Farewell, Chandler; May You Find Happiness, Matthew

1. Father and Mother

In "Friends," there is a scene where Chandler is about to marry Monica but has not yet invited his transgender birth father. Family issue is a scar in Chandler's heart. His parents divorced on Thanksgiving when he was 9 years old. He witnessed his father transitioning into a woman while his mother was an erotic novel writer. After that, Chandler learned to smoke. However, at Monica's insistence, he goes to Las Vegas to invite his father to the wedding. In the audience, Chandler is nervous and even thinks about running away. However, a stunningly dressed father calls him over.

When Monica tells him that they're getting married in two weeks, Chandler's father shows a disappointed expression, quickly turning away to interact with another guest to conceal his awkwardness.

Observant Chandler notices his father's sadness, gathers his courage, stands up, and earnestly extends the wedding invitation. "We want you to be there," Chandler says, "I know it will make me happy..." Then, with his typical wry smile, he adds, "Ma'am."

This is Chandler, the character with the most defense mechanisms, the most complex, and the best at using humor to defuse situations in the whole series. He is successful in his career, charming, and funny. Still, beneath the surface, you find a timid, mischievous, sensitive man with deep-seated insecurities, vulnerabilities, and an instinct to avoid conflict and say yes. The scene where he meets his father almost reveals all aspects of Chandler: timid, playful, soft, his past and present, his humor, and vulnerability, all deeply entwined in this character.

Like the character Chandler, Matthew Perry, who portrays him, also comes from a broken family. His father was John Bennett Perry, a well-known American actor, singer, and model, and his mother was the press secretary to the Prime Minister of Canada. His parents divorced when Matthew was just one year old, and he grew up in Canada with his mother. His mother was busy with work, and her time, companionship, and attention paid to him were scarce. He once said that when his father left, he quickly realized the role he had to play at home: to entertain, to charm, to appease, to make people laugh, to comfort others. It was during this time that Matthew developed his quick wit and sharp verbal skills. Only by doing these things could he get his mother's attention, and regardless of what his mother did, he always felt it wasn't enough.

Whenever he looked up and saw a plane flying over the house's roof, Matthew would ask his grandmother, "Did Mom leave?" He was afraid that one day, just like his father, his mother would disappear. His beautiful mother was always the center of attention and dated many men. He projected his longing for his father onto these men, imagining them as his father. Then, every time a plane flew over the roof, he would ask his grandmother, "Did Mike (or Bill, or John, or the name of anyone who dated his mother) fly away?" He repeatedly lost his "fathers."

At the age of five, he flew alone for the first time from Canada to Los Angeles to visit his father. He vividly described the details of that flight in his memoir. A tag reading "Unaccompanied minor" would hang around his neck. He would board early, sit in a lounge with only children, and be escorted to the plane. Every time the plane encountered turbulence, he feared he would die and imagined what it would feel like to fall from the sky. Very occasionally, he would muster the courage to press the call button on the plane, and a flight attendant would come, pat his head, and then leave to attend to other passengers. Most of the time, "No one told me I would be okay, and I couldn't look to anyone for comfort," Matthew Perry wrote. He was too frightened to even lean back and nap in his seat because, at five years old, his feet didn't touch the floor.

So, a well-behaved little boy sat wide awake on the shaky plane, waiting for the next turbulence. Many such moments of anxiety and confusion led to the abandonment he felt throughout his life - "Am I not good enough?" he asked himself countless times. Why did his parents divorce? Why didn't his mother spend more time with him? "Other children had parents to accompany them on flights, but I had only a sign around my neck and a magazine."

2. Chandler and Monica

Soon after "Friends" started production, Matthew Perry shared two things with the producer, Marta Kauffman. One was that he couldn't stand any silence and always wanted to break those silent moments with jokes. The other was that he felt unattractive and had an incredibly unfortunate track record with girls, with romantic relationships almost always ending disastrously. The show's creators incorporated the actors' personalities into the characters, and Matthew Perry incorporated part of himself into Chandler.

