Rachel Green

Written by @EllieDangerous
You're probably a grownup by now, and no one told you life was gonna be this way. Your job's a joke, you're broke, your love life's DOA. But when we were kids, things were different. That’s when many of us were introduced to 'Friends' and decided which one was our favourite, and I bet it wasn’t Rachel. That’s because it took us a bit of growing up to realise what kind of character she is. Played with abiding likeability by Jennifer Aniston, who isn’t a shoe, Rachel’s story is about stumbling into adulthood.

Spoiler Alert
‘Friends’ is the shining example of an ensemble sitcom cast, but right from the first episode we’re encouraged to invest in Rachel’s adventure, because it all begins with her. The other friends have already been up to stuff. They all know each other intimately, they all have jobs and places in which to lounge around and eat Doritos; we walk in on them halfway through their journey.

Meanwhile, Rachel flies into Central Perk in a panicked swoosh of wedding dress, having just abandoned her fiancé at the altar. In suddenly ending her old life she succeeds in beginning a new one, and we don’t know her but we all totally gave a tiny cheer. We begin the story there and then; in Central Perk with that distraught meringue.

This old life she’s abandoned is best described as a childhood. Yeah she’s in her twenties, but her life before ‘Friends’ was all about childlike reliance. Young Rach moved seamlessly from relying on her parents to relying on her husband-to-be. She never needed to learn about jobs and rent and trapping spiders under coffee cups until suddenly she did. Loads of us have felt like that before.

“Hang on”, you realise, gazing calmly at your negative bank balance. “I have to do all the things.” That’s when your childhood ends.

Rachel’s career path also rings pretty true. At first she has doubts that she needs one at all. “So, like, you guys all have jobs?” she asks her new friends in disbelief. Then when her initial job hunt doesn’t work, she’s tempted to give up and fall back onto the safety net of her dad’s wallet. “I was laughed out of twelve interviews today!” she admits happily. “And yet you’re surprisingly upbeat”, observes Chandler. “Well”, continues Rachel, “you would be too if you got new boots with 50% off”.

(“Oh how well you know me”, adds Chandler.)

In the end, Rachel settles for a job as a waitress because she has no idea what the heck she wants to do with her life. Until — bam! — she does! That moment is an exciting one. When Rachel realises she wants to work in fashion, Phoebe points out “It’s like the mothership is calling you home”. And when she finally clambers onto the bottom rung of her dream career ladder, gleefully announcing that she’ll never have to serve coffee again, she discovers that her main duty is… serving coffee. Oh Rach. So many people have felt your pain.

The rest of Rachel’s 20s and 30s are also startlingly familiar; if you’ve not seen great swathes of her in yourself, you’ve probably seen them in someone you know. Outgrowing her childhood pals, awkwardly attempting a relationship with one of her best friends. Eating a lot of grapes and getting drunkenly married. Accidentally having a baby and then kind of not knowing what to do with it. “She, Rach. Not it”, Monica reminds her after Rachel is kept awake for a million hours by her crying daughter. “Oh I’m not so sure”, replies Rachel dryly.

At least Rachel isn’t a child herself anymore by that point. She proves herself a grownup by doing grownup things. “Hey look, Mon, I’m melting butter!” she shares her newfound culinary expertise. “That’s great”, Monica replies. “You now have the cooking skills of a hot day.”

But it’s through her choices that Rach best proves herself an adult; and most of her biggest choices concern love. Like when she flies to London only to change her mind about breaking off Ross' marriage with Emily, because she wants him to be happy. Or that other big choice: when she got off the plane in the series finale, making a huge life decision that most adults would cower at. Love or career? She chooses love. And judging by the wave of happiness she rides for the rest of the finale, it was a good choice. It’s also implied by the balanced nature of Ross and Rachel’s relationship that they’ll work together so that she can hit a career high once more. Yep, definitely a good choice. There’s a reason why “Ross and Rachel” is still a synonym for two people who will always end up together. He’s her lobster.

Rachel’s candor, humanity and silliness make her a strong, funny, addictive character, but when you watch the show as a kid there’s not much that makes her really stand out. Ross is geeky, Monica is obsessive, Joey is juvenile, Chandler couldn’t be any more awkward, and Phoebe is, like, on Saturn or something. But what is Rachel? She’s the one who grows the most. And she wasn’t supposed to put beef in the trifle.
They wanna know if I'm okay? Well, let's see. The FICA guys took all my money, everyone I know is either getting married, or getting promoted, or getting pregnant, and I'm getting coffee. And it's not even for me! So if that sounds like I'm okay, okay then you can tell them I'm okay. Okay?
How long do cats live? Like, assuming you don't throw 'em under a bus or something.
Ellie Ball is the founder of Good Characters, and someone who enjoys coffee cake a great deal. She is a graduate of the Scriptwriting MA at Goldsmiths, University of London. For fun and respite, check out her TV analysis articles on Bang2Write or tweet coffee cake at her @EllieDangerous.
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Published on 6 August 2015
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