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Film and TV

Friends star David Schwimmer wants you to know he’s aware of his privilege as a white, straight man

Patrick Kelleher January 27, 2020
David Schwimmer

David Schwimmer (Noam Galai/Getty)

Friends star David Schwimmer, who played Ross Geller on the sitcom, has said that he is “very aware” of his “privilege as a heterosexual white male”.

In an interview with The Guardian, Schwimmer said that he has always been interested in social justice, and noted that this was inspired by his mother.

“My mom was a very vocal, groundbreaking feminist activist lawyer [and occasional actor],” Schwimmer said.

“So my earliest memories of theatre were watching these feminist productions that my mom was in and being on the picket line with my parents and fighting for women’s rights and gay rights.”

David Schwimmer: ‘I’m very aware of my own privilege as a heterosexual white male.’

He continued: “That’s the environment I grew up in. I’m very aware of my own privilege as a heterosexual white male whose parents were able to pay for a private education for me. I’ve always felt a sense of responsibility to give back and to call things out if I see an abuse of power.”

The actor and director made the comments as he reflected on the legacy of Friends, which ran from 1994-2004 for 10 seasons.

I’m very aware of my own privilege as a heterosexual white male whose parents were able to pay for a private education for me.

The 53-year-old was also asked about the legacy of the show following criticisms in recent years that it has not aged well. Accusations of homophobia, transphobia and sexism have followed Friends, particularly since the show arrived on Netflix.

The actor and director wants people to watch Friends in the context of the time.

“I don’t care,” Schwimmer said when asked about these criticisms.

“The truth is also that show was groundbreaking in its time for the way in which it handled so casually sex, protected sex, gay marriage and relationships. The pilot of the show was my character’s wife left him for a woman and there was a gay wedding, of my ex and her wife, that I attended.”

Schwimmer urged people to watch the show “in context”.

“You have to look at it from the point of view of what the show was trying to do at the time,” he said.

“I’m the first person to say that maybe something was inappropriate or insensitive, but I feel like my barometer was pretty good at that time. I was already really attuned to social issues and issues of equality.”

Friends is a cult classic, but it has come under fire in recent years for its depiction of minority groups. In the show, Chandler Bing’s parent Helena Handbasket, played by Kathleen Turner, was a trans woman, but was repeatedly referred to as “Chandler’s Dad”.

While it was unclear in the show if the character was a trans woman or a drag queen, the show’s creator recently confirmed that she was trans.

More: David Schwimmer, friends, Male, Straight, White

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