The 1 Big Problem With ‘Friends’ According to Malcolm Gladwell

Equating scientific perspective with the classic NBC sitcom Friends is probably something no one was expecting, but it’s happened thanks to celebrated scientific author, Malcolm Gladwell. Latter recently wrote a new book called Talking to Strangers that examines how we read people and whether body language is really accurate.

As Gladwell is known for, he uses a lot of pop culture examples to arrive to his conclusion that most of us can’t really read other people accurately. Equating this idea to Friends may seem like a stretch, yet Gladwell makes a very interesting point connecting the famous sextet to how people think.

Perhaps it won’t surprise many to learn Gladwell has a big issue with Friends in how it depicts people in the real world. Well, what should we expect from just a sitcom?

The cast of 'Friends'
Matt LeBlanc as Joey Tribbiani, Jennifer Aniston as Rachel Green, Lisa Kudrow as Phoebe Buffay-Hannigan, David Schwimmer as Dr. Ross Geller, Matthew Perry as Chandler Bing, Courteney Cox as Monica Geller-Bing | NBCU Photo Bank

Gladwell explained his ‘Friends’ theory on Jimmy Kimmel’s show

Back in September, Gladwell appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live and explained the basic premise of former’s Talking to Strangers book.

As one of the greatest scientists alive on examining how we think and human behavior, Gladwell notes there really isn’t an accurate way to read body language.

All of the science saying the public can is really false after all based on how many mismatched people there are.

A good example is someone in an audience who’s sitting with their arms folded and looking unresponsive when, in reality, they’re very engaged. Gladwell says there’s more people like this in the world than not, making it impossible to really know who’s telling the truth or lying anymore.

According to Gladwell, Friends is the perfect metaphor for describing those who are matched with how they think and body language. The problem, Gladwell says, is this doesn’t reflect how the real world works.

To test this out, he says he carefully studied all the facial expressions of the Friends characters.

Is it possible to understand a ‘Friends’ plot with the sound off?

Further enhancing his point, Gladwell told Kimmel he watched various episodes of Friends with the sound on mute to see if he could still figure out the plot based entirely on facial expressions.

It turned out Gladwell could, based on how the characters always emote so strongly to situations.

Of course, this is typical of sitcoms anyway as a way to enhance the comedy. Nobody should consider that anywhere close to being how the real world works, though.

In Gladwell’s mind, Friends is the most unrealistic depiction of people ever placed on TV, which could be argued as inaccurate.

Almost every sitcom in existence has done the same process of having characters react in exaggerated ways to the plot scenarios. Nobody would ever say a sitcom is trying hard to mimic reality anyway, even if Friends fans keep watching because they think it really did capture the zeitgeist of friendships in the 1990s.

Perhaps this insight about Friends will make the cast members more self-conscious about whether they emote just as much in real life as they did on the show.

Maybe the actors from ‘Friends‘ are perfectly matched with their expressions

If Gladwell convinced everyone it’s becoming impossible to determine who’s lying and who isn’t nowadays, he at least admitted some people in the world have perfectly matched expressions with how they think.

Maybe the cast of Friends were some of the rare ones who projected exactly what’s going on in their heads. Should there be any truth to this, they maybe weren’t entirely acting. Of course, the best reactions are when actors encounter something unexpected in the show if there’s ever any potential for improvising.

The only way to really test this is to look at interviews of Friends cast members to see if they really emote to what they’re thinking. It seems Jennifer Aniston definitely does, perhaps making her stunning performance on The Morning Show one paralleling her own life a little too closely.