have slender, nerdy, paleontology-major Nice Guy heroes? ALL OF THEM. Because you can't "sell a Paolo".
I... I literally don't know what to say to that assertion, so moving on: Joey witnesses the kiss and tells Ross that he needs to come clean with Chandler because he'll be more hurt if Ross doesn't tell him but Nora does. So we get a smash cut to Ross 'confessing' to Chandler and Chandler saying, "I can't believe it. Paolo kissed my mom?" Ross comes clean immediately, but this is another example of Ross lying in order to avoid taking responsibility for his actions. (Much later, as mentioned in the mega-post, he will tell Carol that Rachel cheated on him, when in fact he was the one who slept with someone else, not her.)
There is literally no reason for Ross to make up this lie about Paolo. The lie doesn't keep Ross safe from a confession by Nora, it doesn't make Chandler like Paolo any less (when he didn't like him in the first place); all it does is hurt Chandler by drawing out his pain at this weird-and-upsetting confession even longer. It's only purpose here is as a joke that Ross can't be honest about painful truths so (haha!) he abuses the trust of his friends in order to pin his actions on innocent people.
And then, third: Ross pressures Chandler to confront his mother, which is really not his call to make (and is especially hypocritical when Ross perpetually refuses to confront his parents about their emotional abuse of his sister), and then when things work out for the best he tries to take credit ("
Well, see? So, maybe it wasn't such a bad idea, y'know, me kissing your mom, uh? Huh?"). And that's kind of an indication of someone who doesn't have real remorse over causing his friend pain and is more concerned about justifying himself.
Episode 112: The One With the Dozen Lasagnas
Synopsis: Rachel and Paolo break up when Paolo makes a pass at Phoebe; Carol asks Ross if he wants to know the genitals of the fetus.
Analysis: When I started this, I didn't realize just how much Ross Fail fodder is in Season 1 alone! This is the episode where the writers "kill off" Paolo (as foretold through Nora Bing in the previous episode), and the best way to do this is to automatically make the Rival Love Interest a cheating philanderer. (For Better Or Worse did the same thing and by the way, if you haven't read Why I Hate Anthony by Shaenon Garrity, I predict you will like that post at least as much as you like this one! Nice Guys everywhere!)
'Course, Ross doesn't know that Paolo will be dumped by the end of this episode, so we open with this gem: "I'm physically nauseous. What am I supposed to do, huh? Call immigration? (pauses, looks suddenly inspired) I could call immigration!" OH. MY. GOD. I was literally screaming at the television in horror at this point, because I seriously can't think of how terrible a human being would have to be, to seriously consider tearing a couple apart via deportation in order to try to get into someone's pants. We are officially into super-villain territory here.
Anyway, Ross takes over a lasagna to Carol and Carol asks if the dish is meat-free because Susan is a vegetarian and Ross lies through his teeth and says "I'm pretty sure that it is". Then he comments on how Carol's "breasts are starting to swell". Carol changes the subject and tells him that the amino results came back healthy and does he want to know whether the baby has a penis or not. (All this is framed around a binary gender and a biology-equals-gender framework, and I want to note here that Penis does not equal Boy but that's how the show is treating the situation.)
Ross says he doesn't want to know, and that's fine. Really, it's fine. But then something interesting happens. Rachel, who despite being "shallow" is clearly waaaay more self-aware than "smart" Ross, recognizes that it would bother her if she didn't know but everyone else did ("I can't believe you don't want to know. I mean, I couldn't not know, I mean, if, if the doctor knows, and Carol knows, and Susan knows...."). Rachel's entirely sensible solution to this self-knowledge is that if she would need to know when everyone else knows, then she would go ahead and learn the information for herself.
Ross (in comparison) has the same problem but (in contrast) comes up with a different solution: he just wants no one else to learn the information. And will spend the rest of the episode objecting that Monica knows, Joey knows, etc. ("Wait—oh—hey—huh, oh great now he knows, and I don't know!") It's very telling that Ross' solution to problems that are his own damn personal problems is to try to control his friends and his environment with a total disregard for their needs and their own intersecting relationships with Ross' baby.
