Friends creator tearfully says she’d have ‘made very different decisions’ if making the show today – presumably like not making transphobic jokes
Friends co-creator Marta Kauffman teared up as she reflected on the lack of diversity in the show, admitting that she could have done more.
While the sitcom is a cult classic, 26 years after its debut many of the storylines in Friends have not aged well, including massively problematic portrayals of LGBT+ people and distinct lack of non-white characters.
Kauffman, 63, co-created Friends with David Crane, and more recently turned her hand to Grace and Frankie.
Speaking at the virtual 2020 ATX festival on a panel of female showrunners she addressed what she wished she’d known at the start of her career.
“I wish I knew then what I know today,” Kauffman said, according to Page Six, before beginning to tear up.
She continued: “Sorry, I just wish I knew then what I know now. I would’ve made very different decisions.”
“I mean we’ve always encouraged people of diversity in our company, but I didn’t do enough and now all I can think about is what can I do? What can I do differently? How can I run my show in a new way?
“And that’s something I not only wish I knew when I started showrunning, but I wish I knew all the way up through last year.”
Marta Kauffman has previously admitted that Friends has a problematic history with LGBT+ representation.
Marta Kauffman confirmed last year that Chandler Bing’s parent, Helena Handbasket played by Kathleen Turner, was a trans woman, despite the show repeatedly referring to her as “Chandler’s dad”.
She 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.”
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Fragile masculinity is rampant in the show, and any time a male character takes part in stereotypically feminine activities – for example when Joey takes up flower arranging after listening to a hypnosis tape – they are accused of being a “woman” or being “gay”.
Although lesbian wedding on TV in 1996 was groundbreaking, Carol and Susan’s relationship was often played for laughs, with the phrase “lesbian life partner” often the punchline.
Jessica Hecht, who played Susan, previously said that she was cast as Carol’s partner because she “didn’t look like a lesbian”.
There are almost no examples of non-white characters throughout the show’s 10 seasons, and people of colour were generally sidelined to minor, one-off appearances, with the only exceptions being Julie in the second season and Charlie in seasons nine and 10.