Courteney Cox as Monica Geller
|First appearance||"The Pilot"
|Last appearance||"The Last One, Part 2"
|Created by||David Crane
|Portrayed by||Courteney Cox|
|Family||Jack Geller (father)
Judy Geller (mother)
Ross Geller (brother)
(dating. May 1998–May 2001) (m. 2001–present)
(adoptive daughter, with Chandler, born May 6, 2004)
(adoptive son, with Chandler, born May 6, 2004)
|Relatives||Althea (maternal grandmother, deceased)
Ben Geller (nephew)
Emma Geller-Green (niece)
Carol Willick (former sister-in-law)
Emily Waltham (former sister-in-law)
Rachel Green (sister-in-law, best friend)
Ross Geller (brother)
Monica E. Geller (sometimes referred to as Monica Geller Bing or Monica Geller-Bing) is a fictional character, one of the six main characters who appear in the American sitcom Friends. Created by show creators David Crane and Marta Kauffman, and portrayed by actress Courteney Cox, Monica appears in each of the show's 236 episodes, from its premiere on September 24, 1994 to its finale on May 6, 2004. A chef known among her friends for her cleanliness, competitiveness and obsessive-compulsive nature, Monica is the younger sister of Ross and best friend of Rachel, the latter of whom she allows to move in with her after Rachel abandons her own wedding. The two characters spend several years living together as roommates until Monica eventually becomes romantically involved with friend and neighbor Chandler, who she marries. Unable to conceive children on their own, the couple eventually adopts twins and moves out of their apartment into a larger house in the suburbs to raise their growing family, ultimately ending the series.
The producers' first choice for the role of Monica was comedian Janeane Garofalo. As the show's most famous and experienced main cast member at the time, Cox was originally offered the role of Rachel, but declined in favor of playing Monica instead because she was drawn to the character's strong personality. Meanwhile, the role of Rachel was ultimately won by actress Jennifer Aniston, Cox's co-star who had originally been offered the role of Monica. Before Friends aired, the characterization of Monica during the show's pilot was greatly debated among writers in regards to her sleeping with a man on their first date. Kauffman in particular defended Monica, arguing with NBC executive Don Ohlmeyer over whether or not this would make the character too promiscuous. Ultimately, the storyline remained unchanged after the studio conducted an audience poll, the results of which returned in favor of Monica. The character's childhood struggles with obesity, difficulties with romantic relationships and deprecating relationship with her mother Judy each became popular staples of the show.
Several months before Friends aired, a research report conducted by NBC revealed that Monica was the only character to have been remotely well received by test audiences. When Friends premiered in fall 1994, critics initially perceived Monica – immediately established as the show's "mother hen" – and Cox as the show's main character and star, respectively. Critics have been largely receptive towards Cox and her character; the Los Angeles Times holds Cox's acting responsible for disproving the then-common stigma that attractive women are not capable of comedic performances. Revered as a television icon, the character also famously addressed topics that were rarely discussed in prime time television at the time, including safe sex, casual sex and age disparity in relationships. Despite garnering positive reviews for her performance, Cox remains the only main cast member to have never been nominated for an Emmy Award during Friends' ten-year run. In spite of being mildly accused of exploiting negative stereotypes of overweight women for humor, "Fat Monica", the character's overweight alter ego, has ultimately proven a popular fan favorite. One of the series primary locations, Monica's Greenwich Village apartment currently ranks among television's most famous sets.
A hardworking Chef, Monica is introduced in the pilot as one of five close-knit friends who live in New York City, including her older brother Ross (David Schwimmer), neighbors Joey (Matt Leblanc) and Chandler (Matthew Perry), and former roommate Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow). When her privileged, inexperienced childhood best friend Rachel (Jennifer Aniston), with whom she had long lost contact, suddenly arrives in her neighborhood unannounced as a runaway bride after abandoning her own wedding, Monica allows her to move in with her while she attempts to reorganize her life, and the two reconnect as roommates.
Monica begins dating Dr. Richard Burke (Tom Selleck), a significantly older man who is also one of her father's best friends. However, the couple mutually agrees to end their long-running relationship after realizing that Richard does not want children, while Monica aspires to eventually raise a family of her own one day. While in England attending Ross' second wedding, to Emily (Helen Baxendale), Monica sleeps with Chandler. Initially supposed to have been a casual, one-time thing which grew more recurrent, Monica and Chandler eventually develop feelings for each other, but attempt to conceal it from their friends for as long as possible. After finally revealing finally their relationship to their friends, who are delighted, Monica proposes to Chandler. They marry.
