Chandler Bing

external image e19303de.jpg
By Melissa White


Biography

Chandler Muriel Bing is a fictional character on the NBC sitcom Friends, played by actor Matthew Perry. Living in New York City with his five friends, Chandler worked for years at a large corporation as an executive in statistical analysis and data reconfiguration before later quitting his job to work in advertising. He eventually marries Monica Geller, the sister of his college roommate, Ross. They adopt twins Jack and Erica and move to the suburbs to start their family.
Chandler is the son of the famous erotic novelist Nora Bing and Vegas cross-dresser star Charles Bing, who divorced when he was young. His mother visited occasionally, such as during the New York stop on a tour for her latest book and later for Chandler and Monica's wedding. Chandler did not have much contact with his father for much of his adult life, embarrassed at his choice of careers—which made his childhood miserable—until Monica persuaded him to go to Vegas to invite his father to their upcoming wedding. Chandler’s best friend is Joey Tribbiani, who he met when searching for a roommate for his apartment. He also had an on-off relationship with nasal-voiced Janice Hosenstein before ending up with Monica, and this ex-girlfriend reappears constantly in his life, often to his dismay. Chandler is perhaps best known for his sarcastic sense of humor. He is often making jokes that serve to annoy rather than amuse his friends, and escaping uncomfortable situations with humor. This mocking is often turned against him, however, with the reoccurring questions of his sexuality and the fact that no one actually knows what he does at work.

Psychoanalytic Perspective

Chandler’s childhood experiences would have had a huge role in determining his personality: he grew up with a mother who did not hide her sexuality (and even bought Chandler his first condoms), and a cross-dressing father who pursued young, blonde men. His parents divorced when Chandler was young because of his father’s affair with a young boy who worked in the house, and since then he has used humor to evade awkward situations.

In the case of the psychosexual stages of development, Chandler appears to be fixated at the anal stage. His constant jokes and often bawdy humor suggest an anal-expulsive tendency, with bathroom humor and making messes two of the key indicators of this stage’s fixation (Friedman & Schustack, 2009). The second is also true of Chandler—he often gets himself or others in trouble due to something he has said, such as accidentally revealing to his friend Rachel that Ross is actually in love with her. This can also be seen as a Freudian slip, a verbal or written mistake that reveals something about the unconscious of a person (Friedman & Schustack, 2009, p. 68). Chandler, who is often unlucky with relationships, could be jealous of Ross for finding a person he truly loves, and thus, without realizing it, aims to spoil the moment in which Ross would reveal this feelings to Rachel.
Freud would see Chandler’s use of humor as an example of a defense mechanism, a means for his ego to protect itself through a distortion of reality (Friedman & Schustack, 2009, p. 77). His jokes, which he acknowledges to use when he is uncomfortable (Bright, K.), could be interpreted as denial—he shifts the focus of the stimuli that is producing anxiety away, replacing it with humor to distract from the situation. He refuses to acknowledge what is making him uncomfortable, thus protecting himself from this discomfort.

Neo-Analytic/Ego Perspective

The Neo-analytic/Ego Perspective’s focus on identity, self-esteem, and social influences are key in analyzing Chandler’s personality in terms of his continuous self-deprecation and insecurity. This perspective looks more at social influences on behavior, which is important when studying a person who is defined mostly by his relationships with others—Chandler’s friends, romantic interests, and family play a large role in showing the different aspects of his personality, and so it is useful to focus on more than just the unconscious.

Carl Jung would see the “quality” (Bright, K.) Chandler’s friends say he possess, that makes them doubt his sexuality, as the anima archetype. This archetype is the feminine side of a man, or the idea that every man knows what it is like to be a female (Friedman & Schustack, 2009, p. 114). Jung would also see that Chandler’s personality as a child did not have to remain the same as he grew—indeed, Chandler shows maturity throughout the years of “Friends”, growing from someone who took very little seriously into a loving father and husband.
Chandler often uses humor that expresses views of his own incompetence and personal failures, which Alfred Adler might interpret as an inferiority complex. Chandler often seems to expect failure, and as such not even try to achieve a goal. Especially in terms of relationships, he tends to compare himself to his popular roommate, Joey, who is often on dates with random, attractive women—which has helped lead to Chandler developing an inferiority complex. In terms of the fundamental social issues Adler says a person experiences in their life, Chandler has the most success at societal tasks such as building friendships. He has a close group of friends, is still close to his roommate from college, and has suitable social networks. However, Chandler originally did not have as much success in occupational tasks—while he was working at the large corporation in statistics and data reconfiguration, a career that did not make him feel worthwhile. It was a mindless, demeaning job where the results did not hold much importance and none of his friends could even be bothered to remember what he actually did. But when he quits this job after being forced into a transfer to Oklahoma that separates him from his new wife, Monica, Chandler is able to break into advertising and finally feel that he has a worthwhile career. He also starts off poorly in handling his love task of finding a suitable romantic partner, dating here and there—while being overly-critical of the women he met—until he starts to fear growing old alone. He eventually finds his life-partner in Monica and thus finds a meaningful relationship and completes this task.
Karen Horney’s neurotic coping styles have application in the analysis of Chandler’s personality as well. His most salient coping strategy would be his jokes, which could be interpreted as either “moving toward” people, or in contrast “moving away” from people. If he is telling these jokes to get a laugh out of the people around him, he is exhibiting the “moving toward” people coping strategy, trying to hide his feelings of unworthiness from others by making them happy in order to earn their love. On the other hand, if these jokes are used—as is more common—to disguise discomfort and avoid getting too close to a person, his coping strategy is more consistent with “moving away” from people: he uses the humor to withdraw from any emotional attachment to avoid getting hurt in interpersonal relationships.
Erik Erikson would view Chandler most likely as somewhere in between the stages of intimacy vs. isolation and generativity vs. stagnation. As a new husband and father, Chandler is learning to connect with his wife and infants on a more intimate level—more of a challenge for someone used to independence and less emotional investment. He is also in a job transition from a job that provided a steady paycheck but did not do much in terms of giving back to society. He struggles to find a purpose that makes his work worthwhile.

Discussion

Chandler Bing is an interesting character to study. It is clear that many of his childhood experiences had the potential to shape his personality and relationships, perhaps simply because of the sheer humiliation his parents, apparently unknowingly, put him through. His subsequent retreat behind humor has become something of his trademark, however it may occasionally annoy those around him. His jokes may make him appear a bit insensitive at times, but it is clear that Chandler has his moments—from his defense of his wife Monica as “a mother without a baby” (Bright, K.) to his years supporting his struggling-actor roommate Joey without really expecting any repayment—that show he is a caring person at heart, who just may not always show it for fear of being rejected or ridiculed.




References

Friedman, H & Schustack, M. (2009). Personality: Classic Theories and Modern Research. Jefferson City, MO: Library of Congress Cataloging.

Chandler Bing. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved April 12, 2010, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chandler_Bing

Bright, K., Kauffmann, M., & Crane, D. (2000). The One With the Proposal: Part One [Television series episode]. In Friends. Burbank: NBC.

Bright, K., Kauffmann, M., & Crane, D. (1994). The One Where Nana Dies Twice [Television series episode]. In Friends. Burbank: NBC.

Bright, K., Kauffmann, M., & Crane, D. (2004). The One With the Birth Mother [Television series episode]. In Friends. Burbank: NBC.