In the world of science fiction, dystopian tales are a staple. These tales often offer a bleak and apocalyptic view of the future, using technology and social issues as backdrops. But rarely does such a genre blend itself with pop culture, such as the hugely popular 90s sitcom “Friends”.
In the recently released Netflix film “Leave the World Behind”, the heartbeat of “Friends” plays a pivotal role in the movie, which stars Julia Roberts, Ethan Hawke, Mahershala Ali, and Kevin Bacon in significant roles. The film, based on Rumaan Alam’s novel of the same name, is a chilling and foreboding tale but possesses a touch of warmth and emotion, owing to “Friends” and its ethos.
It all started as a just passing remark in Alam’s novel, where Rose, a daughter in the vacationing family, was found to be obsessed with streaming “Friends” episodes. This remark was turned into a major storyline by director Sam Esmail, who saw the human and comforting aspect of the TV show in a dystopian world falling apart.
Rose, the teenage daughter of the family taking a break from their urban life, is traveling to a second home. As the utility goes down along the route, and chaos follows, Rose begins to miss out on the final episodes of “Friends”, her favourite show. Her bothered brother disapproves of her fondness for the gentler sitcom, which he deems as an outmoded, soppy, and silly show.
The story is not exclusively about the show; however, it partakes in the film’s hauntingly striking finale. As the end of the movie comes near, Rose finds a difficult chance to discover the series’ ending in the midst of overwhelming calamity. Her emotional gush of wanting to escape to the show’s comfort zone is human and strangely comforting in a world that is spiralling out of control.
In a world struggling to cope with the challenges of the day, “Friends” becomes a heartbeat that feels safe and familiar- an escape. According to Sam Esmail, “We all manage crises differently, and I recall how ridiculous it was when the Netflix documentary “Tiger King” came out in 2020 during the pandemic. It was absurd, but it brought us together, despite all our differences, about the pandemic”.
As Rose watches the final episodes of “Friends”, the sound of the inescapable and irrepressible “Friends” theme song fills the air. The sound offers solace and a glimmer of hope in the abyss of scientific fiction.
In the end, “Friends” acts as a voice of consolation, a calming voice that uplifts one’s spirits. The final moments of the film offer a slight consolation in the form of a small source of light – proving that in the midst of despair, all it takes is a little melodic solace to chase away the shadows.
In conclusion, the story of “Friends” in the movie “Leave the World Behind” brings out the human side of “Friends”, heralding the show’s importance in a crisis. The movie finds its crescendo in a moment of nostalgia, making the audience contemplate the significance of popular culture in a world spiralling out of control. This moment highlights the power of pop culture in uplifting the human spirit and presents chains of memories that bind society in a time of crisis. “Friends” may be an older, pop cultural phenomenon, but it will always hold a special place in the human heart, as it reminds us of the simpler, warmer, and more hopeful times.