Society has changed drastically over the last 25 years; we are now in a post #MeToo era, gay marriage is legal in many countries, and diversity and inclusion are hot topics in Hollywood. Nevertheless, the show 'Friends' was arguably still very progressive despite being set and released in the 90s.
Interracial dating was seen few and far between on TV. That being said, Ross Geller - played by David Schwimmer - was seen engaging in these relationships in season two with Julie, an Asian woman, and in season nine with Charlie, a black woman.
The first televised same-sex wedding was featured on 'Friends' when Ross' ex-wife Carol marries Susan. This wedding drew an audience of 32 million viewers. To add some additional controversy to the wedding, the officiant was Candace Gingrich, a prominent LGBTQ spokeswoman and sister of Newt Gingrich - former Speaker of the US House of Representatives and very anti-LBGTQ. This wedding was broadcast one year before Ellen's coming out episode that ended her sitcom and blacklisted her from TV for years, and two years before Will and Grace aired.
'Friends' was a powerhouse of female empowerment. Monica is the head chef of a restaurant, in a male-dominated industry that still looks the same today, and her accepted role in the group is the bossy one. Rachel goes from a trophy wife in the making to a financially independent waitress who works her way up to a prominent position at Ralph Lauren and continues working full-time once she becomes a single mother. Phoebe is successfully self-employed and is never afraid to be herself, regardless of what others may think.
The issues addressed in 'Friends' are still significant today, if not even more so. Monica and Chandler face infertility and adoption; Phoebe acts as a surrogate for her brother; Chandler deals with his emotions over his father's gender confirmation surgery; and Phoebe deals with her grief over the loss of her mother by suicide.
For many people, 'Friends' was the first place where they saw themselves and their issues represented on TV. The technology has changed, and the world has become a more accepting place, but at the end of the day, 'Friends' stays the same, the issues remain relevant, and the fashion comes back around.
In 2018 Friends was the second most-watched show on Netflix. If that's not proof of power and a strong representation of continued relevance then what is?