Friends co-creator Marta Kauffman has recently spoken out about the lack of diversity in the show, revealing that she feels “embarrassed” that she “didn’t know better.”She has apologized for the all-white cast, offering $4 million to show her regrets.
Now, she’s opened up about one of the show’s character’s parents and the representation of that character…
Now, we were first introduced to the Friends gang in 1994.
Ross, Rachel, Chandler, Monica, Phoebe, and Joey burst onto our screens in September 1994.
It was an instant hit.
The comedy followed the friends, who live in the same New York apartment block, as they navigated through their mid-twenties.
We got to know the ins and outs of their everyday life…
And in a way, they became our own friends… It’s corny, but it’s true.
The show navigated some serious topics…
Ross and Rachel were not on a break. Period.
There were many iconic moments throughout the show’s ten seasons.
Rachel’s English trifle, Chandler’s nubbin, the time Joey got a Thanksgiving turkey stuck on his head…
The list could go on.
Despite the show coming to an end in 2004, it stands as one of the most-watched shows on Netflix, and its fanbase is as strong as ever.
They all embodied their characters completely.
And none of us can quite see them in anything else.
The gang earned a lot of money during those 10 years…
Allegedly, the cast was each on an eye-watering $1 million salary per episode in the later seasons of the show – a history-breaking figure.
Despite everyone’s love for the show, since it ended, many have called out the creator for the lack of diversity.
Kauffman has finally addressed the issue, “I’ve learned a lot in the last 20 years,” she said in a recent Zoom interview. “Admitting and accepting guilt is not easy. It’s painful looking at yourself in the mirror. I’m embarrassed that I didn’t know better 25 years ago,” she added.
Greenwich Village in New York City, where the 6 characters lived is known for being a diverse and famously gay area.
And throughout the show’s run, there were very few black characters.
“I knew then I needed to course-correct,” Kauffman has since explained.
And in an attempt to make up for her past mistakes, she has pledged to donate $4 million to Brandeis University’s African and African American studies department.
This “will support a distinguished scholar with a concentration in the study of the peoples and cultures of Africa and the African diaspora.”
And “assist the department to recruit more expert scholars and teachers, map long-term academic and research priorities and provide new opportunities for students to engage in interdisciplinary scholarship,” the university announced.
“It took me a long time to begin to understand how I internalized systemic racism,” Kauffman told Brandeis.
“I’ve been working really hard to become an ally, an anti-racist. And this seemed to me to be a way that I could participate in the conversation from a white woman’s perspective.”
She added about her decision to donate the large sum: “In this case, I’m finally, literally putting my money where my mouth is,” Kauffman said. “I feel I was finally able to make some difference in the conversation.”
“I have to say, after agreeing to this and when I stopped sweating, it didn’t unburden me, but it lifted me up. But until in my next production, I can do it right. It isn’t over. I want to make sure from now on in every production I do that I am conscious of hiring people of color and actively pursue young writers of color. I want to know I will act differently from now on. And then I will feel unburdened.”
Now, Kauffman has expressed her regrets about the representation of Chandler’s transgender parent in the show.
“We kept referring to her [Chandler’s transgender parent] as ‘Chandler’s father,’ even though Chandler’s father was trans,” she began.
“Pronouns were not yet something that I understood so we didn’t refer to that character as ‘she,’ that was a mistake,” Kauffman added.
Now, Friends creators didn’t actually admit that Chandler’s parent was transgender and going through a transition until years after the show ended.
And, on the show, the character was often the butt of jokes.
But Kauffman claims that she is now focused on trying to create an inclusive and diverse workplace where feeling “safe” is a priority.