After trying to conceive a child of their own several times to no avail, Monica and Chandler discover that they are both infertile, and decide to adopt as an alternative, choosing to adopt the unborn child of single mother Erica (Anna Faris).
Conception and writing
Writers David Crane and Marta Kauffman pitched Friends as a show about "that special time in your life when your friends are your family" to then-NBC president Warren Littlefield some time after their sitcom Family Album was canceled by CBS. Inspired by their own experiences as young adults living in New York, the writers loosely based the characters on some of their own friends and relatives; Monica, who was originally conceived as a much more cynical character, was inspired by Kauffman herself. Observing that each character was initially written to represent a "one-note stereotype", Jonathan Bernstein of The Daily Telegraph identified Monica as the group's "uptight fun-killer". When Friends first aired, the majority of its early episodes involved storylines revolving around Monica. Additionally, each main character appears to be interconnected via Monica; Friends stars the character's brother, best friend, former roommate and neighbors.
In the pilot episode, Monica is scripted as being dumped immediately after agreeing to sleep with her new date Paul on the night of their first date. Monica is tricked into bed with him after Paul lies to her about his sex life, falsely alleging that he has not slept with anyone in the two years since his wife left him. NBC executives worried at first that audiences would receive Monica negatively because of this subplot, thus the decided to survey the studio audience and ask them whether or not they thought Monica sleeping with someone on their first date made her too promiscuous. Don Ohlmeyer, then-president of NBC's west coast division, was particularly adamant about his stance against Monica's role in the episode, referring to it as "casual sex", and created a "stacked" questionnaire asking audiences if they thought Monica was "(a) a slut, (b) a whore, (c) a trollop." Kauffman recalled Ohlmeyer expressing that Monica "got what she deserved" by being dumped, a statement by which the writer was greatly offended, dismissing Ohlmeyer as a misogynist. Ultimately, the results returned in favor of the plot; audiences liked Monica nonetheless, and the episode aired unchanged.
Early in the series, Monica's apartment, which she initially shares with roommate Rachel, is established as one of the show's two primary locations. In the pilot, the apartment number is 5; it was changed to 20 in subsequent episodes after the writers determined that Monica actually lived on a much higher floor. Season three's "The One Where No One's Ready" takes place entirely in Monica's apartment because the show's budget was not large enough to accommodate additional sets or guest stars at the time. In the series finale, Phoebe reveals that each character resided in Monica's apartment at one point during their lives.
Relationship with Chandler Bing
Because Monica and her next-door neighbor Joey were initially conceived as the show's two most sexual characters, Crane and Kauffman had originally intended for them to be the show's main couple before substituting a relationship between Ross and Rachel instead. The idea of Monica and Joey was abandoned once the role of Joey was cast; actor Matt LeBlanc exhibited a "great big brother vibe" in terms of his friendship with Cox's character, which the writers preferred. According to Allison Piwowarski of Bustle, Monica and Joey's relationship would have greatly altered the trajectory of the entire series in several ways, having a series of life-changing effects on its main characters. Andrew Harrison of The New Republic observed that "If characters came close to a life-changing relationship ... the writers went to inordinate lengths to break them up", believing that "The ones the Friends were really meant to be with were, after all, the other Friends". Summarizing the role of Monica in the series, Martin Gitlin wrote in his book The Greatest Sitcoms of All Time that while her friends "were ... just out to make the most of their social lives", Monica "sought to keep the others in line and ... seek out Mr. Right", who surprisingly turns out to be close friend Chandler. Years before Monica and Chandler became romantically linked, Cox once joked in an interview that if her character were to ever have sex with another main character, it would most likely be Chandler. Crane and Kauffman had never intended for Monica and Chandler to be an official couple, and only decided to expand upon this idea upon realizing that viewers had "fallen in love" with the concept of Monica and Chandler. The idea of Monica and Chandler's romantic arc originated much earlier in the series from writers Scott Silveri and Shana Goldberg-Meehan, who first observed the characters' chemistry in the season two episode "The One Where Ross Finds Out". However, Silveri's initial suggestion to expand upon this was vetoed by the writers, who felt that it was much too soon to introduce another Friends couple having just recently paired off Ross and Rachel. Following Ross and Rachel's break up in season three, the writers felt that the timing was just about right to officially introduce Monica and Chandler as a couple, deciding that "if the show's going to be entertaining for years to come, it can't simply rest on this one [Ross and Rachel] relationship ... So it follows that if another pair got together, that would be fun and provide more story".
