In light of what’s going on right now, I actually find my choice of least favorite recurring character to be appropriate, but before I get into my reasoning here, I want to say this:
Aisha Tyler is probably one of my all-time favorite celebrities. She’s funny, nerdy, talented, and opinionated, and she seems to enjoy staying as busy as possible, to which I say, “I FEEL YOU.” And that’s why she deserved so much better than Charlie Wheeler.
Friends was nauseatingly white, something I didn’t really notice until I got out of high school. My school was very similar, in that we had a grand total of two people of color in my graduating class, and there were several classes that didn’t have a single one. I’ll be saying this plenty of times throughout the rest of the month, but Friends has not aged well, particularly in this vein. I can’t recall a single major or recurring character of color in the series prior to Season Seven (Gabrielle Union played a love interest for both Joey and Ross, a concept they reused with Charlie) except maybe the woman teaching the Lamaze class in Season One? If anyone can remember any others, please let me know and I will gladly update my statement. I mean, these characters live in NYC; I live in a fairly white area and I have a more diverse walking route in my neighborhood than nearly the entire 10 seasons of Friends.
Now, I do appreciate the fact that Charlie was a brilliant scientist instead of just some pretty face that Joey and Ross became infatuated with (both of them went back to having feelings for Rachel, though? God, this just keeps getting worse), and I enjoy her leaving Ross to get back with Greg Kinnear (I mean, you’d be stupid not to do that), but that doesn’t take away the fact that her casting was just tokenism, a bizarre, late-stage cash-grab at maintaining relevance. And this is coming from someone who religiously watched the show – it was in no way relevant past Season Eight, which believe you me, I’m going to get into once we reach those seasons.
What makes it all the more frustrating, though, is that Charlie was obviously just created to be one more roadblock in Ross’ journey back to Rachel. They were the end game, inexplicably. Any woman who served that purpose – like the Mother in How I Met Your Mother – is a thankless, awful role, but the fact that a woman of color – and the only recurring character of color in the entire show – was in that position makes it that much worse. Friends writers, Aisha Tyler needs an apology from you.