Tuesday 31 October 2023

Mathew Perry

I find it a bit sad that so much of the sorrow being expressed after Mathew Perry’s death is centred around a character he played in the 90s.

Before I go on, I watched F.R.I.E.N.D.S off and on, and I enjoyed it. It was an international mega hit, it defined the time for many people of my generation and it still connects with young people today, despite often valid critique. The ‘who is you favourite Friend’ debates were the ‘who is your favourite Beatle’ conversations of an earlier time, fun, and also revealing of what we projected on our icons. And to be part of that phenomenon was, indeed special, and to be defined by it was perhaps inevitable, and applies equally to his co-stars except, and only to an extent, Jennifer Anniston. It is also natural, I guess, for actors to be defined by the roles they play.

And, no, no, no, I have nothing against one-hit wonders. And I’m well aware that it is one hit more than I have had or ever will in all my careers. (Have you seen James Blunt’s Twitter? It is one of the few reasons left for me to use that platform.)

But, F.R.I.E.N.D.S was an ensemble show, and to me the writing was as much a star as any of the people who appeared on camera. (And here I also acknowledge that each of those actors shaped their characters too, and that the writing then played off the characterisations, in a beautiful symbiotic way.) Chandler Bing was beloved, but Chandler Bing was the creation of many, not just the man who played him. Chandler Bing was fiction.

I come not to bury Chandler Bing (or F.R.I.E.N.D.S).

What I most admired about Mathew Perry was his openness about his own struggles with mental health and substance abuse. That he fought long and hard to overcome them and reclaim himself. That he used his celebrity status to help others who were fighting those battles.

That his life ended when he seemed to be more at peace with himself, that he didn’t get to grow old and weird and wonderful: that makes me sad.

Chandler Bing will live on, maybe even finding future generations whose truths he will speak, who will identify with him, love him and own him.

I come to mourn Mathew Perry.

I would like to be remembered as somebody who lived well, loved well, was a seeker. And his paramount thing is that he wanted to help people…
I’ve had a lot of ups and downs in my life. I’m still working through it personally, but the best thing about me is that if an alcoholic or drug addict comes up to me and says, ‘Will you help me?’ I will always say, ‘Yes, I know how to do that. I will do that for you, even if I can’t always do it for myself!’ So I do that, whenever I can. In groups, or one on one.
And I created the Perry House in Malibu, a sober-living facility for men. I also wrote my play The End of Longing, which is a personal message to the world, an exaggerated form of me as a drunk. I had something important to say to people like me, and to people who love people like me. When I die, I know people will talk about Friends, Friends, Friends. And I’m glad of that, happy l’ve done some solid work as an actor, as well as given people multiple chances to make fun of my struggles on the world wide web… but when I die, as far as my so-called accomplishments go, it would be nice if Friends were listed far behind the things I did to try to help other people.
I know it won’t happen, but it would be nice.
~Matthew Langford Perry
(August 19, 1969 - October 28, 2023)