Silveri and Goldberg-Meehan deliberately aspired to keep Monica and Chandler's union "low-key" in order to further differentiate it from Ross and Rachel's, which had been very public. In order to get a sense of how audiences would react to Monica and Chandler hooking up at Ross and Emily's wedding in London, the scene in which Monica suddenly emerges from under the covers of Chandler's bed was shot in front of three separate studio audiences, each of whom responded to the reveal very enthusiastically, several months before the actual episode was filmed and aired. Despite the audience's warm reception, Silveri and Goldberg-Meehan were uncertain as to whether or not to continue expanding upon their relationship in latter seasons, and proceeded cautiously by having Monica and Chandler initially keep their relationship hidden from the four other main characters. Cox and Perry, who were protective of their respective characters, shared similar hesitations at first, but ultimately grew to accept the couple. Monica and Chandler are eventually exposed to their friends in the episode "The One Where Everybody Finds Out", who approve. Additionally, Monica and Chandler's relationship served as "the complete opposite of Ross and Rachel's" because it remained "healthy and strong until the series ended with them married, parents of adopted twins," while the couple was continuously on-and-off. Monica's parents initially resent her feelings for Chandler due to an age-old misunderstanding. Encyclopedia of Television author Horace Newcomb believes that Monica's feelings for Chandler are responsible for curing the latter's fear of commitment. Similarly, Slate writer Ruth Graham observed that "Chandler is painted as a self-loathing loser with women, until he finally snags Monica at the end of Season 4." Meanwhile, Silveri believes that the show ultimately survived as long as it did due to Monica and Chandler's relationship, explaining, "if the center of Friends had remained Ross and Rachel, you would've seen a much shorter shelf life for the show ... Without Monica and Chandler, it ends three years earlier." When it finally came time to write the finale, one of Crane and Kauffman's goals had always been to provide Monica and Chandler with a baby; the characters ultimately adopt twins, which the writers conceived at the last minute for "fun." The birth of Monica and Chandler's twins serve as one of the finale's main plots. Their twins Jack and Erica are born three minutes and forty-six seconds apart.
Monica is portrayed by American actress Courteney Cox. Crane and Kauffman had originally written the role of Monica for comedian Janeane Garofalo, their first choice, because they were attracted to her "edgier and snarkier" voice. However, Garofalo ultimately turned down the offer. Actress Jamie Gertz was also offered the role but declined, while actress Leah Remini auditioned for Monica before ultimately being cast as Carrie Heffernan in the sitcom The King of Queens in 1998; Remini would eventually guest star in an episode of Friends. Before being cast as Monica in Friends, Cox was best known for appearing in singer Bruce Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark" music video; within the television industry for her recurring role as Lauren Miller, Alex P. Keaton's girlfriend, on the sitcom Family Ties; and Melissa Robinson in the comedy film Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994), opposite Jim Carrey. After guest starring on the sitcom Seinfeld as Meryl, main character Jerry Seinfeld's girlfriend, the producers offered Cox the role of Monica's spoiled best friend Rachel because the actress "had this cheery, upbeat energy", which was significantly different than how they had envisioned Monica at the time. Feeling she was not "quirky" enough to portray Rachel, Cox lobbied in favor of playing Monica instead because she was drawn to the character's "strong" personality, but the producers feared that she was not "tough" enough for the role, which was offered to actress Jennifer Aniston, alongside whom Cox would eventually co-star. Meanwhile, a close competitor for the role was actress Nancy McKeon; Littlefield recalled having greatly enjoyed both actress' auditions equally, and left the final decision up to Crane and Kauffman. Ultimately, Cox won the role over McKeon because the creators observed "something fresh" in her audition; Kauffman elaborated that Cox ultimately "brought a whole bunch of other colors" to Monica than what they had first envisioned back when they were considering Garofalo for the role. Meanwhile, Aniston ultimately won the role of Rachel.
