Chandler’s parents suck.
I’ve read more than my fair share of articles on Chandler. And some are inflammatory, calling his homophobia the WORST part of Friends, but what the author fails to take into account is Chandler’s dad is an asshole. Of course Chandler’s going to be homophobic, he fears his narcissistic father.
How do we know he’s narcissistic?
“[Narcissistic fathers] manipulate their children by withholding affection (until they perform), and neglect to meet their children’s needs because their needs come first.“
-Mark Banschick M.D., Psychology Today
Not only this, but narcissists are known to ALWAYS be the center-of-attention:
“Chandler: …he used to come to all of my swim meets dressed as a different Hollywood starlets.“
And the “withholding affection until they perform” explains Chandler’s line in The One with Chandler’s Dad:
“Chandler: When I was growing up I played the one on the far left.“
Chandler’s dad is not a good guy. I know we live in a generation of equality and acceptance, but Chandler’s opinion of gay people should not be condemned — especially given his father.
Banschick’s article sums up Chandler’s dad, Charles, in a nutshell and it’s all the more reason why Monica’s surprise trip to Vegas for Chandler to reconcile with his father shouldn’t be viewed as loving, but controlling — wanting her traditional wedding. Monica is such an awful match for Chandler and it’s clear that it’s a result of his parents.
Speaking of, let’s talk about the mom, Nora Tyler-Bing, for a moment, who is also a narcissist — I’m not just saying that because it’d be convenient. Look at Dr. Karl McBride’s, overview of a narcissistic mom:
“They cannot put themselves into your shoes and feel or understand how something might affect you. They can only see how it affects them.”
-Dr. Karl McBride, Psychology Today
Banschick then goes on to explain that narcissistic moms:
“The outside world may embrace her, but you know mom as self-centered, brittle, easily angered and “always right.” She may be loved by her friends and colleagues, but they don’t know the mom you know. You get maternal love now and then, but it’s unpredictable and punctuated by control, anger and a need to walk on eggshells.”
No where is this clearer than in The One with Mrs. Bing where Chandler finds out his mother is going to visit him via a Jay Leno interview.
“Mrs. Bing: (on TV) I’m leaving for New York tomorrow, which I hate, but I get to see my son, who I love…
Chandler: This is the way that I find out. Most moms use the phone.”
His friends swoon and adore her, but Chandler could not be more anxious. She says this for public adoration, not for her child. She loves herself. According to Banschick, at heart, narcissistic mothers are insecure and that’s why they need validation from their children (and men) — hence why she’s been married (and divorced) 4 times, and kisses Ross. The fact that Nora didn’t understand or care how it affected Chandler gives more credence to the narcissism.
The result of two narcissistic parents is clear, an insecure, anxious, and inferiority-complex-ridden boy. Chandler didn’t pursue a dream job, he had to stay out of the spotlight because “daddy” was hogging it; Chandler didn’t touch a girl’s breast until he was 19 (TOW all the Embryos) because that’s when he MOVED out of his mother’s house! His mother demanded all of Chandler’s affection.
Dealing with divorce is one thing — the heated arguments and battling for a child’s favoritism — but dealing with divorce between two narcissists is war.
Chandler’s parents are both narcissistic, and the scary thing is, there’s some evidence that Chandler’s dad might not even be gay — he may have chosen to be gay to win against his wife.
“Nora: Did you know that I slept with the best man?
Mr. Bing: Yes he told me. At least, I think that’s what he said. It was difficult to understand with his legs wrapped around my head.”
-The One with Monica and Chandler’s Wedding
Otherwise his dad exhibits more qualities of a transgender… But that’s not a door I’m here to open. I want to talk about why Chandler’s soulmate is Kathy and how she helps him conquer the insecurities of his parents; filling the void as the perfect piece.
