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Friends co-creator Marta Kauffman regrets transphobic jokes

Nick Duffy May 2, 2019
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Chandler Bing (Matthew Perry) with Helena (Kathleen Turner)


Friends co-creator Marta Kauffman has said that she regrets the show’s jokes about trans people.

In an interview with USA Today on April 29 reflecting on the legacy of the series, Kauffman named the running gags around Chandler’s father as the thing she would change about the series.

Across the show’s ten seasons, the show frequently made jokes about Chandler’s strained relationship with his transgender father.

Friends creator Marta Kauffman: We didn’t have the knowledge about trans people back then

The character made an on-screen appearance in 2001 episode “The One With Chandler’s Dad,” played by Kathleen Turner.

Chandler refuses to recognise her gender identity, using the dead name “Charles” rather than her chosen name “Helena”.

Kauffman admitted: “I think we didn’t have the knowledge about transgender people back then, so I’m not sure if we used the appropriate terms.

“I don’t know if I would have known those terms back then. I think that’s the biggest one.”

Writer and producer Marta Kauffman speaks during a panel on Day 1 of the SCAD aTVfest 2018 on February 1, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia.
Writer and producer Marta Kauffman speaks during a panel on Day 1 of the SCAD aTVfest 2018 on February 1, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Paras Griffin/Getty)

She added: “Every time I watch an episode, there’s something I wish I could have changed.”

Kauffman also referenced an episode in which guest star Brad Pitt plays a childhood friend of Ross and Rachel who spread a “rumourthat Rachel was a hermaphrodite.”

The showrunner added: “I might have not done the hermaphrodite stuff today if I had that to do over in the one with Brad Pitt.”

She continued: “It really is a period piece.”

Kathleen Turner: Friends performance ‘has not aged well’

Speaking to Gay Times magazine in 2018, Kathleen Turner also said said that she doesn’t think the famed sitcom “aged well”.

She said: “I don’t think it’s aged well. It was a 30 minute sitcom. It became a phenomenon, but no one ever took it seriously as a social comment.”

Of playing Helena, she said: “How they approached with me with it was, ‘Would you like to be the first woman playing a man playing a woman?’ I said yes, because there weren’t many drag/trans people on television at the time.”

Turner added that many viewers “thought Charles was just dressing up.”

Related topics: Marta Kauffman, Trans, Transgender, transphobic

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