When their neighbor, Mr. Heckles, passed away, Chandler sees too much of himself in the lonely, deceased man and fears ending up as lonely as Mr. Heckles. "What if I never find a girlfriend? What if I have a girlfriend but I break up with her because she says 'supposably'?" These are Chandler's quirks and neuroses, where a minor mistake or an imperfection, such as having slightly larger nostrils, could overshadow all the other good qualities in a girlfriend. This is also, coincidentally, Matthew Perry.

While filming the second season of "Friends," he started a relationship with the Hollywood A-lister, Julia Roberts. Julia Roberts also made a guest appearance on "Friends" and starred with Matthew Perry in a romantic subplot. However, this much-talked-about romance didn't last long. In April 1996, Matthew announced his single status on a talk show. In his memoir, he wrote, "Dating Roberts was a bit too much for me. I always believed she would eventually leave me - why wouldn't she? I'm not good enough; I've never been enough. I'm broken, off the path, not worthy of love. So, to avoid the inevitable pain of losing her, I broke up with the beautiful, shining Julia Roberts."

Subsequently, Matthew Perry's romantic relationships continued to be problematic, with similar scenarios playing out repeatedly in his life. In his own words, he said, "When I get someone, I have to leave them before they leave me because I don't want them to find out that I'm not good enough. But when I like someone who doesn't choose me, it directly proves that I'm not good enough, and they've realized it too." Matthew Perry's description of his emotional conflicts closely resembles Chandler's idiosyncrasies and anxieties in relationships.

However, the characters in the show are luckier than in real life. Chandler has his Monica. They go from best friends to lovers and, ultimately, get married. Before tying the knot, Chandler, deeply afraid of marriage due to his parents' troubled union, once considered fleeing. However, in the end, the two exchanged heartfelt vows, with the ceremony overseen by Joey, Chandler's closest friend.

Monica says, "For a long time, I wondered if I would ever find my prince, my soulmate. But three years ago, when I turned to a friend for solace, I found everything I wanted. Now, we're here; the future is right before us, and I just want to be with you. My prince, my soulmate, my friend."

Chandler says, "I thought this would be the most difficult thing I ever had to do. But when I saw you walking down the aisle, I realized how simple it was. I love you. Even if anything unexpected happens, it doesn't matter because I will love you forever."

3. Alcohol and Drug Addiction

Chandler and Monica's love story captured the hearts of nearly all fans, but few know the story behind this scene. After finishing the second season of "Friends," he went to Las Vegas to film a movie. After a jet-ski accident, he was prescribed Vicodin for pain, marking the beginning of his addiction. He went through detox treatment over 65 times and spent time in rehab 15 times. In one interview, he revealed that he would even pretend to view houses for sale and steal painkillers left in the toilet by the homeowner to ease his addiction. At the same time, he also battled alcoholism, which began when he was just 14 years old. In his story, these were his ways of coping with the emptiness he carried from childhood; substances made him feel good and temporarily filled that void.

Viewers familiar with "Friends" know that Chandler's weight fluctuated noticeably in different seasons. At the end of the sixth season and the beginning of the seventh season, in the scenes where Chandler and Monica propose to each other, Matthew is wearing the same orange shirt, but his cheeks have become sunken. "When I was very fat, it was because of alcohol; when I was very thin, it was because of pills." During the filming of "Friends," his weight fluctuated between 128 and 225 pounds.

In 2022, while promoting his new book in an interview with "People" magazine, Matthew Perry revealed that he lived in a detox center while filming the wedding episode. In the interview, he watched that episode together with the host, and he wore a bright smile. He said he liked rewatching that episode because he looked handsome, sober, healthy, and temporarily free from drug and alcohol addiction. At that moment, everything was fine.

Matthew Perry had initially thought that the fame brought by "Friends" could fill the void from his childhood and replace the role that drugs and alcohol played in his life. However, the twenty over years of struggling with drug and alcohol addiction that followed told him that it was just a daytime fantasy. He stated, "The years of filming 'Friends' were the best time in my life. If time could be turned back, I wish 'Friends' hadn't ended in 2004."

The day of filming Chandler and Monica's wedding was May 17, 2001. Two months earlier, in March 2001, Julia Roberts won an Oscar for Best Actress for the movie "Erin Brockovich." On the night of the awards ceremony, the former girlfriend was radiant, while Matthew Perry lay awake in a rehab center bed, looking at the ceiling, sleepless all night. He was happy for her, but for him, he was just grateful to have survived another day. "But for me, I was just thankful I had gotten through another day... I didn't need an Oscar; I just needed a new day."

