Matthew Perry is forever going to be defined by “Friends” and by Chandler Bing. His film career features a few pretty good movies, and he was a reliable television performer until the end. But every obituary, every remembrance, will call him a “Friends” actor. And that’s okay. Because there’s nothing wrong with being remembered for a role that only you could play, that only you could define.
An irrational part of my brain assumed Matthew Perry would never die, that he’d always be around. After all, Chandler Bing is forever. He’s in my house all the time. I still see him on the regular. So I sit here, trying to process the death of an actor, a stranger I feel like I know intimately. I feel silly grieving (shouldn’t that be reserved for his actual friends and family?), but yes, we should be allowed to feel sad when a stranger who has existed in our lives, and has given us comfort, departs. What’s the point of great TV, of great art, of great performances and performers, if we don’t take it personally?
“Friends” was the most popular show on television. It had its ups and downs. Some of it hasn’t aged well. Some of it is still remarkably good. People will watch it until the heat death of the universe. And decades after this, when I’m long gone, pop culture enthusiasts will think to themselves, “Hey, is Chandler the actual reason this show is good and his journey is the one that really matters?”
Matthew Perry was part of something beautiful, and something that matters. And he was one of the reasons it was so beautiful, and why it mattered. We can all wish to be so lucky.