Chandler Muriel Bing
- Family Life
To make this analysis more manageable, here are the facts:
- Chandler’s parents divorced on Thanksgiving when he was 9 (TOW Underdog Gets Away)
- The divorce initiated because Chandler’s father was caught with the pool boy (TOW All the Thanksgivings)
- The divorce caused Chandler to wet the bed (TOW the Two Parties)
- Chandler started smoking at 9 (TOW the Ski Trip)
- Chandler quit smoking at 23 (TOW the Thumb;
- Phoebe: You’ve been so good for three years)
- His mother is a successful erotic novelist (TOW Mrs. Bing)
- Nora bought Chandler his first condoms (TOW Mrs. Bing)
- His father is a gay transvestite (TOW Chandler’s Dad)
- Chandler’s only heirloom is a feather boa passed down from Charles’ father (TOW the Yeti;
- Chandler: The only heirloom I ever got was a feather boa. Got it from my dad. He got it from his dad. How did I ever get born?)
- Charles attended Chandler’s high school swimming events dressed as different starlets (TOW Chandler’s Dad)
- Charles slept with Mr. Garibaldi (TOW Chandler’s Dad)
- Charles moved to Las Vegas to start a Burlesque show called Viva Las Gaygas (TOW the Embryos)
- Chandler used to perform in said show (TOW Chandler’s Dad)
- Charles once invited Ross up to his hotel (TOW the Dollhouse)
- Nora kissed Ross (TOW Mrs. Bing)
- Charles kidnapped Chandler after cub scouts (TOW the Ski Trip;
- Chandler: You know what this is like? This is like when my parents got divorced. Man, I hope Ross doesn’t try to kidnap me after Cub Scouts.)
- Nora has been married and divorced 4 times (TOW Rachel’s Book;
- Chandler: My mother spent most of her money on her fourth wedding. She’s saving the rest for her divorce)
- Both Charles and Nora slept with the best man at their wedding (TOW Monica and Chandler’s Wedding)
So with this wealth of information, what do we know about Chandler? How did it affect him?
1. Fear of Confrontation
Being a child of divorce, Chandler must have eavesdropped on countless arguments and fights between his parents. After the divorce, the fighting stops because they’ve separated, so Chandler equates “fighting” to mean it’s the end of a relationship.
Chandler: Well, y’know, you and me, it had to end sometime.
Monica: Why, exactly?
Chandler: Because of the weekend… we had a fight.
Monica: Chandler, that’s crazy! If you give up every time you have a fight with someone, you’d never be in a relationship with anyone for longer than…. Oh!
-The One with the Kips
Additionally, this is why Chandler is loathe to get involved in confrontations.
Example 1: Chandler can’t fire his attractive co-worker (The One with the Two Parts).
Example 2: Chandler can’t end things with Joanna (The One with the Dollhouse).
Example 3: Chandler can’t dump Janice (TOW the East German Laundry Detergent; TOW the Candy Hearts; TOW all the Rugby; etc.).
2. Fear of Inadequacy
Perhaps most importantly (in regards to dating), Chandler suffers an inferiority complex, always feeling inadequate and second-rate because his parents refused to ever let him feel more than that.
Worse, he points out the inadequacies in others because that’s all he knows. He never grew up in a nurturing or affectionate household, instead his parents tore him and everyone else down in an effort to raise themselves higher. Plus, given that Chandler’s dad was wealthy, it’s very likely his friends growing up turned to judgments and ridicule at Chandler’s expense.
As a result of all this, Chandler writes people off for their flaws — while being wholly aware of his own.
Chandler says it best in The One where Mr. Heckles Dies:
Chandler: Look at this. Pictures of all the women that Heckles went out with. Look what he wrote on them. Vivian, too tall. Madge, big gums. Too loud, too smart, makes noise when she eats. This is–this is me. This is what I do. I’m gonna end up alone, just like he did.
Joey: Chandler, Heckles was a nut case.
Chandler: Our trains are on the same track, ok? Yeah, sure, I’m coming up 30 years behind him, but the stops are all the same. Bitter Town. Aloneville. Hermit Junction…What if I never find someone? Or worse, what if I found her, but I dumped her because she pronounces it ‘supposably?’
3. Fear of Commitment
He fears commitment because he doesn’t want to become afather — specifically, his own. He hates what his father did to him and how his father destroyed his family. In fact, if you take his monologue to Janice as to why they can’t be together, but throw out the “joke” at the end, it sounds like Chandler is talking about his dad:
Chandler: I don’t wanna be the guy that breaks up a family, y’know when my parents split up, it was because of that guy. Whenever I would see him I would always think y’know ‘You’re the reason, you are the reason why they’re not together,’ and I hated that guy.
