Matthew Perry death tribute

There’s a reason why Matthew Perry’s death feels personal even though we didn’t ‘know’ him

Fans are experiencing intense feelings of loss

When it was announced Matthew Perry had passed away at his home in Los Angeles on Saturday, the reaction that ricocheted was one of disbelief. Firstly, at the simple fact he was gone – aged 54. Secondly, at how much we were all effected on what felt like a deep and bizarrely personal level: “Not many celebrity deaths hit me hard but this has devastated me,” wrote one person on Twitter. “I’ve never cried for a celebrity death before. But this has me in tears,” another admitted to 11,000 likes of agreement.

It feels silly and strange to experience a profound sense of loss when somebody you’ve never even met passes away. But Matthew Perry, along with the other Friends, has been woven into the fabric of our lives for decades. Matthew wrote in his memoir: “When I read the script for Friends Like Us, it was as if someone had followed me around for a year, stealing my jokes, copying my mannerisms, photocopying my world-weary yet witty view of life. One character in particular stood out to me. It wasn’t that I thought I could play Chandler. I was Chandler.” So, we did know him in some way— from the hours spent watching his character’s warmth, wit and sarcasm.

Friends, at its core, is a comfort programme. 24 years after it was first released, it still held the title of the UK’s most-watched series. Studies have found re-watching shows provides a psychological sense of closeness and connection. So, whenever the world has been scary and unpredictable, Friends has been there with a plot we knew inside out, and a group of character we understood intimately, too.

In our minds, Ross, Rachel, Joey, Chandler, Monica, and Phoebe are immortal because any time we reach episode eighteen, season ten, we know we can scroll back to season one and see Rachel at 24-years-old, running out on her wedding and seeking refuge in Monica’s flat. They’re never meant to die. And when reality presents a jarring contrast to that belief, we lose the innocent safety of that world, too. Friends re-watches will now never feel quite the same. Clips popping up on social media evoke sadness instead of solace.

In the days since his death, “Matthew Perry tribute” has been trending on Google as people search for the reactions of his Friends co-stars. They, of course, don’t owe anybody a statement. But the appetite for answers is a testament to everybody’s first stomach-drop thought upon hearing the news of his passing: How are Jennifer Anniston, Lisa Kudrow, Courteney Cox and David Schwimmer coping with this?

Throughout the ten seasons and years Friends was filmed across, it’s evident the closeness and chemistry the cast experienced. We empathise with his co-stars grief because we feel it – to some extent – too. Through the loss of a man interwoven with our history, we’ve lost collective memories, comfort, and nostalgia. As the cards attached to flowers left by fans outside Joey and Chandler’s New York City apartment read today: We all lost a friend.

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