In Jay-Z’s new music video for Moonlight, he recasts Friends with an all-black all-star cast. But it’s about much more than remaking the iconic NBC sitcom shot for shot.
The 7-minute video, available to stream on Tidal now (and everywhere next week), has a new Ross (Jerrod Carmichael, The Carmichael Show), Rachel (Insecure‘s Issa Rae), Monica (Creed‘s Tessa Thompson), Phoebe (Girls Trip‘s Tiffany Haddish), Joey (Get Out‘s Lil Rey Howery) and Chandler (Lakeith Stanfield, also from Get Out) on a familiar set going through familiar lines — straight from The One Where No One’s Ready episode — and performing a fresh version of the Friends water fountain opener.
The remade Friends scene is fun to watch, sure. But is it “subversive”? Not in the way viewers might initially think.
In the video, the Friends cast takes a break from shooting their show, and Carmichael checks in with his bud Hannibal Buress, who’s visiting his set.
Carmichael asks Buress what he thinks of the updated sitcom, which he considers “something subversive” that could “turn culture on its head.”
Buress isn’t convinced.
“It was terrible, man,” the comedian replies. “Garbage … wack … you did a good job of subverting good comedy. You gonna do a black Full House next?”
With that, Carmichael’s entire demeanor changes. The sullen actor returns to his shoot, and then walks off set. That’s when Jay-Z’s Moonlight song kicks.
Jay-Z is heard rapping, “Y’all stuck in La La Land/ Even when we win, we gon’ lose/ Y’all got the same (explicit) flows/ I don’t know who is who.”
The video ends with Carmichael looking up at the moon, in a scene reminiscent of La La Land, and we hear audio of La La Land mistakenly being announced as best picture. The word Moonlight, the real Oscar winner, flashes onscreen. The credits roll.
So why did Jay-Z decide to remake Friends? Apparently, it wasn’t just for laughs. The choice seems deliberate and poignant, considering that the stars of the all-black sitcom Living Single have long complained that their Fox show — which came first and also followed six friends living in apartments together in New York — never got the promotional support that the all-white Friends did.
And it’s clearly no accident that the video features Carmichael, Haddish and Howery, three stars from the critically acclaimed and recently canceled black-led Carmichael Show.
The meta Moonlight video works as a commentary on artistic appropriation and minority representation, though many on social media just enjoyed watching Friends with a new cast.
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