Thursday, October 25, 2007

THE ONE WHERE RACHEL WINS THE NOBEL PRIZE: Since Russ brought it up in the comments to Professor Jeff's post (where we threadjacked the movies to talk economics) I wanted to tell you in a pop-cultural way all about my favorite episode of Friends, which came, I believe, in the third season:

In a flashback to what must be Season 1, Ross is explaining to Monica’s cooking-school friends how he picks up women, and Monica is openly mocking him, and one of her friends is like “mm-hm, tell me more, Professor,” but sarcastically, and nobody is buying it. So Ross calls over Joey for support, and Joey just mocks Ross's hapless seduction techniques. Ross continues to teach, but Joey keeps interrupting to disprove everything Ross says about scoring. By the end of the afternoon, he has made out with all of Monica’s friends.

Back in the present, Joey routinely holds forth on picking up women, sex, how to break up painlessly, the importance of food in a one-night stand, and other matters of the heart. In walks Rachel to her apartment, where the gang (minus Chandler) is gathered, and in the course of a story about some whirlwind romance, she drops a little nugget about a foolproof combination of flirty gestures and sweet nothings that a woman can use to get any man immediately interested – not just interested, but tied-up-in-knots interested. The gang, and particularly Joey, loves the story about the whirlwind romance, but dismisses the come-on technique as impossible. When Rachel defends herself, Joey dares her to prove the Technique’s success at Central Perk.

That afternoon at Central Perk, the gang identifies the tallest, darkest, coolest, handsomest, and gayest guy in the place – the guy most likely immune to the Technique -- and turns Rachel loose on him. She does the flirty gestures (hair twists, ankle dips, arm touches, coy half-smiles, etc.) and makes the small talk. The guy is impassive, and Rachel returns to the couch. The gang (still minus Chandler) needles her about her failure, but Rachel tells them to wait. A commercial break and b-plot later, the guy walks up and says, “I don’t normally do this kind of thing with, uh, your kind of people – women -- but would you like to get a bite to eat?” No, Rachel says. The guy’s overtures grow increasingly frantic, until he’s pleading from outside the window.

Believing that it’s Rachel’s pulchritude, not the Technique, that did the damage, Ross says that somebody more ordinary needs to try it, like Monica (cue familial cross-sarcasm). At that moment, Chandler (remember, this is before his relationship with Monica) walks in. Monica uses The Technique, but it’s a hot mess – she rushes it; she’s obvious about it; she seems a lot crazy. Hilarity ensues when, despite Monica’s pathetic delivery, Chandler is reduced to a drooling puddle of lust. It works! The gang returns to Rachel and Monica’s apartment to demonstrate appropriate appreciation for Rachel’s discovery and explain it to Chandler, and the Technique makes occasional appearances throughout the remainder of the series.

All of that actually happened, except Ross is Ed Levi, and Joey is Aaron Director, and Rachel is Ronald Coase, and Monica is Milton Friedman, and the handsome gay man is George Stigler, and Chandler is most of the rest of the world’s economists and law professors, and Season 1 is 1953, and Season 3 is 1959-60, and picking up chicks is antitrust law and the pseudo-economic theory on which it is based, and Monica’s friends from cooking school are Robert Bork and Abner Mikva and Henry Manne, and Rachel and Monica’s apartment is the Journal of Law and Economics, and Rachel’s whirlwind romance story is The Federal Communications Commission, and Central Perk is Aaron Director’s house, and the Technique is the idea that in the absence of transaction costs a good will naturally wind up in the hands of its most efficient user, and explaining it all to Chandler is The Problem of Social Cost.

Next week: Joey convinces Phoebe to debunk the Standard Oil myth.

1 comment:

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