Each main cast member auditioned for Friends having had some degree of prior sitcom experience. Before finally being cast in Friends, Cox's burgeoning success as an actress had heavily relied on her physical appearance. Unlike her previous roles in projects such as Family Ties and Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, the Los Angeles Times' Steve Weinstein believes that Monica was the first major role in which Cox was cast based on her abilities as a comedic actress as opposed to her beauty. Cox believes that she owes winning the role to her brief stint as Gabriella Easden on the short-lived sitcom The Trouble With Larry, which she considers to be the first time she played a character who "was the funny one", which in turn earned the actress a recommendation for Friends following its cancellation. When Friends premiered, Cox was the show's most famous main cast member among a cast of young, relatively unknown actors, and was thus initially perceived by critics and audiences as the show's star, despite Crane and Kauffman's efforts to promote Friends as an ensemble comedy. According to actress Lisa Kudrow, who portrays Phoebe, Cox is responsible for suggesting that the entire cast work together as a team. As the most experienced cast member at the time, Cox advised her co-stars to remain open to each other's ideas, notes and suggestions, while giving them permission to "to tell me ... If I could do anything funnier". Preferring to be treated as equals, the entire cast negotiated for universal salaries, demanding that Warner Bros. accommodate their request of $100,000 per episode in season three, increased from their original inaugural season salary of $22,000 per episode. At one point, the actors went as far as threatening to boycott their own show should their demands be denied. The studio eventually complied, and by season 10 each actor was being paid $1 million per episode, making Cox and her female co-stars the highest-paid television actresses of all time.
Cox was 30 years old at the time she was cast, making her the show's oldest main cast member. Additionally, this makes Cox older than her on-screen brother, actor David Schwimmer, who portrays her older brother Ross. Kauffman believes that Cox's own cleanliness closely resembles that of her character's, who at times would clean her co-stars' dressing rooms. The actress also shares the character's motherly nature. Cox enjoyed portraying Monica "because not only is she a grown-up, and that's good for people to see, but I can bring more of my own personality to her, and I've never really been able to do that before." Starpulse.com observed that "As Monica, Cox never quite enjoyed the sort of watercooler storylines that co-star ... Jennifer Aniston had with David Schwimmer as the on-again, off-again Rachel and Ross." At one point, Cox had begun to regret her decision to accept the role of Monica over Rachel due to the character's lack of strong storylines; she eventually relented once Monica and Chandler became romantically involved, and her character's storylines gradually began to improve.
Cox married actor David Arquette in 1999 while the show was on hiatus between seasons five and six, hence the actress legally changed her full name to Courteney Cox Arquette. The opening credits of the season six premiere "The One After Vegas" features an inside joke in which Cox's new surname "Arquette" is attached to the surnames of each cast and crew member. The episode is dedicated to Cox and Arquette, reading, "For Courteney and David, who did get married." Before marrying Cox, Arquette had guest starred in an episode of Friends as Phoebe's love interest. During season 10, Cox got pregnant with her and Arquette's child, while her character and on-screen husband were going through the process of adopting a child. Like Monica and Chandler, Cox and Arquette had also struggled with having a child in real life. Although Kudrow's real-life pregnancy had successfully been written into the show, similar could not have been done for Cox because Friends had already long-established that Monica is incapable of having children. Therefore, the crew attempted to conceal Cox's pregnancy using a combination of baggy, loose-fitting costumes and props instead. However, at times the actress' growing belly was still detectable by viewers. Kiran Hefa of People wrote, "In what is probably the world's worst luck, Courteney Cox's Monica came to terms with her inability to conceive during the show's tenth and final season in 2003 – just as Cox herself became pregnant ... Cox's wardrobe was altered to mask her burgeoning belly, but to a far less successful effect, with her clothes becoming noticeably baggier and baggier."
Characterization and analysis
At the beginning of season one, Monica is 26 years old. Rita Loiacono of SheKnows Media believes that Monica is the show's most fully realized character from the very beginning of the series because her "quirks were developed to a tee". Like several strong female sitcom characters who were popular throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Monica possesses a natural maternal instinct, while constantly "vocalising a desire for motherhood". As the group's "unofficial den mother", Monica occupies the role of their mother hen, and is thus often perceived as the most level-headed member of the sextet, with Ken Parish Perkins of the Chicago Tribune identifying Monica as the show's most grounded character. Jill O'Rourke of Crushable described her as "the glue that held the group together". Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly believes that Monica serves as "the solid center in a circle of wacky pals" due to her "sunny" personality, combined with the fact that she maintains a secure job while appearing to possess the most common sense. Furthermore, Tucker identified Monica as the show's "straight woman". Writing for The New York Times, John J. O'Connor believes that Monica exhibits "the strongest ties to reality" as the sitcom's most realistically portrayed character. Referring to Monica as one-half of the series' "head friends", the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Robert Bianco described the character as sensible, explaining that both her and Ross represent "the relatively stable centers around which the other friends rotate". Describing her as "ultra-competent", Natural Living Today's Emily Nussbaum likened Monica to the fairy tale character Snow White, on whose homemaking skills the five other characters heavily rely, similar to the relationship between Snow White and her seven dwarfs.
