Matthew Perry, known most famously for the role of Chandler on the 90s sitcom Friends, died at age 54 in his Los Angeles home last week. But as the Internet reflects on his death, fans urge the world to remember him for his work to overcome addiction and help others get sober.
The Internet’s Response
Following Perry’s death, there was an outpouring of support on the internet from both fellow celebrities and fans. Celebrities such as Salma Hayek, Selma Blair, and Gwyneth Paltrow paid tribute to Perry via social media. Hayek wrote in an Instagram caption that she felt “profound sadness” and that “there is a special bond that happens when you share your dreams with someone.” She ended the post by writing: “Farewell, sweet Matthew, we will never forget you.”
Similarly, many fans took to posting tributes to Perry on social media. The hashtag “Matthew Perry” reached 735,000 posts on Instagram and over 2.6 billion views on TikTok. Many fans used the moment to reflect on the impact of the TV show “Friends” and how Perry’s comedic acting shaped the show, posting edits of Chandler from “Friends.”
The hashtag “RIPChandler” even reached 37.5 million views on TikTok. The internet quickly began circulating the phrase: “The one where we all lost a friend.” This is a spin on the title of Friends episodes, which all begin with the phrase, “The one where.” This phrase was then picked up by news sources such as People magazine and Entertainment Tonight.
The sitcom Friends, airing from 1994 to 2004, depicted the lives of a group of six friends in their 20s. The light-hearted show immediately gained popularity and then gained new viewers through Netflix in the 2010s, leading the show to reach a whole new audience. Chandler was the cynical, sarcastic, comedic relief of the group, often the butt of the joke. Chandler was known for cracking jokes, which sometimes landed, sometimes did not.
Chandler’s relatability struck a chord with fans, many of whom credit him for the comedic success of the show. A popular Quora post explained that Chandler resonated with viewers because “he is one character where every guy can relate themselves to.” Chandler was the character a lot of the public saw themselves in.
Matthew Perry: An Advocate for Those Fighting Addiction
Many fans view the loss of Perry as symbolizing the loss of a character they grew up identifying with. But another side of the internet has pointed out that we should not hyper-fixate on “the loss of Chandler.” They argue this undermines the life of Matthew Perry: a complex individual, beyond one acting role.
In fact, in Perry’s memoir, released in 2022, he wrote: “When I die, I know people will talk about Friends, Friends, Friends.” He then continued to write: “As far as my so-called accomplishments go, it would be nice if Friends were listed far behind the things I did to try and help other people. I know it won’t happen, but it would be nice.”
Perry publicly struggled with addiction throughout his life and career. According to his own estimates, he spent half his life in rehabilitation facilities. In 1997, a Jet ski accident landed Perry in the hospital leading to an addiction to painkillers. In the years that followed, he underwent hospitalization multiple times. He spent two weeks in a coma, a stint on life support, and nine months with a colostomy bag.
He told The New York Times that he spent $9 million trying to get sober. But Perry wanted to do more than overcome his addiction problems, he wanted to help others do the same. In 2013, Perry turned his home in Malibu California into a sober living facility for men. He also advocated for people arrested for non-violent drug charges to receive treatment instead of prison sentences.
“In the end Matthew’s legacy is his recovery and how he turned the adversity of his own life’s struggles into the opportunity to inspire others never to give up, to get up and keep striving a step at a time and a day at a time,” William Moyers, Vice President of Public Affairs and community relations for Hazelden Betty Ford, a rehabilitation facility where Perry received treatment, told The Independent.
Fans have expressed that the focus should not be on whether the cast of Friends has spoken about his death. Or how the cast of Friends is grieving, and what this means for the legacy of their favorite TV show. Rather, remembering Perry is remembering a nuanced man who helped many through comedy as well as advocacy work.
“I’ve had a lot of ups and downs in my life and a lot of wonderful accolades,” Perry said in a 2015 interview with the Hollywood Reporter. “But the best thing about me is that if an alcoholic comes up to me and says, ‘Will you help me stop drinking?’ I will say, ‘Yes. I know how to do that.’ ”