Rachel Green and Ross Geller were the romance of the 90s. She was the popular girl at high school, too shallow to notice nice guys, but suddenly she’d grown into a woman who questioned her shallow ways, ran out on her sham wedding, and turned up, back in Ross’s life.
Ross was the nerd. He spent all his time trying to be cool enough to catch Rachel’s attention and made himself even more vulnerable and nerdy in the process. Despite being a nice guy, he never won at anything and even in adulthood he’s introduced as the guy whose wife just left him for another woman.
When he sees Rachel again and we find out about their past, everyone wanted nothing but for Ross and Rachel to fall in love and live happily ever after – everyone aside from me, it seemed.
Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t make any snap judgements, but as the story progressed, I was not a fan of Dr Ross Geller. David Schwimmer, on the other hand, I love – that guy is hilarious.
So, he obsesses over Rachel for a while before they get together which, to be honest, I found creepy. I know it’s supposed to be romantic and back in the 90s that was standard romantic TV fare, but even back then I remember thinking it was weird how he’d linger or smell her hair or just stare at her from behind without her knowing.
Now, a girl who has only ever been given love and attention by men (including her own father), when she does as she’s told and fits the social roles of their choosing, might be the kind of girl who would form an unhealthy attachment to a man who claims to adore her no matter what, making her finally feel accepted and loved as an individual, but I’m sure that has nothing to do with why Rachel spends her entire life barely even noticing Ross and then falls instantly “in love” with him when she finds out he loves her.
Sadly for Rachel, by the time she tells Ross she reciprocates his love, Ross has already found himself an intelligent, attractive and kind partner, someone who makes him happy. And as Ross is a nice guy, he’d never just dump a woman like she was the ice cream flavour he’d had to settle for, because she’s a human being… Well actually, he does.
You may be shocked by this behaviour; it’s pretty reprehensible. Surely if he was so in love with Rachel, he’d deal with that before dragging some poor “second option” into the mix, to happily date him without knowing he would be much happier having sex with someone else? Well, it turns out Ross was totally fine with it. He was moving on and instead of doing it emotionally himself, he decided to use a human woman as a distraction, like a cat with a laser pen. I’m hoping this isn’t something a lot of real people have been through but let’s imagine for a second that a partner really did this to you – wouldn’t it just make you feel so used?
Ross isn’t done, though. It’s not enough to drop Julie like she’s hot trash. First, he goes along with his friend’s idea to make the infamous list where he names Julie and Rachel’s flaws. Yes, I know the negative comment in Julie’s column was “she’s not Rachel” and the nation swooned, but no respectful person would do that. And if they did, you’d hope they’d at least be intelligent enough to destroy the list to spare any possible future hurt you could cause your loved ones.
Because of Ross’s list, Rachel’s illusions of him loving her no matter what, are temporarily shattered and they don’t get together. But the problem with our insecurities is we’re willing to believe almost anything to disprove them and feel safe again.
Cut to the episode where they watch Monica and Rachel’s prom video. Cue an awkward Ross on the screen, trying to come across as cool to impress Rachel. She asks him to do up her dress. He stares at her bare shoulders and puts his hands just above her skin, never quite touching her, occasionally looking at the camera with a combination of lust and shame. I CANNOT be the only person who found that moment creepy – the porn tash did not help matters.
Our hearts are melted as we watch Ross get ready to take Rachel to the prom when her date doesn’t show up. He stumbles and trips and whispers to himself “be cool!” He’s just a poor little nerd in love. But then at the last moment Rachel runs out the door – her date turns up and Ross is left standing alone on the stairs.
Like everyone else, I felt sorry for Ross in this scene, even if he did have the air of an outdoor masturbater – and Rachel felt sorry for him too once she’d watched the video. It causes her to go straight to his arms. The man who’s always loved her, no matter what, is back again – he just accidentally makes offensive lists about women sometimes; it doesn’t matter now.
We all realised by now Ross made poor choices and yes, he could be a bit creepy when it came to his long-time crush. But he’d never done anything to Rachel we could hate him for – not really. He loved her no matter what. Until she got a career, of course.
You’d scarcely imagine a woman with zero experience in anything (aside from extremely poor waitressing) could get a job in the career of her dreams. But with a combination of hard work and luck, Rachel does it. She’s said previously that her entire life consisted of being controlled, told what to do and where to go, and I imagine in a family where appearances are everything that included what to wear and how to wear it. Rachel has never been in a place in her life where she could be praised for her initiative, work ethic or tenacity, but here she is, climbing the ladder.