|"Monica Geller is nothing if not a lesson in perseverance paying off. Right from the get-go, Monica had a pretty clear view about how she wanted her life to turn out and she wasn't prepared to settle for anything less. Although clearly infatuated with Richard during the show's early run, she broke up with [him] because she wanted kids and he didn't. When Chandler had his inevitable freak-out in the early days of their relationship, she laid down the law and told him she wasn't going to be in a relationship with someone who didn't want to be in one. Although she was prepared to follow Chandler to Tulsa, she elected not to turn down an amazing job opportunity and, instead, stayed in New York and made the long-distance relationship work ... And, after many heartbreaking attempts to get pregnant, Monica finally got the family she'd wanted all along when she and Chandler adopted little Erica and Jack."|
|— Rita Loiacono of SheKnows Media summarizing Monica's perseverance.|
Refinery29's Kelsey Miller summarized Monica's personality as funny, uptight, loving and competitive. A very organized character with a Type A personality who enjoys being in charge, Monica is known for being a "neat freak" obsessed with cleanliness – especially when it comes to maintaining the condition of her apartment – neurotic, extremely obsessive-compulsive and competitive in nature, personality traits that are often exaggerated for humor. In her book Writing With Emotion, Tension, and Conflict: Techniques for Crafting an Expressive and Compelling Novel, author Cheryl St. John wrote that Monica exhibits qualities commonly associated with perfectionism and bossiness. According to Glenn Whipp of the Los Angeles Times, Monica is "loaded with obsessive-compulsive quirks and a goofy, overly competitive nature". However, the Los Angeles Times Steve Weinstein observed that Monica's actions often tend to contradict the character's "Miss Perfect" image and reputation, explaining that the character "makes a fool of herself as a klutz in a tap-dance class--something seemingly unimaginable to any casual observer of the athletic-looking actress ... And she is so compulsively neat that just her facial expressions of discomfort at one of her friends' messing things up in her apartment is enough to provoke genuine chuckles". As creator and writer, Kauffman confirmed that Monica's personality is somewhat based on her own, explaining, "I have a lot of Monica in me, in terms of everything having to be a certain way". Although Monica began Friends as the show's "straight person", the writers eventually began to make her funnier by incorporating aspects of Cox's own personality into the character, in addition to writing funnier dialogue for her. Cox described Monica as "goofy and angry and sarcastic and a little bit naughty", continuing, "People think of her sort as the goody-good and the prude on the show, but I think she has more sex than any of the others". Writing about the development of Monica's personality in USA Today, Robert Bianco observed that the character gradually evolves from "the caring, nurturing mother figure ... into a slightly off-the-beam benevolent monarch". By the show's tenth and final season, Monica's personality had been "exacerbated for comedy" to the point of which she became "a controlling and competitive neat freak", entering borderline "cartoonish territory".
Early in the series, Monica develops a reputation for experiencing generally bad luck and encountering unfortunate circumstances when it comes to dating and her love life. This trait is often explored as a source of comic relief; the character's friends would often "pick apart" her new dates and boyfriends. In his review of the series, David Hiltbrand of People referred to the character as "an unlucky-in-love codependent", while the Chicago Tribune's Ken Parish Perkins observed that Monica "often misfires when shooting for Mr. Right". Possessing a very strong will, the character tends to exhibit outstanding perseverance when it comes to what she expects out of relationships, jobs and life in general, oftentimes refusing to settle for anything less than what satisfies her. Among her defining qualities, Monica has had a passion for cooking ever since she was a child, stemming from when she received her first Easy-Bake Oven. A chef, the character has had several cooking-related jobs throughout the series. However, her love of cooking and food is also responsible for her having been extremely overweight as a child, throughout high school and college. The concept of an overweight Monica is often employed as a recurring backstory throughout the series, first explored in the second season episode "The One With the Prom Video" via flashback. One of the character's childhood nicknames was "Big Fat Goalie" when she played field hockey. Overweight Monica is depicted as having "low self esteem, seemed to binge eat, and was desperate for attention that she only got as a joke or from begrudging guys". While in college, Monica is embarrassed into losing weight permanently after overhearing her then-crush Chandler make fun of her appearance. Media and the Rhetoric of Body Perfection: Cosmetic Surgery, Weight Loss and Beauty in Popular Culture author Dr. Deborah Harris-Moore believes that Monica's tendency to come off as a control freak stems from her childhood struggles with her weight, explaining that the character "use[d] food as a means to cope with her emotions".
