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Updated Oct 30, 2023, 12:34pm EDT
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What Matthew Perry and Chandler Bing meant to the world

REUTERS/Phil McCarten
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The News

Matthew Perry, who famously portrayed Chandler Bing in the hit sitcom Friends, died over the weekend.

Perry, 54, was found unresponsive in his hot tub, according to Los Angeles law enforcement sources, though the actor’s cause of death is still unknown.

Around the world, celebrities and fans mourned the megastar and paid tribute to his talent and deadpan delivery as Chandler, as well as his honesty in sharing his struggles with substance abuse and helping others.

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Hashtags relating to Perry’s death on Chinese social media got more than 300 million views within 24 hours, South China Morning Post reports, as fans mourned the “witty and disarming” character in Friends who many in the mainland regarded as the “ideal partner.” Many Friends fans in China recalled the scene when Chandler says: “Well, what do you know? I guess I’ll be the one who dies first.” Friends was one of the most popular English-language shows that helped people in China learn English at a time when study resources were limited. Du Xin, the owner of a cafe called Central Perk in Hangzhou, who — inspired by Chandler Bing — quit his boring job at a multinational company to open five other Friends-inspired cafes around China, told Sixth Tone at the time of The Reunion special in 2021: “Friends is my religion.”

There was a similar outpouring of grief over Perry’s death in India, where for English-speaking millennials, ”Friends offered a form of escapism and personification of American culture that was hard to ignore,” the Juggernaut wrote in 2021. The show also had a huge impact on cafe culture in the country. “I have practically lived the characters through the years,” Neha Bajoria, the owner of Mrs. Baker — a Central Perk-inspired coffee shop in Kolkata — told The Times of India. The Kerbside Cafe in Kolkata plans to serve special food and drinks inspired by Perry in the upcoming days, the newspaper reports.

As Chandler Bing, Matthew Perry “was the ego ideal of generation X,” Zoe Williams writes for the Guardian. Though the writers of Friends didn’t intend for Perry to be the leading man of the show, he, so effectively, captured the spirit of his generation — “self-deprecating, metrosexual, all ironic distance, no ambition” — making him relatable to audiences, Williams writes. As a character who presumably would have started life similarly to Perry — an obsessive child tennis player whose father was an alcoholic and parents divorced when he was 1, it’s surprising that Chandler survives or that he wasn’t portrayed as an addict on the show, Williams argues. If set in the U.K. Friends ”would have had at least one very heavy drinker, and Central Perk would have been a pub.”

Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau, who went to the same Ottawa elementary school as Perry, called his death “shocking and saddening” and recalled “the schoolyard games” they used to to play. “I know people around the world are never going to forget the joy he brought them,” Trudeau wrote on X. In an interview with Jimmy Kimmel in 2017, Perry admitted to beating Trudeau up in school out of “pure jealousy” because he was excelling in a sport. Perry expressed regret over the incident, but Trudeau responded jokingly at the time, “I have been giving it some thought, and you know what, who hasn’t wanted to punch Chandler? How about a rematch?”

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