There's also something else here that I want to point out: the show tries really hard to red herring up a girl-gender here. Susan asks Carol "is it what we thought it would be?" and is clearly delighted by the answer and we all know that lesbians only want girl-children. (That was sarcasm.) Then when Monica apologizes for telling Joey and says "I'm just so excited about being an aunt!", Joey (who is supposed to be slow-witted with words) hastily corrects her "Or an uncle!" as though he thinks that she gave the baby's gender away by calling herself an aunt. When the twist comes at the end that it's a boy and Ross is overwhelmed and overjoyed, it's unclear whether he's overjoyed by the reality of the knowledge or by the fact that it's a boy and not the girl that we were set up to anticipate.
Anyway, back to the Paolo subplot--he makes a pass at Phoebe, and Phoebe asks the Friends what she should tell Rachel. She mentions later in the episode that she and Rachel haven't been friends for very long and that she's worried this will hurt their relationship. (It doesn't, because Rachel and Phoebe are both awesome.) But Ross is looking out for number one here and starts pressuring Phoebe like whoa: "You have to tell her! You have to tell her! It's your moral obligation, as a friend, as a woman, I think it's a feminist issue!" Haha, thank you, Ross, for only caring about feminism when it applies to you.
And it's important to note here that the girls don't have any idea of Ross' feelings for Rachel, so they don't know to take his advice with a grain of salt. Instead, they probably assume that this is his advice based on his own recent divorce and bout with infidelity. So Ross is giving advice under the pretense of having gone through this recently as opposed to honestly admitting he has a personal stake here. Whether you agree that Rachel should be told, it's still shitty for him to just not care that this will hurt her and instead be seizing on the benefit that this situation will bring him.
Then Rachel and Paolo break up and the guys counsel Ross to "swoop in" and be "the anti-Paolo" and so of course instead of comforting her and caring about her and trying to cheer her up, Ross starts selling what kind of guy she needs to be with according to him. Rachel thanks him and tells him that she's done with guys for right now and doesn't want to think about relationships or dating for, you know, a few minutes. What with just having had her heart broken. Kind of like Ross was feeling in the pilot episode when his joy over seeing Rachel didn't erase his sadness over Carol. What I am saying is that none of this should be hard for Ross to understand.
Instead he lectures her about how her current process for picking boyfriends is shitty and he can fix that for her:
Ross: See, Rach, uh, see, I don't think that swearing off guys altogether is the answer. I really don't. I think that what you need is to develop a more sophisticated screening process.
Rachel: No. I just need to be by myself for a while, you know? I just got to figure out what I want
Ross: Uh, no, no, see, because not...not all guys are going to be a Paolo.
A MORE SOPHISTICATED SCREENING PROCESS. I literally cannot hear that line without my stomach churning, lol. Where is that bowl of popcorn? I have all the popcorns to throw.
OK, I can be mature about this. *clears throat* Ross was just broken up with because he didn't know his wife was a lesbian. His biggest pet peeve was people asking him during the process if he really didn't know she was a lesbian. ("No!! Okay?! Why does everyone keep fixating on that? She didn't know, how should I know?") He agreed that Phoebe's psychiatrist boyfriend had to be dumped when he speculated that Ross married a lesbian on purpose because subconsciously he wanted his marriage to fail. Ross should not only be the last person on earth to lecture Rachel about a "screening process" to weed out pesky lesbians and philanderers, he should also realize how hurtful those suggestions are.
It would appear that Ross doesn't empathize with Rachel not because his privilege has insulated him from the sorts of things that hurt her, because he clearly has experienced those same things. Instead, it appears he doesn't empathize with her simply because he doesn't consider her to be human like him. That's significantly more disturbing to me than your usual privilege-fail.