Monica has a complicated relationship with her parents Jack and Judy Geller, especially her mother. Entertainment Weekly referred to the character's relationship with her parents as "esteem-sucking". In fact, the majority of Friends' main characters are depicted as having "strained relationships" with their parents. Described as "hypercritical", Judy enjoys constantly criticizing her daughter's appearance, career and love life, while acting much kinder towards her son, who she favors. Chelsea Mize of Bustle wrote that "Ross and Monica's wacky quirks become all the more understandable after two seconds of seeing them with their parents". Encyclopedia of Television Shows, 1925 through 2010 author Vincent Terrance believes that Monica's competitiveness originates from her having grown up with brother Ross, who is three years her senior, against whom she often competed as a child. Although Monica and Rachel have been best friends since high school, they are quite opposite. Sabienna Bowman of This Was Television explained that although "Monica and Rachel shared similar economical backgrounds ... they represented different ends of the high school social order", with Rachel being a popular cheerleader and Monica "deal[ing] with body and control issues due to being an overweight child and teen". Bowman observed that "Monica’s struggles ultimately left her more confident than Rachel, not to mention more equipped to deal with the realities of adulthood". In terms of religion and ethnicity, Crane confirmed that both Monica and Ross are half-Jewish, with their father being Jewish and their mother being of non-Jewish European ancestry. However, Television's Changing Image of American Jews categorized Monica as a "masked" Jew, explaining that "the smart, funny, and insecure Ross seems more Jewish" than Monica, who the author dismissed as "china-doll like" in appearance and demeanor. In his book Encyclopedia of American Jewish History, Volume 1, author Stephen Harlan Norwood agrees that, unlike the show's male Jews, Monica's Jewish "markers" have been removed.
Fashion-wise, Monica's style took the longest to establish. InStyle wrote that Monica's combination of wavy hair and dark lipstick evoked "a '90s take on '40s style". Ashley Hoffman of Styleite believes that character initially "dressed like a tourist trying to look like a New Yorker". With a wardrobe comprised equally of dresses and pants, Monica's fashion, like Rachel and Phoebe's, "was a little bit normcore, a little bit corporate-casual". Monica frequently sported jeans, overalls and cargo shorts.
Four months before the pilot of Friends aired, a confidential research report conducted by NBC gave the show a failing grade, citing its six main characters as a reason for this. According to the report, audiences initially dismissed the characters as "smug, superficial and self-absorbed" individuals who "did not really care about each other the way real friends would". Although the report recognized Monica as the only character with whom test audiences identified somewhat positively, the results were "well below desirable levels for a lead" character nonetheless. In retrospect, The New Republic's Andrew Harrison believes that Monica and her friends "were superficial, self-absorbed and at first difficult to like. But in their solipsism and neurosis they reflected and sent up the world emerging around them ... far more accurately than any conventional gooey-hearted family sitcom. In their soft narcissism, their preoccupation with the minutiae of their own lives and their utter lack of interest in their social or (God forbid) political context, the Friends created a coffee-scented cocoon that millions wanted to enter".
