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Why That '70s Show Fans Are Still So Divided Over Eric

Eric Forman (Topher Grace) has all the traits of a classic sitcom lead. Clever and funny, he is the character who is the window for the audience. We have followed him on the beginnings of his romantic journey with Donna (Laura Prepon) and the push-and-pull dynamic with everyone's favorite '70s dad, Red (Kurtwood Smith). Unlike his troubling-making circle, Eric always strives to do the right thing. He is reluctant to disobey his father and loyal to a fault. These hallmarks make him a relatable protagonist and viewers were happy to return to the circle in the basement every week to watch his adventures.

But in addition to the style, music, and pop culture references prevalent in the series, "That '70s Show" is still television. There is no story without conflict and Eric is by no means the perfect son, friend, or even boyfriend. He is also by no means the first sitcom character to be controversial. Many have criticized Ted Mosby (Josh Radnor) of "How I Met Your Mother" fame for his toxic behavior. As for Eric, many fans can't agree on what to think of him.

Fans blame the direction of the show

For any series, an eight season run is an impressive feat. But that doesn't always mean the quality will be consistent. Though "That '70s Show" had a strong first few seasons, many fans on Reddit noted how the series struggled after Eric left Point Place to find himself in Africa. This decision was prefaced with a surprising change in Eric's character that some found challenging.

"Eric's character got worse as the show went on," posted u/Packerfan181693. "He was fantastic the first like 5 seasons... Once they graduated and he had to stay.... the character had no direction." After graduation, it became difficult to keep the gang in the basement. Though Donna had collegiate aspirations, Eric stayed home following Red's heart attack. After that, viewers felt that his character started to deteriorate.

"Once he got into his whole year off phase, it was obvious they didn't really know what to do with him," u/Chachdanko69 added. "It was like overnight he just became a slacker with no direction in life." Other fans agreed that around Season 6, Eric's storyline wasn't what it once was. U/manu144x noted that his character changed drastically, making the group off-kilter: "[I]t becomes very weird because he's supposed to be the nerd of the group but they suddenly change the dynamic and made him the idiot." It was then a quick jump to Topher Grace leaving, and the series was never the same after that.

Is he immature or just selfish?

One of the pitfalls of depicting realistic teenagers in the era of the '70s is that they are realistic teenagers in the '70s. "That "70s Show" portrays real-life stresses like the gas crisis and money troubles. The teens are not glamorized in any way, meaning they act like real young people, with flaws and all.

"Don't get me wrong, he's my favorite as well but he can be a little selfish sometimes," u/lotusflower1995 admitted. This cropped up in the fan discourse with fellow commenters pointing out examples. U/r56_mk6 said: "I liked Eric until the scene where he gets mad at Kitty for doing laundry in between shifts at midnight and accuses her of trying to guilt him into staying. I'm doing I think my third watch through and I'm realized how selfish Eric actually is."

This is a common trait repeated in the series. Even though he and Donna are on the cusp of a relationship early in Season 1, Eric doesn't consider the implications of kissing someone else. This behavior also extends to friends of his. When Hyde (Danny Masterson) moves in, Eric has no problem foisting his chores on his friend. The youngest Forman is accustomed to the typical middle-class family and doesn't always consider how good he has it. But then again, isn't that just growing up? He lacks maturity simply because he hasn't matured yet. The majority of the Reddit debate revolved around the fact that Eric is actually fan favorite.

No Eric slander in this house

Despite the criticisms, "That '70s Show" watchers did not accept the vitriol pointed at Eric. The show lives and dies by his character and even though everyone seems to agree that the high standards of the show are lowered in later seasons, no one can deny how important he is to the DNA of the series. His comedic timing and inherent affability made him valued among the fanbase.

"​​Personally, Eric is my favorite character and crush of the show, so I've never understood why he is so disliked," posted u/saweetener420. Others were shocked that anyone even disliked him in the first place. U/abused_peanut posted: "Eric is my favorite too and it's largely due to the brilliance of the actor. I also have the exact same sense of humor as him so I naturally find him the funniest. But he is a good character too, he's kind and genuinely cares about his friends and family. I didn't know that he was disliked." U/Sarans17, u/agarnisth, and u/ljross87 were some of some who challenged the idea that Eric was unpopular. Topher Grace shines in the role and the show would not work without his comedy stylings. Viewers are heavily aware of this and love his performance.

"For the main character, I'd say Eric is pretty underrated," u/Eezk1315 noted. "Topher Grace's delivery sells the character as the nerd kid who's full of himself but at the same time knows he's a dumb*ss."