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"Friends" is a show with six main characters,
but if you had to pick one protagonist --
the one who really takes the biggest journey
over the ten seasons,

you'd probably choose Rachel.
The series starts with Rachel Green making
a choice that will define her entire life.

“Welcome to the real world!
It sucks -- you're gonna love it.”
She runs away from the wealthy but passionless
existence she could have had with her orthodontist

fiancé, Barry.
And she seeks out a life of uncertainty.
She embraces being a regular twenty-something.
"Oh, and wish me luck!"
"What for?"
“I'm gonna go get one of those job things.”
This down-on-your-luck, no-frills lifestyle
is a given for the other friends,

and they're sometimes disenchanted with

They're starting to feel that longing for
marriage, children, having a bit more money

and the end of this unpredictable stage.
Rachel certainly struggles with whether she
could have made a mistake.

“Everyone I know is either getting married
or getting pregnant or getting promoted, and

I'm getting coffee!
And it's not even for me.”
But she chooses this life because she doesn't
want to live some numb, lukewarm life in the

even if that means she has to brave a lot
of new lows.

“It's like there's rock bottom, 50 feet
of crap, then me.”

So more than any other character, Rachel embodies
the value of experimenting, failing, and striving

in your twenties.
“Mom, I realize you and daddy were upset
when I didn't marry Barry and get the big

house in the suburbs
with all the security and everything, but
God, this is just so much better for me.”

Slowly but surely, she finds her feet in her

falls in and out of love -- mostly with Ross,
and gains independence.
Rachel proves that the choices we make at
this age can completely transform us.

She changes from spoiled princess to savvy
executive and put-together mom.

The person she's become is thanks to the
many missteps and lessons learned,

and even more than that, thanks to the friends
she found.

So we can say that Rachel is the true protagonist
of Friends

because she most demonstrates the message
of the show --

that we grow into our best selves by investing
in our friends

and accepting the messiness of our young adult

Besides being the missing piece of the friend
group at the beginning,

Rachel is also our proxy -- we enter the world
of the show through her.

The pilot is framed around her personal journey
as she moves in with Monica,

finds a job at Central Perk, and cuts herself
off from her family's financial support.

In fact the whole first season is focused
more on Rachel than any other individual,

as she adjusts to this new way of life.
"It was totally...not worth it.
Who's FICA?
Why is he getting all my money?"
So from the get-go, it is a story about Rachel
finding herself and coming of age.

"Gunther, I quit."
"Friends" can get criticized for offering
a sugarcoated, lillywhite vision of twenty-something

But Rachel does face a lot of classic universal
problems, from financial strain --

"I will have the side salad."
"And what will that be on the side of?"
to dead-end jobs --
“Bloomingdale's eliminated my department.”
to the trials of apartment hunting.
And we see how invested the other friends
are in her progress.

The reason they -- and we -- care so much
is that everything feels like a big “first”

in Rachel's adult life.
I cleaned!
I did the windows, I did the floors, I even
used all those attachments on the vacuum

except for that little round one with the

She seems to see everything with new eyes.
She's earnest and enthusiastic even as she
experiences things like doing laundry for

the first time.
"If I can actually do my own laundry, there
isn't anything I can't do."

Even as the show goes on and Rachel becomes
less of an ingenue,

she maintains this lovable, sometimes clueless

So we can relate to her drive to try new things
as well as her tendency to stumble.

"I wasn't supposed to put beef in the trifle!"
Rachel's oblivious parents and vain sisters
represent what she could have become

if she'd stayed in her bubble of privilege
and security.

“You didn't marry your Barry, honey, but
I married mine.”

We also get the alternate reality where we

the bored, dissatisfied housewife version
of Rachel who did marry Barry.

She's an altogether shallower and less interesting

“Hi, I love you on that show.
I watch you every day.
I mean when you took out your own kidney to
save your ex-wife even though she tried to

kill you…”
Sometimes we do see the aftereffects of Rachel's
upbringing sometimes,

when she acts entitled or self-involved.
But ultimately she's rejected that life

And we recognize that it takes guts to let
go of everything you know

and face the judgement of your peers.
While Rachel's new life delights us, it
doesn't always look great to outsiders.

“What that Rachel did to her life.
We ran into her parents at the club.
They were not playing very well.”
“I'm not going to tell you what they spent
on that wedding.”

Still, we see from her mother's envy that
Rachel escaped a deeply unfulfilling life.

In the long run, she dodged a bullet.
“You know, I never worked.
I went straight from my father's house to
the sorority house to my husband's house.

I am just so proud of you.”
So Rachel's plots are a stand-in for us
and the trials we experience,

but Rachel the character, played by Jennifer
Aniston, is also the most aspirational Friend.

Her story is a classic upward arc: young woman
comes to the big city, works hard, and makes

a name for herself.
And then there's her wonderfully '90s
fashion and “the Rachel” haircut which

shaped a generation.
She's beautiful, sweet, and sometimes scatterbrained

a lot like the heroine of a romantic comedy.
Her relationship with Ross is one of the most
hyped TV pairings ever.

“Ross and Rachel.
Rachel and Ross.
That's been one heck of a seesaw, hasn't

"Friends" proved there's something satisfying
about the pairing of the stylish girl next

with the good-hearted, nerdy guy.
The long buildup starts with Ross pining after

then her falling in love with him when he's
seeing someone else.

Rachel's discovering her new attraction
to Ross shows how much she's matured.

In high school, she looked right through him.
So being able to see the value of Ross'
love is a sign that she's become a deeper,

more genuine human being.
But even after Ross finds out about her feelings,
they don't get together

because Ross makes a list of her bad qualities
to help him choose between her and Julie.