An early critical evaluation of Friends pegged Cox as the show's star. It reads, "As Monica, she came across as charming, attractive, confident, and motivated – the leader of the group ... Men thought she was sexy and women liked her sense of humor". When Friends premiered in September 1994, critics initially perceived Monica as the show's main character; Entertainment Weekly's Ken Tucker attributes this to the fact that "Cox is the biggest name-brand star in this show". The actress has garnered largely positive reviews for her performance. Tucker concluded that Cox successfully "plays straight woman ... with alluring modesty". Tony Scott of Variety commended the entire cast for "appear[ing] resourceful and display[ing] sharp sitcom skills ... especially Cox", while The Baltimore Sun's David Zurawik described her acting as "terrific". John Kiesewetter of The Cincinnati Enquirer praised Cox's ability to "deliver both verbal and physical comedy". Contactmusic.com's Sophie Miskiw commended Cox for portraying Monica with "endearing neurosis". As a character, Lifetime described Monica as "neurotic yet lovable". While admitting that Monica is "probably not our favourite character in the series but definitely up there with the best of them", TalkTalk described the character as "wonderfully neurotic". Howard Rosenberg of the Los Angeles Times was receptive towards the entire cast, specifically complimenting Cox and her character, who he described as "strong" and "likable and funny", respectively. Also writing for the Los Angeles Times, Glenn Whipp extolled Cox's tenure on Friends, enthusing that the actress successfully "took a character loaded with obsessive-compulsive quirks and a goofy, overly competitive nature and fashioned a flesh-and-blood woman". Describing the actress' comic timing as "impeccable", Whipp went on to write that Cox "brought out Monica's insecurities in a way that turned self-deprecation into an art form", concluding, "Of all the friends, Monica actually was more multi-dimensional". Alec Harvey of The Birmingham News described Monica as a "very, very funny" character. Kayla Upadhyaya of The Michigan Daily appreciated the fact that "Cox brought moments of sincerity and severity to Monica". However, The Washington Post panned Cox's acting as "degrading", while Mike Ryan of ScreenCrush dismissed Monica as "fairly normal, but boring". In 1999, Cox was nominated for an American Comedy Award for Funniest Supporting Female Performer in a TV Series. In 2014, SheKnows Media published an article explaining five reasons author Rita Loiacono believes Monica is "the best character on Friends," citing her cleanliness, bluntness and role as "the heart of the group", among others. Loiacono enthused that Monica "didn't just have one defining aspect; she had many, and they were all equally hilarious. Not to mention, her ambition and vulnerability resulted in some of the show's most touching and heartbreaking moments". Additionally, Loiacono dismissed the fact that Cox has never received an Emmy Award nomination for her performance as Monica as "downright criminal". In 2015, HitFix wrote a similar article entitled "5 Reasons Monica Geller is the Best 'Friends' Friend" in celebration of Cox's 51 birthday.
Alec Harvey of The Birmingham News cited "The One Where it All Began", "The One With Two Parts: Part 2", "The One with the Prom Video", "The One with Chandler in a Box", "The One with the Embryos", "The One with All the Thanksgivings", "The One Where Everybody Finds Out", "The One On the Last Night", "The One with the Proposal", "The One with Monica and Chandler's Wedding" and "The Last One" among Monica's best episodes; Cox herself acknowledged "The One with the Embryos" as her personal favorite. Meanwhile, BDCwire ranked “The One With The Routine”, "The One With The Cheap Wedding Dress", "The One With Monica’s Boots", "The One With the Jellyfish" and "The One Where Monica Sings" as the character's best episodes. Despite warm reception towards Cox and her character, some aspects of Monica have been criticized. The second season episode "The One Where Dr. Ramoray Dies" sparked controversy due to one of its storylines revolving around Monica and Rachel arguing over which roommate will get the last condom in their apartment in order to have sex with their respective boyfriends. In her book Narratives, Health, and Healing: Communication Theory, Research, and Practice, Author Lynn M. Harter defended the episode, arguing that it simply promotes safe sex. Rachel eventually wins the condom in a game of rock, paper, scissors, forcing Monica to abstain for the night. Monica's overweight alter-ego "Fat Monica" has often been accused of being an offensive stereotype of overweight women exploited solely for the sake of humor. Although identifying a formerly fat character as "a standard TV trope", the New Statesman's Bim Adewunmi wrote that Fat Monica "always struck a weird note, even if it tried to pinpoint a solid and satisfying back-story for the character." Megan Kirby of xoJane questioned the negative effect the show's fat jokes has on its overweight viewers, writing, "What does this mean for the girls like me who never become thin? Are we relegated to side roles and stereotypes in our own lives? Of course, this isn’t true. But I think it sometimes, dark and secret: The fat girl doesn’t get to be the protagonist." Emma Tarver of Feminspire complained that Fat Monica "made me think as a child that I was unworthy of love, was going to be mocked relentlessly by my friends and family for my weight, and should never bother flirting because I would just disgust every man I looked at." Contrarily, Kelsey Miller of Refinery29 received Fat Monica positively as "proof I could overcome my disgusting plumpness and be seen as lovable, too." Ultimately, Fat Monica proved so popular among audiences that the writers would resurrect the character for a total of four flashback episodes, each of which aired featuring Cox dressed as Fat Monica and eating a doughnut while dancing after the actual show had finished taping much to the amusement of the studio audience. Although she only appears physically in four, Fat Monica is referenced in approximately half of the show's episodes. Fat Monica has since been adapted into a popular internet meme.
