The One Friends Wedding Scene That Missed the Mark
Friends won't ever be remembered for breaking boundaries — it's the show that didn't have a recurring Black character until season 9 — but back in 1996, it did manage to cause some controversy with the depiction of a same-sex marriage. However, there was a caveat to the entire thing: fans expected a full-on wedding and probably expected some controversy, but there was a major thing missing from the ceremony. The two brides never actually kissed on-screen.
In the episode, titled "The One with the Lesbian Wedding," Ross finds out that his ex-wife, Carol, is going to re-marry her current partner, Susan. While it was one of the very first same-sex marriages portrayed on TV, it happened to air five weeks after Rosanne showed a wedding between two men. And while critics braced themselves for controversy, very little of it came, which prompted the NY Times to report that "the biggest news about the wedding on Friends was that it was almost no news at all."
But there was news. The two women getting married didn't actually kiss, which social critics like Lynn Elber saw as continuing a trend that saw gay characters receive more screen time (Will & Grace would premiere two years after this Friends episode), but have them basically avoid all physical contact with their romantic interests. Decider reports that Rosanne took a similar approach to its kiss, too. Many viewers pointed out that it a strange way to approach the scene, since Roseanne Barr herself kissed a woman (Mariel Hemingway) a year before. It showed that in terms of representation, networks had made progress, but there was still plenty of room for improvement. The first time two men were shown kissing on network television wouldn't be until 2000, when Will and Jack kissed on the Today show.
There is a fun fact thrown in for eagle-eyed Friends viewers. Gay-rights activist Candace Gingrich, Newt's sister, officiated the wedding, which some saw as a statement against Republican's views on same-sex marriage. Even with all of the controversy — or perhaps because of it — EW reported that the episode was the most-watched show of the week, with 31.6 million viewers tuning in.