In 2018, Matthew Perry experienced a life-threatening crisis. Due to excessive drug use, his colon ruptured, and he was in a coma for two weeks in the hospital, on ECMO support. When he woke up, he had to live with a colostomy bag for nine months before undergoing reconstructive surgery. During that moment, his mother stood by his side, remarking, "Your existence is truly astounding. Your strength and resilience are truly remarkable."

In his memoir, he candidly recounts the story of his fractured family, the internal anxieties and self-doubt, the struggles with drugs and alcohol, numerous setbacks, and eventual recoveries. He wrote, "I don't want to die; I'm fear death.”

Some say that Matthew Perry's memoir is just him whining and complaining over nothing. While it might be easy to assume that millionaires don't face real problems or that drug addicts are simply dealing with the consequences of their actions, the courage to unveil one's most profound and private wounds is a quality not everyone possesses. He's trying to face it, analyze it, talk about it, and help other addicts like himself.

For a very long time, he kept these secrets, even though he later mustered the courage to share them with his fellow "Friends" cast members. However, he restrained himself from revealing too much. In the series, his five other friends were deeply concerned but somewhat helpless, and Jennifer Aniston, who played Rachel, even teared up in an interview when discussing how scared they were of losing Matthew.

The preface of Matthew's autobiography was written by Lisa Kudrow, who portrayed Phoebe. In the preface, Lisa revealed that throughout the years of filming, she refrained from intervening or prying too much into Matthew's struggles with addiction and alcoholism. At times, she wondered if she could do more or something to help, but she gradually realized that Matthew's ability to stay sober was beyond her control. These diseases stubbornly fed on themselves, continuing to haunt him relentlessly.

As a result, during those years, Lisa focused solely on Matthew Perry as a person. He was the one who made her laugh every day, and week after week, he could bring her to tears of laughter. "He was right there, smart, charming, endearing, sensitive, rational... Even though he had so much to wrestle with at the time, he was right there."

4. "Friends"

If you know all the stories behind it and then think about Chandler's performances in "Friends," those moments of laughter he brought, you might feel deceived, but you might also realize the preciousness of Chandler. The most broken Matthew Perry created the funniest and most humorous Chandler Bing. The emptiness of his childhood both consumed him and inspired him to craft Chandler's awkward humor, inappropriate jokes, and the heart-wrenching fear of intimacy. He became a rich, deeply relatable, funny, and poignant old friend through his portrayal.

How extensive is the influence of "Friends"? With 10 seasons and 236 episodes, it has been aired in 220 countries and regions worldwide. When the series finale aired, 52 million people watched it, and to this day, the show has been viewed over a hundred billion times across all platforms.

One of the producers, David Crane, said, "If you had to sum up the story's theme in one sentence, it's about that time in your life when your friends are your family." "Friends" is inspired by stories in real life. David Crane and Marta Kauffman were in their twenties, living in New York, trying to make a living and find love. Chandler's name was the real name of one of their friends, and they drew inspiration from their lives. They wanted to create a show where, unlike previous ones, friends were not just sidekicks, but they were the main characters. "We wanted to tell everyone's story fairly."

The American writer Joan Didion once wrote a farewell essay about New York, mentioning that many people might think New York is a city for the extremely poor or rich, where they can live the desired life. But fewer people mention that, especially for strangers, New York City is a city that exists solely for young people. Young people here can always meet new faces, even if this novelty is just an illusion, a frivolous happiness, a morally flawed young narrative.

It's this story about young people in New York that has captured the hearts of several generations of global audiences.Every fan may have their own Chandler memory. I came to New York as a stranger when I was 26. I consoled myself by thinking this wasn't too late; Chandler, in the first season of "Friends," was also 26. It was a fresh start.

Like many "Friends" fans, I tried to find my own reflection in the six characters. In an online test called "Which 'Friends' Character Are You?": I got Chandler.The description of Chandler's character in the conclusion said, "You're funny, so your friends enjoy being around you. You're also a good friend, and when the people you care about have problems, they know they can turn to you for clear-headed advice, but they also know that your advice will be followed by some sharp sarcasm."