Impact and legacy
According to Elle, the combined popularity of Monica and Cox established them both as television icons during the 1990s. ChaCha collectively ranked Phoebe, Rachel and Monica the 11th, 12th and 13th funniest female television characters, respectively. Writing for Mic.com, Samantha Allen believes that Monica helped "set the standard for how sitcoms could and would talk about sex" by engaging in casual sex and dating an older man. According to Dustin Levy of The Diamondback, Monica inspired "any ensemble cast in a sitcom with a female character who is bossy or neurotic", citing Scrubs’ Elliot Reid and Happy Endings’ Jane Kerkovich-Williams as examples of Monica's successors. Additionally, Levy identified Claire Dunphy from the sitcom Modern Family as Monica's modern-day equivalent, explaining that the character "acts like Monica plus children" opposite a comedic husband reminiscent of Chandler. In spring 2015, TV Guide published an article entitled "22 Spring Cleaning Tips From Monica Geller" in celebration of the character's cleanliness. Friends' female characters had a profound influence on women's fashion during the 1990s. Monica, Rachel and Phoebe each "became style icons for a generation of young women". Describing Monica's wardrobe as "classic and elegant", Stylist observed that the character's first season bob cut has been imitated by several woman. However, its popularity paled in comparison to that of Aniston's "Rachel", the widespread phenomenon of which Cox admitted to having been jealous. Monica also became known for frequently using scarves as accessories, as well as donning sweaters, turtlenecks and knitwear; on Cox's 51 birthday in 2015, Cosmopolitan published an article celebrating her character's best sweaters. BuzzFeed ranked Monica's wedding dress seventh on the website's list of the "28 TV Show Wedding Dresses You’ll Always Envy", while Brides ranked it the ninth greatest in television history. Us Weekly included it among "Celebrity Wedding Dresses: TV & Movies". The Daily Telegraph included several of Monica's outfits and hairstyles on its list of "Friends best fashion moments". Additionally, baby name books now commonly associate the name "Monica" with the character.
As the role via which she "found fame", Monica remains Cox's most iconic role, as well as the role for which she continues to be best known. Us Weekly believes that Cox "made television history during her 10 year stint playing Monica". Meanwhile, Steve Weinstein of the Los Angeles Times believes that both Cox's performance helped change the belief that "Pretty women aren't supposed to be funny". In 1995, one year after Friends premiered, Cox appeared on the cover of People's "50 Most Beautiful People". According to Alabama Biographical Dictionary author Jan Onofrio, Monica helped "put [Cox] in the television spotlight and provided offers for more desirable roles". Complex ranked Cox 10th on the magazine's list of "The 25 Hottest Sitcom Stars of the '90s". Author Josh Robertson wrote that "At the start of Friends, in 1994, she was the only star, and we're pretty sure she would have ruled the show if not for two things: her character's anal-retentive personality, and Jennifer Aniston's hairdo". The Daily News referred to Cox as "one of the more successful 'Friends' since the show ended" thanks to her roles in various sitcoms and films. By both starring in and producing the sitcom Cougar Town, Cox became the only Friends cast member to amass significant success on television post-Friends.
Immediately established as one of the show's primary settings, Monica's large Greenwich Village apartment has since become one of the most famous television sets in history. Harper's Bazaar ranked it among the "12 Best Apartments on TV". Chloe Daley of Refinery29 joked that the apartment serves as both "a lesson in how to decorate with purple" and "a lesson in how not to." Based on its total number of bedrooms, open kitchen concept, large living space and balcony, real estate agent Sydney Blumstein estimates that the apartment would be worth approximately $2.3 million in 2015. In terms of its size and affordability, the apartment has frequently been the subject of scrutiny; critics constantly question how Monica, a chef, and Rachel, a waitress, were able to afford such a luxurious home based on their relatively low incomes, often dismissing the show's explanation that this is due to an illegal sublet courtesy of Monica's late grandmother. Ranking the apartment second on the magazine's "Most Unrealistic Apartments in TV Shows & Movies" countdown, Lauren Otis of Complex concluded that "Despite the show's attempts to explain away Monica (Courteney Cox) and Rachel's (Jennifer Aniston) over-the-top living situation ... it's still baffling to no end how the duo, a waitress and flailing chef at the outset, were able to come home to a crib larger than those making three times their combined salary." Hollywood.com's Abbey Stone ranked it television's 10th "most ridiculous" apartment, while The Village Voice placed it at number four in a similar article.
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