I can remember watching Friends back when it was new and airing on British television for the first time. Since then, I have always been fond of it and it’s one of my comfort shows. While I see its flaws more as I get older, I always enjoy watching it, and I’m sure I always will. For this reason, I was quite interested in reading Matthew Perry’s autobiography – partly because I was interested to learn more about one of the people who were responsible for bringing it to life, and get a glimpse into the creative process behind it.
On the one hand, I was pretty fascinated by the story of a person leading a moderately ordinary life who ended up being enormously famous. The transition in his life was really interesting to read about, and, of course, he does not hide the ugly realities of fame. Meanwhile, it was fun to hear about some of the shows and movies he was involved with in the early days of his career – and it was fascinating to think that he came very close to not being Chandler Bing, especially considering how closely he and the character are entwined.
He also talks in depth about how difficult it is to live with addiction. I have always had complete respect for those living with addiction, and regarded it as the illness it is. In this, Matthew Perry goes into full detail about how horrible and debilitating it is. It’s bleak, but I am glad that he speaks so frankly about his experiences, because it’s important for everyone to understand what it’s like.
On the other hand, as much as I enjoyed learning about his experiences with fame, Friends, and addiction (or Friends, lovers, and the big terrible thing), I did find him to be horribly bitter sometimes – and I get it, he’s had a hard life and he has every right to feel bitterness about what he has endured. What I didn’t like was how he talks about other people, or how he seems to have treated those in his life.
For example (and there will be other points that I’ve forgotten, but these ones stood out as particularly negative and unpleasant): he mentions multiple times that he wishes Keanu Reeves was dead for seemingly no reason, he talks about how he had an old girlfriend who essentially became his carer during a really rough point in his battle with addiction, and then he just left her to sleep with loads of other women once he was feeling better, he seems to feel some resentment (to this day) that Jennifer Anniston didn’t want to sleep with him, he generally doesn’t seem to be able to see women as anything other than potential girlfriends or people to sleep with, he mentions a ‘poor’ friend that he has and how he’d happily switch lives with him because, though he knows he’s poor, he doesn’t believe the guy’s struggles could ever come close to what he’s been through.
I get that he’s been through a lot, but it sometimes feels like he thinks he’s suffered more than any other person in world and that’s really unfair. Yes, he has had a horrible time and I feel bad for him – I wish science could find a more effective way of treating addiction. However, he’s an extremely rich person who has access to the best health services and can afford to not work while he makes attempts to recover. There are many other people who don’t have that luxury, and many other pains that a person can deal with besides addiction – indeed, there are sure to be many people dealing with struggles and anxieties as a direct consequence of him having treated them badly. He’ll call himself an idiot for how he treated people, but he never seems to properly reflect on how badly he could have hurt them by behaving like that.
He does, at least, seem to resolve to do better by the end, but I found myself getting frustrated with him quite often throughout the book – which is sad. He, self-awarely, notes that Chandler Bing surpassed him in terms of emotional growth by the time Friends came to an end, and it shows. He seems like the kind of person who might be hard to like, but I admire him for sharing such a deep and candid look into the realities of living with anxiety, and the ugly side of fame.