-The One with the Giant Poking Device
The line I cut at the end there is “And it didn’t matter how nice he was or how happy he made my dad,” but Chandler always uses humor as a defense mechanism and I think he was getting uncomfortably vulnerable. Plus, it makes more sense since Chandler wouldn’t blame the Pool Boy, but identify with him, whereas the vessel for all his fears is his father. To back up this claim (that Chandler identifies with the Pool Boy) check this out:
Children of divorce (whose parents’ relationship ends with an affair) often identify with the Other Person:
“Daughters will tend to secretly identify with “the other woman” and sons with the “other man.” Daughters want to be the “Apple of Dad’s eye.” If Dad is more desirous of another woman or more interested in something other than the family (like being at the bar), the daughter will, at some point, want to explore this “other world.” The daughter will tend to keep this a secret from mom for fear of being “disloyal” to her. The case is similar for sons.”
-Robert Stone, PsychCentral
Since Chandler’s dad is a transvestite, he had no male role models outside of his father’s lover: the Pool Boy.
This gains credence when you consider the fact that Chandler is the “Other Man” a lot:
Example 1: Chandler is one of many “other men” in Aurora’s — the polyamorous exotic Italian woman’s — extensive love affairs (TOW the Butt).
Example 2: When Janice and Chandler start dating seriously, Chandler becomes the “Other Man” through Janice’s divorce and Joey makes this clear:
“They have a kid together, y’know. They’re a family, and if, I don’t know, there’s chance they could make that work, I know I wouldn’t want to be the guy who stood in the way of that.”
–TOW the Giant Poking Device
Example 3: When Chandler kisses Kathy, he’s the “Other Guy” who ends her relationship with Joey.
More over, Chandler very clearly tried to be in his father’s good graces. He “performed” in his father’s burlesque show, he attempted a figure-skating career, he did the things his father asked for and in the end, Chandler was left to the wayside. The Pool Boy allegedly got his own Pool Boy, but that wouldn’t crush Chandler, rather he pursues the same route by living with his mother instead.
What no doubt caused Chandler to see his father for the narcissistic monster he is, is when Charles found another man. The Pool Boy was replaceable and Chandler realized he was as well. With a narcissist, you need to keep feeding their ego, and they are insatiable.
So Chandler chose to stay with his mother and evaded his father. The “kidnap me after cub scouts” line shows that Chandler’s father tried to spend more time with Chandler… but Chandler was not inclined to do so because he knew it wasn’t out of “love” for Chandler but because Charles wanted to win his son from his ex-wife; it was a competition.
Had Chandler continued trying to win his dad’s affection, he’d probably be a house staff or a butler since his father would never let him succeed. Living with a narcissistic mother however drove Chandler to get a high-paying job and notable career, since Branschick states that narcissistic mothers believe their children’s success reflects well on them as parents.
Although this gives Chandler a better life… that’s the silver lining. A sad circumstance to this is that Chandler’s mother didn’t love Chandler any more for choosing her over his father. It boosted her ego, but it’s been said that children of divorce who stay with the opposite sex parent feel resentment from them. In other words, when Nora looked at Chandler, she saw Charles.
The last thing Chandler EVER wants to be is his father. His “homophobia” is completely justified — it has nothing to do with gay people, and everything to do with distancing himself from his father.
This, combined with the divorce, is why Chandler is afraid of commitment. He saw it didn’t last between his parents, but more over, he doesn’t want to become his father.
2. Chandler’s Relationships
When you run the gamut of Chandler’s relationships, there are women he’s awestruck by and women he settles for.
The women he settles for are relationships he falls into, i.e. Joanna, Janice, Mary Angela. Chandler is not emotionally invested in these people. (Ginger falls into this category too, once the artificial leg is exposed.)