This test confirmed my special connection with Chandler. We both knew how to use humor to hide sadness and awkwardness. In elementary school, my teacher told my mom, "He's always laughing; sometimes, when you scold him, he laughs, and I don't know what he's laughing about."

We both knew the value of friendship and what comes with it. When people asked me which character I liked the most, I'd say Joey. I identify with Chandler, but I don't necessarily need someone like myself. Chandler faced hardships, while Joey approached life's challenges with ease, making bold and impulsive decisions. Joey's simplicity and straightforwardness were his strengths and why he and Chandler became good friends.

Because of this connection with Chandler, I paid more attention to Matthew Perry, the actor who portrayed him. I looked up his news, checked his social media profiles, and read his autobiography "Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing," which was published last year. I learned how broken his life was, how sensitive and delicate he was, and how many storms raged in his mind. Matthew described his shattered childhood, the behind-the-scenes of "Friends," his love life as a Hollywood superstar, and the years of struggles with alcohol and drug addiction.

By the way, Chandler was also my English teacher. Of course, he was the English teachers for many non-native speakers worldwide, along with his five other friends.

Before coming to New York, two of my friends who grew up in an English-speaking environment would watch an episode of "Friends" together every Sunday to help improve my English. They quizzed me on listening, taught me phrases and expressions, and explained every punchline. A 20-minute episode would turn into over an hour in our small room, filled with discussions about language and culture and our continuous laughter. I remember during the first episode, they taught me a phrase: "Dear diary moment" – a moment worth writing in a diary.

Every Sunday, watching "Friends" became my "dear diary moment."

5. Behind the Scene

Later, I discovered that "Friends" was filmed entirely in a studio in Los Angeles, but this remarkable story, spanning over ten years, was enough to create the audience own "New York" in their hearts.

A few weeks ago, I was topping up my subway card at the 2nd Avenue subway station when a taller person than me walked over, took my $6, grabbed my subway card, and pushed me through the emergency door that allowed free entry. "We should help each other, so I opened the door for you, and you don't have to spend money." After pushing me through, he returned my subway card but never returned my $6. I looked at him, he looked at me, then turned and left. In that surreal moment, Chandler would have entered my mind, and I would imagine how he would respond if it were him. I had my own answer: I wouldn't treat it as a big deal; I'd smile, tease him, calling it an "elegant New Yorker's robbery," and then carry on my way home. I acted according to the script in my mind, in Chandler's way, during those bewildering moments in New York.

For a stranger in New York, Chandler, and his friends, through ten years and 236 episodes of details and stories, told me how, as a young person, you could live in the chaos and richness of New York.

On the evening of October 28, my college roommate sent me a WeChat message saying that Chan had passed away. I searched my memory for any names associated with "Chan." After a while, he sent another message, "Chandler."

I was somewhat surprised. In October, Matthew Perry had started sharing his life on social media in rare instances. Sometimes, it was a lit pumpkin lantern; other times, it was a photo with his father. At the time, I was secretly pleased, thinking that he must have come a long way from the shadows of alcohol and drugs. A week earlier, I had sent him a message telling him how much I loved Chandler and how happy I was to see him starting to share his life, and I wished him that he could smile towards the sun on sunny days. Sending an Instagram message to a completely unfamiliar Hollywood star for no apparent reason sounded quite Chandler-esque.

I hadn't expected a reply from him, let alone the sudden news of his death.

But at that moment, I didn't doubt the message's authenticity too much. I had read Matthew's autobiography and knew that he had been close to death several times, suffering from serious health issues. I couldn't connect the funny and humorous Chandler with death, but I could connect the broken Matthew Perry with it.

I suppose the growing urge to share stems from appreciating the beauty of life. Was he feeling better about himself now? Had he found something or someone that made him smile every day? Had he completely overcome his addiction to alcohol and drugs? Was he no longer broken? Did his death mean that when he was about to reach out and embrace life, he lost the chance to touch the beauty? Thinking about this, my heart was filled with regret and sadness.

