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regular-article-logo Saturday, 24 February 2024

Losing a Friend: The lessons that Chandler Bing taught us on love, friendship and being vulnerable

A tribute to Matthew Perry, who starred as Chandler Bing in the sitcom F.R.I.E.N.D.S and died aged 54 at his Los Angeles home on Saturday

Urmi Chakraborty Calcutta Published 02.11.23, 03:03 PM
Matthew Perry as Chandler Bing in F.R.I.E.N.D.S

Matthew Perry as Chandler Bing in F.R.I.E.N.D.S Twitter

When I woke up on Sunday morning, I had lost a dear friend. A friend who had held my hand and walked with me through the darkest of times. Had it not been for him, I would not have learnt the meaning of true love, friendship, sacrifices, selflessness and being human. Chandler M. Bing — one of the six key characters in the American sitcom F.R.I.E.N.D.S — has been a constant ray of sunshine, a beacon of hope and a guide in times when the whole world turned its back on us. And now, Matthew Perry, the man who brought our dear friend Chandler to life, is no more.

I watched F.R.I.E.N.D.S for the first time when I was in the tenth grade — an extremely bleak phase of my life. I came back home from school and downloaded the show on my laptop on a whim. Never had I thought that even seven years later, I would watch it on a daily basis during meals without which I can’t eat a single morsel. It’s strange how the character played by Perry has influenced me and shaped me into the person I am.

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Season 6, Episode 12: ‘They can say you’re high maintenance but I like maintaining you’

When I watched this scene for the first time, I felt a lump in my throat. This scene, this person right here, taught me the importance of being open in a relationship. Oftentimes honesty, instead of shattering the other person, can help them grow as an individual and Chandler Bing showed how. Love is not always about grand gestures or elaborate declarations. Most often it’s about being vulnerable, being concerned about the other’s happiness and, most importantly, the little things and words that reassure us.

Season 10, Episode 9: ‘She’s a mother, without a baby’

The way Chandler stops mid-sentence and takes a pause before opening up to Erica says a lot about his pain. “It kills me that I cannot give her a baby,” he says, and I couldn’t hold back my tears while watching it. I kept rewatching this scene and finally understood why it is so agonising. Chandler’s sense of being neglected and feeling unimportant in his childhood makes him such an emotionally available and understanding adult. When he says that Monica is already a mother without a baby, he speaks from the lack of maternal warmth in his own life. That is something that truly resonated with me and will continue to remain etched in my heart.

Season 5, Episode 14: ‘I love her, I love her’

Among the many things that Chandler taught me, gathering courage to confront one’s vulnerabilities is probably something that I have learnt to live by. In The One Where Everybody Finds Out episode in Season 5, Chandler’s confession of his love for Monica is the first time he acknowledged his feelings for her and took a step forward in their relationship. Having been scared of commitment all his life, our self-deprecating Chandler is now ready for a real, adult relationship.

Season 2, Episode 3: Chandler fears that he’ll end up like Mr Heckles

We have all been scared of being lonely at least once in our lives. Or, we have faced the pangs of loneliness and feared being stuck in that condition forever. Mr Heckles is a lonely and eccentric neighbour who lives alone, estranged from his family, and he served as a cautionary tale for Chandler. Chandler reminding himself to avoid stagnation in life and then outgrowing his fears gives me the strength to self-reflect and become better as a person with the passage of time.

‘It wasn't that I thought I could play Chandler; I was Chandler’— Matthew Perry

In his 2022 memoir ‘Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing’, Matthew Perry wrote, “It wasn't that I thought I could play Chandler; I was Chandler.” He continued, “It was as if someone had followed me around for a year, stealing my jokes, copying my mannerisms, photocopying my world-weary yet witty view of life…” It's strange how an actor finds himself in an on-screen character and brings them to life in a way that the whole world can relate to.

I remember how in the final episode of Season 10, Chandler’s classic way of closing the show by asking “where?” made me laugh and filled me with hope despite the lingering sadness. Now that Perry has passed away, I’m left wondering if the collective heartbreak of his fans will usher in the same hope. The hope of meeting him again on the couch in Central Perk, with the strength to start anew, hearing his voice saying, “I’ll be there for you.”

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