Meanwhile, the women Chandler is awestruck by overwhelm him with beauty, so much so that all he can focus on is the fact that they’re “into” him. His ego is being charged by their looks and, for a time, they remedy his feelings of inadequacy because he cannot believe they are actually allowing him to pursue them… Women like Jade (when Chandler is “Bob”), Nina (co-worker), Susie (Julia Roberts), the Dutch Girl and, to some extent, Jill Goodacre. With those women, Chandler is awestruck, but before these relationships can mature, they’re ended quickly.
Plus, if anything, these short-term relationships simultaneously abolish Chandler’s fear of inadequacy… and then validate it.
For Chandler’s Soulmate, she must eliminate his 3 fears: inadequacy, confrontation, and becoming his father.
The women who Chandler is awestruck by and their relationships are able to mature with him are: Aurora, Kathy, Monica… and Yasmine Bleeth (and Kathy is the only one he turns her off for).
Of course each of these women help Chandler conquer his feelings of insecurity — feeling second-rate, unlovable, inadequate, etc. — because they’re gorgeous and they’re interested in him. Which means his other two fears (of confrontation and commitment) need to be conquered.
Chandler does both with Aurora, confronting her about their relationship and wanting to be monogamous… but it’s not reciprocated.
Meanwhile Monica is such an ill-suited choice. Monica is basically Chandler’s mom: another narcissist who always needs to win:
“No you didn’t. Oh and honey, just so you know, now that you’re marrying me, you don’t get to win anymore.“
-The One with Chandler’s Dad
3. Chandler’s Soulmate is Kathy
For starters, you would never hear Chandler say to Kathy that he loves her “in spite of” anything; any quirks; any habits; any neurotic OCD. Chandler tried to find flaws in Kathy, but he couldn’t. In The One Where Chandler Crosses the Line:
“Chandler: …And now I have seen her naked. I mean at least when I’ve seen her with clothes on, I could imagine her body was covered in boils or something. But there are no boils, she’s smooth! Smooth!“
Kathy helps Chandler overcome his insecurity because she chooses Chandler over Joey — a man Chandler holds in high esteem and loves dearly. The fact that Kathy picks Chandler assuages any feelings of insecurity.
Kathy even enhances Chandler’s intimacy with his friends. To become a better a lover, Chandler reaches out to Rachel and Monica. Although usually much more reserved around women, Chandler approaches them for one of his biggest insecurities: sex. Chandler has always feared how well he’s able to perform, and no doubt suffered from feeling second-rate to Joey, but because of Kathy, he overcomes his self-doubt and now has quantifiable proof that he’s a good lover. This conquers the fear of confrontation as well.
Finally, Kathy (like Joey) has elements of both his parents: his father’s showmanship (she’s an actor) and his mother’s raw sexuality. Kathy is perfect for Chandler… but it’s the “father” aspect that also makes their relationship fail… and it leads into a bit of a digression.
Chandler as Joey’s Adoptive Father
Despite the fact that Chandler always feared becoming his father, he becomes a father to Joey, his adopted child (more or less). Before explaining why, here’s the evidence.
Chandler supports Joey like he would his own son. He pays for his “school” (acting classes), his rent, his food. He cooks pancakes and explains to one-night stands how Joey’s not one to commit (as mentioned in TOW Ross’s Library Book). Additionally, Chandler helps Joey pursue the girls he’s interested in, be it Kate or Annabelle (TOW the Breast Milk).
Chandler takes him to the doctor: for the thing sticking out of his stomach (TOW Joey Loses his Insurance); for his broken arm from jumping on the bed (TOW the Jam); for his snoring (TOW all the Wedding Dresses). And he even refers to Joey as his child in The One with Rachel’s Other Sister:
“If I die, you don’t get Joey.”
Beyond that, look at highly nuanced scenes like the one where Joey and Chandler are robbed (TOW the Cat). When Chandler comes home to see that all their furniture is missing and (it appears) no one is home, he shouts, “Oh my God!” Then, as soon as Joey makes himself known, Chandler’s reaction is, “Are you okay?”
Any other character (Ross, Rachel, or Monica) would’ve asked “What happened?” before asking if Joey was okay.