I was walking back home from Chinatown in Manhattan, looking down at the message about Matthew's death, and people of various races walked by, speaking Cantonese, Spanish, Italian, and English. Old buildings in Chinatown with signs in Chinese and the shining World Trade Center in the distance all appeared before my eyes. In this unfamiliar city, "Friends" was the only show that played on repeat in my mind. Chandler wasn't just a character from "Friends"; he was my friend in life.

6. Youth and Friends

So, let's go back to this story about friends.

The friendships in the show are heartwarming, and the six young actors forged a deep bond off-screen. Each of the six main cast members had the same salary, a contract they fought for during the first season because they believed that only with complete equality could they build a friendship with no cracks, and the on-screen friendships would also feel more authentic. In the 2021 reunion special, Matthew said that after the show ended, if any of the six of them met at a party or gathering, that night was essentially over because they would stay together and not engage with others. Visiting the old dressing rooms, he fondly reminisced about the first few years of filming when they were "inseparable."

The six actors are no longer as young as they used to be, but they still look as happy and relaxed as before. They have become old friends, sitting in the same studio and chatting like family. When Matthew said he used to be very, very afraid that the audience wouldn't laugh when they were supposed to, it made him break out in cold sweats, deeply frustrated, almost a nightmare. Lisa Kudrow subconsciously replied, "Really? Why didn't you tell us that at the time? I don't remember you mentioning that." This was the moment in the reunion special that touched me the most. Lisa's gaze was sincere. Her subconscious questioning was an expression of care for her friend. She remembered the past, the details of their time together, and wondered why her friend didn't show his vulnerability back then. When a friend encounters adversity, sadness, or life's challenges, as a true friend, you always want to know why they didn't reach out for help at the time.

I once watched an interview where all the "Friends" cast members assessed each other. Matthew Perry was unanimously considered the funniest among them. If viewers were to give each character in "Friends" an adjective, Chandler's label would also be "funny." Therefore, in this article commemorating Matthew Perry, let's recall some happy and bright moments.

For a long time, I was touched by the friendship between Chandler and Joey. Do you remember Joey giving Chandler that golden bracelet? Even though Chandler didn't like it and sometimes hated it, he would buy another one after losing it and wear it on his wrist to keep Joey from being disappointed. They complemented each other well—Joey was carefree, while Chandler was sensitive. One had a life that was a bit off track, and the other was always on the mainstream path, with a stable job and a decent income. But together, they created so many beautiful memories, like the day they lazily lay on the couch without moving or the table football they played together. One of the joys of adulthood might just be having an old friend who accompanies you to be crazy and silly.

People also love Chandler's nonsense and always unexpected humor. For example, when he runs through the streets, overcoming various obstacles and ending up dirty, just to say hi to Cathy, whom he was secretly in love with at the time. Or when his relationship with Monica wasn't public yet, Phoebe and Rachel walked into the room and caught them kissing. In response, Chandler also kissed Phoebe and Rachel, pretending this was his new way of greeting.

Over the ten long years, Chandler also matured. He became braver. In the 9th season, he quit his job, changed his career path, and became a junior copywriter at an advertising agency, working as an intern alongside young people and taking on new challenges. He also faced his father, entered marriage, and navigated intimate relationships, all of which were brave transformations.

He's an inspiring friend. When I was new to a foreign country and facing new challenges, I would think of his story about giving up a high-paying job in his thirties to become an intern and brainstorm advertising ideas. He told me that even when you feel vulnerable and insecure, there are friends who will support you and put up with your illogical jokes one after another, and you are worthy of love and being loved. He's a voice in my mind, with his distinctive pauses, hesitations, and intonations echoing constantly when I face awkward and absurd situations, becoming my weapon for overcoming challenges.

In the final episode of "Friends," Chandler and Monica are about to move to Westchester, and the six friends are bidding farewell to a chapter of their lives. When Rachel suggests they all go sit in a coffee shop one last time, Chandler casually throws in, "Where?" As everyone assumed they were heading to Central Perk, their usual haunt, Chandler's offhand remark, "Where?" became the last line of the series and the final comedic twist. It wasn't in the script; it was Matthew Perry's improvisation.

Farewell to our old friends, our funny and flawed Chandler, and our sensitive and talented Matthew Perry. No matter where you go, may you continue to bring happiness to others and find your own joy.

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