I guess explaining why dunking Courtney Cox in a fat suit and having other characters, especially men, rip on her for her weight is pretty easy. If you’re a person of size or identify as fat, whether you’re a man or a woman, this kind of representation is quite literally, hard to watch.

A lot of people have done some great work in analyzing the stupidity of “Fat Monica” in Friends, so I wanted to take a look at the dynamic between Monica and Chandler in an analysis of two scenes to truly pick apart this tragic storyline in a show that I basically grew up with, and still love, despite this. I’ll frame typical fat tropes with the scenes to show just how ridiculous Monica’s story arc was.

thanksgiving flashback

In this flashback, Ross brings Chandler home from college for Thanksgiving at his family’s house. Monica and Rachel are already there. Even before Chandler arrives, Rachel speaks down to Monica about the language she uses to describe sex regarding Rachel’s break-up with Cliff, referring to it as “giving him your flower”. 

“Monica, you know it really creeps me out when you call it that,” is what Rachel replies with, immediately establishing Monica as a clueless fat person who has no idea what sex is or should be. You could go as far to argue they’re casting Fat Monica as undeserving of sex, or any male attention, a trope supported by the arrival of Chandler minutes later.

let’s make the fat joke already

As Chandler is introduced to Monica, he’s immediately rude, barely acknowledging her as “Ross’s little sister” and the two boys immediately shift their focus to Rachel, who is apparently more deserving of a male gaze as she is thin.

The worst part is yet to come. Ross and Chandler are talking and Chandler exclaims “I don’t want to be stuck here all night with your fat sister” with Monica standing behind them, which draws a “woah” from the TV audience soundtrack, in a wonderfully ironic fashion. Ironic as the producers have clearly used Fat Monica to be a comedic plot for cheap sitcom laughs, yet in the final scene the show’s fake audience recognizes that it obviously is not okay for Chandler to speak about her like this.

"fat" monica playing the fat best friend role perfectly for friends and rachel
It’s a fat suit. Because, why would anyone ever dare to be that fat?

”she’s finally full!“

Oh, no, wait. There’s still time for one more fat joke at the end, even after Monica’s evisceration by Chandler. Her Dad comments “Well Julie, you did it, she’s finally full.”

As a plus size woman, this one always amuses me. We’ve got much better as a society in general these days, and this was 25 years ago, but there are still many people who assume I’m fat because I can’t seem to stop eating. Nothing to do with genetics, metabolism, or anything like that!

As someone who eats the same amount, if not less food than my friends half my size, this is always a kicker and yet another delusional “fat trope” Friends have used for a cheap laugh. How funny!

Monica is sad because she’s fat. This type of plot should be put firmly in the gutter.

coffee shop flashback

One of the lesser known scenes starring “Fat Monica” is another interesting way to look at her portrayal as a fat woman who is the target of ridicule, though here it’s in a more indirect way. This is from the episode called The One That Could Have Been in season six.

fat = no sex

Monica is still fat, and apparently this means that she’s a 30 year old virgin. As the only real difference to her character is her weight, it would be logical to assume this is what the show is trying to tell us. I would love to think what the producers, director etc. would make of the dating world in 2023, where a fat woman can, gasp, go on Tinder or Hinge and get laid in a matter of hours, or flirt with (mostly) normal dudes, as well as one of the many legitimate plus size dating sites. Apparently to Friends, you can’t have sex if you’re fat though!

fat = boring boyfriend

On the topic of men, in this episode we’re also introduced to Monica’s boyfriend, who is cast as the most boring man alive. Chandler remarks as he leaves on his joke about “the brazil nut”: “Was he mentioning things that are less boring than him?”

Fat Monica is clearly unable to find a “cool” boyfriend and therefore unworthy of a nice relationship. Chandler, again, pokes fun at Monica in an indirect way, because fat people are clearly the obvious thing to make fun of in Friends.

thin monica and chandler

Monica’s character arc in Friends, shown by the flashbacks, takes her from a clueless, sex-less fat girl to a successful, attractive thin woman. The contrast is best indicated by Chandler’s constant desire to “get with” Monica, you could even say constant pining for her, and her frequently passing him off in favor of other men. 

The shift is now complete: Monica has shed her former (fat) self and instead of Chandler making fun of her, she is now shooing him away because she’s obviously way more desirable now she’s lost weight! 

Oh man, I don’t think I would’ve been very popular in the nineties. Portrayals like this show why older generations have such a problem with bigger bodies.

The shift is now complete: Monica has shed her former (fat) self and instead of Chandler making fun of her, she is now shooing him away because she’s obviously way more desirable now she’s lost weight!