Just look at The One that Could Have Been when Phoebe cries out, “No! No! No!” And Monica’s instinct is “Oh my God, you didn’t sit on my Kit-Kats, did you?” She cares more for herself than her friends – and the argument that “it’s a hypothetical episode” doesn’t hold any water as it’s a character trait of Monica’s (see the canonical episode The One with the Lottery where Monica wishes for money vs Chandler getting a job).
Chandler even makes the cardinal “parent-of-divorce” move when he kisses Kathy and causes Joey’s relationship to crumble. Chandler lavishes Joey with gifts by buying new furniture in hopes of “winning” Joey over.
Chandler’s relationship with Joey is different from any other Friends-relationship; it’s paternal. It’s no wonder Chandler is so heartbroken when Joey moves out — he suffers as any parent does watching their kid go off to college. Chandler loves Joey (paternally) and part of the reason is because Joey fills the void his parents made.
Unconsciously or not, Chandler assumes the role of a father (sometimes mother) to Joey, but the difference is Chandler’s not a narcissist. Chandler provides and nurtures Joey and Joey responds with affection.
Chandler can see this as a reflection of his childhood and perhaps, for the first time in years, started to empathize more with his father. Chandler isn’t always gung-ho about helping Joey, he feels the burden of responsibility.
There’s a good chance that Chandler felt like he was being dishonest with himself by providing for Joey, but still putting his own needs first — which is exactly what his father did, a wealthy man who cared more about himself than his son.
But then… 20 years (to the day) after his parents divorce on Thanksgiving, Chandler has confirmation that he’s NOT his father. Chandler’s “selfish” needs of wanting Kathy are put to the test. Rather than jump out of the box and pursue the love of his life, Chandler honors Joey’s wishes. Chandler put his “son”‘s needs before his own — something his father would never have done.
That “box” is symbolic of many things (maybe warrants its own episode analysis).
But the reason Chandler and Kathy’s relationship falls apart is, in my opinion, due to his father.
In The One with Chandler’s Dad, we learn:
“Chandler: I don’t know if I’ve told you this, but he[Chandler’s Dad]’s kinda tried to get in contact with me a lot over the last few years…he’s made phone calls, written letters, he even came to New York, but I always said I was too busy to see him.“
This is Season 7. Kathy was in Season 4. By “few”, Chandler must mean more than 2 years or he would’ve used “last couple years”. I think Chandler’s father tried to contact Chandler while he was with Kathy and this is what caused his insecurities to erupt in a moment of weakness.
When Chandler and Kathy break up, it’s completely valid. She’s an actress so her time is spent with her co-stars on-stage — much like his father. The fact that she’s getting hot and heavy with a good-looking guy is probably reminiscent of Mr. Ghirabaldi — who is on the piano at his father’s burlesque show.
Charles unravels all the progress Chandler made and you can see all his fears manifest. When Chandler and Kathy breakup in The One with Rachel’s Crush, Chandler’s insecurity comes first:
“I-I could see how this could happen, y’know you’re up there every night, you’re naked, touching, kissing.“
Then his fear of his father (the cheating and being replaceable):
“Well, you can understand, given how we started.“
And the fear of confrontation and fighting:
“Kathy: I’ll tell you what, Chandler, why don’t you call me when you grow up!
Chandler: Yeah, well, don’t expect that to happen anytime soon!“
What’s worse is Chandler does realize this. He understands it’s his father that made him regress because unlike every other relationship, Chandler does snap out of it and approach Kathy:
“I think this is a good thing. Y’know? ‘Cause we’ve had our first fight, and now we can move on.“
Chandler has never had a fight in a relationship and believed it could progress, but it’s because he’s conquered all his fears and insecurities with Kathy that he feels he can finally move on… Of course, when you accuse someone of cheating on you, project your insecurities onto them, and then use the fact that they cheated because they’re in love with you AGAINST them… it’s not easy to recover.
And for anyone wondering, “But Monica reminds Chandler that “fights” don’t end relationships, so how can you say he overcame this?” Chandler and Kathy’s first fight became their only fight because it effectively ended the relationship. Plus, the previous women who dumped Chandler, like Jade and Susie, reinforced his insecurities in the end, much like Kathy.