Rose In ‘Leave the World Behind,’ Explained: What Does Rose’s Obsession With ‘FRIENDS’ Mean?


The Netflix film Leave the World Behind created an anxiety-filled atmosphere where we came across different kinds of individuals who responded differently to the changing environment around them. At the center of the plot, we had a white family, the Sandfords, who found out about a power outage and a cyber-attack that had halted the functioning of the entire United States of America. The country witnessed a total blackout scenario, which freaked out Amanda and Clay. The couple evidently lost their minds because they had a lot of things at stake, but the children weren’t much affected for obvious reasons. The simple one could be their age, because of which their naive minds aren’t able to grasp the gravity of the situation. Or maybe it was their privileged upbringing, where they had never experienced such real-world problems before and therefore couldn’t understand their impact on their lives.

Out of the two Sandford kids, the most interesting one was the 14-year-old teenage girl, Rose. We were first introduced to her at the 5:30 timestamp, where she is seen enjoying an episode of her favorite sitcom FRIENDS on her iPad. However, her iPad quickly lost the internet connection as the family was traveling to the outskirts of the city to spend their much-awaited family vacation outside the hustle and bustle of New York. Since the beginning of Leave the World Behind, Rose has been the most mysterious character, as we have failed to understand what really is going on inside her mind. She was the first to point out that the oil tanker White Lion was heading straight towards the Charleston Harbor beach which the family visited to spend some time out in the open. But how did she know? As we went further into the film, we noticed a peculiar detail about this young girl. As suggested, Rose didn’t have many friends at school. Maybe because of her lack of social skills, Rose became the lone wolf and was therefore able to notice things that people around her failed to notice or didn’t bother to pay attention to. When you are the shy one in the crowd, you often have a storm brewing inside your mind because you are not able to express anything happening inside it. Maybe it was Rose’s isolation from the family and her friends that made her such a keen observer. The lack of friends in real life was another void that Rose was trying to fill with fictional characters, because of which she was often found glued to her iPad or television screen. The girl indeed felt lonely at times, which she even expressed numerous times throughout the runtime of the film, and she disrupted this painful silence with whatever series or films she came across. Ironically, her favorite television show was FRIENDS because, in the real world, she didn’t have any.

At one point, Rose’s mother, Amanda, commented that the kids forgot about the whole oil tanker incident as if it were something that they saw on a television show. It might not be wrong to say that in the modern world, the younger generation is bombarded with such an influx of information that they often fail to process half of it, be it emotionally or cognitively. In such a scenario, they are just “swiping” or “scrolling” through feelings instead of really “feeling” the weight of these emotions, which not only makes them apathetic but also ignorant of the events around them. They have so many options at their disposal that they don’t have to struggle in real life, which not only makes them lazy but also absent-minded. One can call it a privilege too, but that was the state of the Sandford kids throughout Leave the World Behind film, and Rose was not an exception.

A part of Rose’s life had come to a halt as she wasn’t able to finish the last episode of her favorite sitcom. For the teenager, the fictional world and characters in it were her only escape because of her busy parents and lack of social interactions in real life. She expressed numerous times how the lack of a proper internet connection was making her lose her mind, but her parents weren’t really bothered by it. It wasn’t their mistake, really. When Rose failed to make her mother understand the importance of her watching FRIENDS’ finale, she finally decided to take matters into her own hands. It was quite ironic that Rose’s understanding of the world and its functioning came from an episode of The West Wing because, again, the privileged kids had no real-life experience at all, as we could assume that they spent most of their time glued to their screens. It was further established by the fact that her brother, Archie, shared his divine knowledge about deer and was more invested in clicking explicit pictures of a girl than worrying about the impending doom.

Nevertheless, the teenage girl finally understood the fact that her parents couldn’t help her in the cause, and therefore she left the rented house and walked towards the woods, where she found her way to a mansion that belonged to the Thornes. She had seen the building before and was quite fascinated by it, but her brother didn’t let her explore her curiosity. An episode of Aaron Sorkin’s series taught Rose that, in the midst of a disaster, one shouldn’t keep waiting for help to come. She believed that God helped those who helped themselves and therefore wasn’t afraid of leaving behind her parents to look for new avenues that could help her in her personal quest. Call it the curiosity of a young mind or the narcissism of the same, but Rose was eventually able to cross the boundaries that adults failed to do. And it was the reward for her leap of faith that Rose was able to find a bomb shelter inside the Thornes’ Mansion, where she saw a huge library of DVDs, including the one belonging to her favorite sitcom.

At the end of Leave the World Behind, the young girl didn’t waste a moment to pick out the FRIENDS DVD and play it instantly so that she could quench her thirst for the finale. It only revealed the nature of human obsessions, who, even in the midst of an apocalypse, are more inclined towards their personal satisfaction instead of worrying about the community as a whole. The world is not a bad place because evil people commit evil. It is bad because the good aren’t bothered enough to stop them. The same thing happened with G. H. Scott, who was anticipating danger yet didn’t act when he had the time to do so, and it did cost him dearly. He lost his wife due to it, and he would have to live with the burden that he could have done something to stop a coup d’état when he had time, but he was more bothered about financial gains than anything else. Similarly, for Rose, once she found the safe bunker, she had the choice to inform her parents about the same so that they could be protected from the impending doom, yet the girl preferred to finish the finale before doing anything else. In addition to that, Rose’s obsession with FRIENDS reflected the nostalgia culture that mainstream media is feeding us, thereby making us dependent on fictional characters and not the real people around them. Even though a Gen Z kid like Rose hadn’t lived through the ‘90s, she felt a sense of comfort while watching a group of people from a different era going about their lives; which was probably a sentiment that she didn’t associate with her family or any of her real experiences.

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Shikhar Agrawal
Shikhar Agrawal
I am an Onstage Dramatist and a Screenwriter. I have been working in the Indian Film Industry for the past 12 years, writing dialogues for various films and television shows.

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