Favorite Fictional Characters, #37: Rachel Green
If you're of a certain vintage, Friends was a seminal program. It aired from when I was 19 to when I was 29, and was appointment television for much of that stretch. You watched it too, whether you admit it or not. It was a pop culture phenomenon, one of that last programs we all watched at the same time, before DVR and Netflix made media viewing less of a shared experience. We all got to class or work on Friday morning ready to talk about the previous night's episode.
For me, the early seasons were the best. That was when there was no one more adorable and desirable than Rachel Green. At a time of bleached Baywatch bimbos, she heralded the return of women beautiful but attainable, sexy but flawed, more real than fantasy. The fact that Ross had a shot gave all of us hope that there were Rachels of our own out there, who would dally with a Paolo but would eventually fall in love with a reliable nerd.
As the series progressed, the dynamics changed. They stopped feeding the women and turned up the AC and the characters became more mean and less authentic with one another, and the Monica-Chandler romance eclipsed the Ross-Rachel fireworks, and the show hung around for a few seasons too long and a few too many on-again, off-agains. But in the first three seasons, there was magic. Maybe it was a bit too resonant with my own experiences at the time, but I adored Rachel. Like so many of our infatuations from our early 20s, it wasn't meant to last.