She works long hours in her new career – who wouldn’t? Every other staff member has years more experience; you’re on the back foot but this is your dream and you’re going to prove yourself and realise your self-worth. Rachel has been on a journey of discovery from the first episode, learning to love who she is and not what she is, and Ross has loved her for most of his life. There’s no way he’ll let her give up on her dreams and let true happiness pass her by. Her happiness is all he cares about…
But it isn’t. Ross spends every moment he shares with Rachel acting bitterly that Rachel has something important in her life other than just him. He frequently insinuates that she’s cheating on him or has the potential to, and actually starts to interfere directly with her job. He sends an onslaught of passive-aggressive gifts and flowers, and even a barber shop quartet, to lay claim to her and remind her who she belongs to – in case she starts thinking about cheating. He even goes to her actual office and attempts to catch her in the act, despite Rachel doing nothing to earn his distrust.
I realised my full dislike of Ross in this series. His behaviour was controlling and borderline abusive. He was unreasonable and tries to make her feel guilty for things she hadn’t even done.
Understandably, Rachel gets wound up by Ross’s behaviour and needs a time out. She suggests the infamous break and he storms out immediately.
What is a break? Is it when you leave your partner forever, ending the relationship? Because I thought it was when you stop doing something and then start doing it again after a rest. Well, Ross seems to think otherwise, as he goes out to a bar that same evening, picks up a girl, and has sex with her immediately. You might think this is pretty trashy, disrespectful behaviour from a fully-grown man in a serious relationship – and you’d be right.
Ross tells Rachel that he cheated on her, right after trying to cover it up and lie to her face. But first let’s go back to the moment when she goes to his house. The woman he just had sex with is hiding behind the door and he lets Rachel kiss him. Most other people’s nightmare is being cheated on but my nightmare is unknowingly sharing the bodily fluids of the random person my partner cheated on me with – I can’t express how disgusting that is!
Ross and Rachel are broken up for a while, and in true “nice guy” fashion he goes from trying to win her back and accepting his mistake, to blaming her for putting the relationship on a break and being openly hostile. Yes, Rachel is hostile too, but I would argue that Rachel has a lot more cause to be. I would also argue that Rachel is only being allowed to discover herself as an adult much later in life. It isn’t until she leaves her fiancé Barry, right back at the beginning, that Rachel is learning about the world and having to make her own choices. Ross has been free to do that since college.
It’s probably the fact that I think Rachel’s personal development is a bit stunted that I don’t blame her for childishly encouraging Ross’s new girlfriend to shave her entire head. I do think it’s pretty trashy of Ross, however, to dump a girl he’d previously described as perfect because she shaved her head, and then to basically cheat on her with Rachel. He also pretends to read Rachel’s letter about the pain he put her through just to have sex with her AND after the sex still refuses responsibility for that pain.
The list of Ross’s transgressions is endless. Remember when Joey got that clever girlfriend and Ross spends the entire time jealous because he thinks he’s more entitled to her and even ends up cheating with her? What about the way he treats Mona? No one can defend that behaviour, surely?
I guess what I’m trying to say is – Ross is trash.
I think one of the best examples of “nice guy” behaviour from Ross is when we find out that he and his friend created a “we hate Rachel Green” club and even started disrespectful rumours about her, all because they couldn’t sleep with her. Because “nice guys” feel entitled to sex with girls they’ve given their time to. A girl is perfect until they realise she isn’t attracted to them, and then they feel cheated that they put so much time and effort into her and they’re not getting their just reward.
Luckily, Ross is a fictional character and just like the rest of the “Friends”, his behaviour isn’t based in reality. The real problem with him, for me, is the message characters like this portray to us, the audience. Ross-like characters teach an unhealthy version of the world. They tell us that if a person shows no interest in you as a partner it’s okay to push your own agenda because if you behave in the “right way”, they have to fall in love with you. They tell us you’re entitled to a relationship if only you put in the hours: you’re the one who learned their secrets and held them up when they were down.
I think TV like this is a big part of why we have “nice guys” in the world – both men and women who think if they follow this recipe they’re doing nothing wrong. The truth is that no one has to sleep with you just because you acted like a friend. Supporting a person is a kindness, not a down-payment.
I was sad when I saw that Rachel got off the plane and gave up her dream career to be with Ross. But at least we can all be happy for his first wife, Carol, who realised just in time if the man in your life can’t get your motor running, you can always call a female mechanic.