BY BEN PENSANT
A rotten freakshow rocked up in my hometown of Newcastle the other week, striking fear into the hearts of frigid Gender Studies professors everywhere. Friends Fest came to town.
Or rather, ‘Fascist Fest’. For the uninitiated, Friends was a white supremacist ‘sitcom’ that debuted on Channel 5 in 1992, turning a generation of vulnerable youngsters into racist, fat-shaming, transphobic, misogynists. I was 14 when it first aired but mercifully avoided indoctrination as I was too busy reading Marx and Ingles to watch a gang of rich white capitalists sexually assault each other. Though I do recall lying in bed, trembling as my racist parents guffawed at the endless gags about foreigners and sang along with the godawful theme tune: ‘You wanna go where everybody knows you’re white…’
Channel 5 even had the nerve to schedule it on Saturday nights after the equally vile Fraser, which shamefully attempted to mine laughs from a Republican (Kelsey Grandma), his queer stereotype brother, and a crippled, corrupt cop. They even tried to normalise the latter by giving him a talking dog, for God’s sake.
Meanwhile Friends ran for a whole decade, warping young minds with its sordid blend of offensive jokes and Zionist propaganda, before being put out of its misery in 2006 when a new generation of Guardian journalists decided that what was previously considered a warm, witty show about as problematic as a petting zoo, was actually the work of sinister gay Nazis intent on normalising eye-popping wisecracks about G-spots and sandwiches.
That the show featured a running gag about a character’s refusal to share food sums up its selfish, uber-capitalist mindset. And it’s no coincidence that the MAGA shit-lords who cast their maiden vote two years ago were gullible teenagers when Friends was in its prime.
Due to a combination of Reaganomics, far-right fervour, and a sextet of photogenic actors just itching to be pleasured over by promiscuous westerners, the show was a soar away success, with many of its most contentious ‘jokes’ going unnoticed at the time due to the fact that in the ’90s people were really stupid. For instance, two decades ago no-one batted an eyelid at the casting of cisgendered b********l f****e Kathy Turner as a transwoman. These days, five outraged tweets would be enough to see her replaced by a suicidal flasher with hands like shovels and a written contract stating he must be allowed to share a dressing room with Angelina Aniston.
Audiences back then also had no problem with crude jokes about overweight people and how they all deserved to die. Today the sight of Courtney Love mugging for laughs in a rubber fat-suit would have the botox-addled actress accused of incitement and forced to express solidarity with the big-boned by eating her own weight in Space Raiders.
Which makes Friends Fest all the more inappropriate. For despite belonging to a forgotten era in which people thought rich white men pretending to be gay was hilarious, someone decided now was the perfect time to rebuild the sets from the show and take them on tour. And who could blame them? With the far right rising and comedy writers thinking they can mock whoever they like, there’s never been a better time to spread some nastiness. And what better place to bring this carnival of hate than Brexit Britain?
So after donning my bulletproof vest I stole some money from my mam’s purse, nervously purchased a ticket, and made my way to Heaton Park to witness this fresh hell with my own eyes.
Approaching the site I was struck by the varied ages of attendees: children, teenagers, thirtysomethings and pensioners united by fascism. Then it hit me – they were nearly all women; the same treacherous harridans who voted for Trump and Brexit. And even worse, they were blissfully unaware of their own vulnerability.
I made my way around the site taking in the micro-aggressive exhibits: a yellow taxi cab with the Indian driver erased; a settee halfway up a staircase, abandoned while the cast members wait for a black removal man; and most damning of all, that grim symbol of our money-obsessed ‘me first’ world – a coffee shop.
Indeed, as well as fleecing unearned wealth from trust fund hipsters, this particular foul-smelling cash cow was modelled on Central Peak, the communal hub from Friends where characters would meet to discuss white power and laugh at Palestinian genocide. I won’t lie, the mental image of these brazen neo-cons slurping filthy lattes without a thought for the malaria-addled Tanzanian labourers forced to grind coffee beans with their feet brought tears to me eyes. Though luckily, I managed to cheer myself up by remembering how Jezza’s ‘brother’ Abdul Aziz Umar dealt with coffee shops filled with Zionists.
Needless to say, the crowd that turned out were exclusively white. Sure, I spotted several blacks, the odd Asian, and even a couple of Muslims swanning around like slaves allowed in the big house for dinner. These servile drones were basically white, as anyone with a liberal arts degree knows – an authentic person of colour wouldn’t be able to afford a ticket.
With trepidation I entered the main attraction: three living, breathing sets from the show. Knowing I was about to stand in the exact same spots where the most hateful images of the last twenty years were created made me nauseous, and I’m certain I’d have tipped over the edge completely were it not for the fistful of adderall I necked beforehand.
First up, the ‘lad’s pad’ shared by Johnny, the Latin sex-pest, and his wisecracking homophobic flatmate That Chandler. It goes without saying their lair is practically a shrine to misogyny, with its table football, fridge full of beer, and reclining rape chairs. Knowing how many sexual assaults took place in this fake apartment made me feel physically ill and I’d never have been able to forgive myself for setting foot in this chamber of horrors had I not drawn a cock and balls on That Chandler’s cushion. But if I though the horrendous sexism of these two alpha-males was problematic, nothing had prepared me for the yo-yo knickered sluts next door.
Because you’d struggle to find a pair of women more consumed by self-hate than Racquel and Monaco. As I walked around the garish living room I winced, aghast at the multicoloured crockery, over-puffed cushions and bloodstained knickers. The thought of all the times these poor, hateful creatures were sexually exploited by everyone from Bruce Lewis to Magnum PPI brought my animal instincts to the boil, and it was only the fact that we weren’t granted access to the girls’ bedrooms that stopped me taking five minutes to purge myself.
Finally we ended up in possibly the most abhorrent location of the whole series, the opulent penthouse owned by lizard-obsessed Jewish ‘scientist’ Rees. Needless to say, by this point I’d seen enough and no amount of plush furnishings, climate change denial essays or ornamental arab skulls could keep me in this godforsaken place any longer. Realising my delicate brain could take no more – and mindful of the suspicious glances security staff had been giving me since a 4-year-old Nazi verbally abused me behind the burger van – I bailed.
To anyone considering a visit to Friends Fest I have one piece of advice: don’t.