“Kind of ditzy?
Too into her looks?
spoiled --
"Now that's a little spoiled.
He was supposed to type 'little,' the idiot."
"Just a waitress?”
At first we -- and Ross -- think that this
is just a fight that she'll get over.

But Rachel is dead serious because her whole
new life is about the conscious choice

not to be the spoiled, shallow rich girl others
see her as.

She refuses to be with someone who doesn't
see her true potential.

"How would you feel if the one person that
you trusted the most in the world not only

thinks them too,
but actually uses them as reasons not to be
with you?"

It's only six episodes later -- which is
long in "Friends" time -- that the prom video

gets Ross another chance
because it helps her realizes how true his
love is.

He's her lobster.”
Briefly, in parts of Season 2 and 3 we actually
get to see the couple happy together, which

is great for a bit.
"Do I look fat?
But at this point Rachel still doesn't have
the rest of her life together at all.

"Ross, you have planned out the next 20 years
of our lives, we've been dating for six weeks."

They break up after the infamous “We Were
on a Break” fiasco --

"I thought we were broken up!"
"We were on a break."
And we'll never all be able to agree on
whether this counted as cheating or not, but

Rachel can't forgive him.
“You're a totally different person to me

I used to think of you as somebody that would
never, ever hurt me, ever.”

When you rewatch this season, though,
it's clear that this event is the symptom
and not the real cause of their separation.

Just before this, Rachel has finally started
making a little progress in her fashion career,

and Ross really isn't handling it well.
His misguided jealousy drives them apart,
and we wonder if his jealousy is less about
Mark and more an immature reaction

to the fact that she now has something substantive
in her life besides him.

As much as we'd like Ross and Rachel to be

at this moment they are not in the same place.
Their breakup is a defining moment for Rachel,
because up to this point

it seemed like she was on track to having
it all.

So this step backward is a reminder that her
journey is more about learning to assert herself

rather than having her needs taken care of
by someone else.

"You looked fat in an X-ray."
Over the following 7 seasons, the show teases
us with false starts and restarts

and the constant will-they-or-won't-they

“I just don't see why those two can't
work things out.”

The timing is always off.
“With us, it's never off the table.”
"I'm still in love with you."
They can't quit but they can't commit.
"He's going in."
“I don't know if anything is ever going
to happen with us again ever.

But I don't want to know that it never could.”
Ultimately it's no accident that they need
all of this time apart.

Their years as friends rather than lovers
turn out to be crucial.

Rachel needs to build a truly independent
identity and a great career.

And Ross needs to see Rachel in a more balanced

that's free from the obsessive, possessive
feelings that were left over from his high

school crush.
“I can't believe I'm in Rachel Green's

Both Ross and Rachel come into their own as
individuals before they can make it work as

a couple.
Rachel's story is about doing the scary
thing, and letting go of the safety net.

"You need the fear!"
She strikes out on her own and pushes herself
to take risks.

“I just don't want to be 30 and still
work here.”

“Yeah, that'd be much worse than being
28 and still working here.”

When she realizes her job at the coffee house
is going nowhere,

she decides to quit, even though she has no
backup plan and no other real work experience.

“I just don't care.
The is not what I want to do.
So I don't think I should do it anymore.”
She goes after her career in fashion even
though it seems like a long shot.

"Waitress at a coffee house and cheer squad
co-captain only took up so much room."

"You're funny Chandler!
You're a funny guy!"
And we see her gradually climb, from her first
dud of a job

"You got the job."
to a better position at Bloomingdale's and
to major success at Ralph Lauren.

She's gone from being lost and unsure to
getting real joy out of her work.

“My work is for me, you know?
I'm out there on my own and I'm doing

And it's scary but I love it because it's

We wouldn't have guessed that the Rachel we
knew in season one had the ambition and skill

to reach this level.
And that's what makes her achievement so
fun to watch --

she surpasses all our expectations.
Rachel passed that first test of moving to
the city with no husband, no money and no

so after that nothing can really be too scary

And this doing what scares her is what leads
her to a fulfilling life.

There's an important lesson for all of us

that if we commit to what we want and decide
that we're really more than others see in

in the end, we can get there.
Rachel pushes herself to do scary things in
her personal life, too.

“You know what, I'm gonna do that.
I'm gonna call him up and I'm gonna ask
him out.

I can do that.”
When Monica and Chandler move in together,
She has to leave Monica's protective care
and the only New York apartment she's ever

known --
but she thrives in her new roommate situations.
And when she gets pregnant with Ross' baby
after a one-night stand,

she rises to the occasion as a mother, even
though she thinks she can't do it.

“You know, when you first came to the city
you were this spoiled, helpless little girl,

who still used daddy's credit cards, remember?”
“I hope you're going somewhere with this.”
“Look at you.
You're this big executive.
You are much more capable than you give yourself
credit for.”

As the show goes on Rachel still feels self-doubt
and underestimates herself.

“From now on, you make all my decisions
for me.”

But her strength is her ability to roll with
the punches and stick with it.

At the end of the series, it's a surprise
when she chooses to restart her relationship

with Ross
and not take an amazing job in Paris.
It might seem like a case of choosing love
over career --

“I got off the plane.”
but it's actually a perfect reversal of
the pilot episode.

The show started with Rachel running away
from a life she was supposed to want, but

So it's fitting that after all the ups and

she's finally ready to claim the loving
relationship she does want.

And she's arrived at this place through
the hard work she's put in

to prove her worth and stand on her own two

"Well, what if I don't want to be a shoe?
What if I wanna be a purse?"
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Rachel Green, the Real Protagonist of Friends

604 Folder Collection
Haohaoxuexi published on March 25, 2018
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