Marta Kauffman is the co-creator of the hit sitcom Friends. In an interview, she was now self-critical – and told what problematic presentation she particularly regrets on the show.
The series “Friends” is a phenomenon: Even almost 20 years after the end of the sitcom, the show about six single friends and their lives in New York is still finding new fans. Like so many other TV productions from back then, “Friends” hasn’t always aged well – at least that’s how one of the makers sees it. Martha Kaufmann created “Friends” in 1994 together with her friend David Crane. In an interview, she was now self-critical.
Especially the portrayal of the role of Amanda Bing, a parent of the main actor Chandler, she regrets today. “We always called her Chandler’s father, even though Chandler’s father was trans. I didn’t understand pronouns at the time, so we didn’t call the character ‘she’. That was a mistake,” she told the BBC World Service.
Racism and stereotypes on “Friends”
Amanda Bing was played by Kathleen Turner. Her role on the show was often laughed at and embarrassing for Chandler, played by lead actor Matthew Perry. She was never referred to as a trans woman, but as gay. Amanda Bing’s job was also very stereotypical: she worked as a drag queen.
Turner already said in an older interview that she would no longer accept the role today, but would instead let a trans woman take the lead. Kauffman said she’s learned a lot since then. The show was also heavily criticized for racism. “We didn’t have enough black representation,” reflected the producer. She was part of systematic racism in the industry. “I didn’t even realize it, which makes me feel stupid. That was very valid, extremely difficult criticism,” she said. Kauffman is now trying to make amends: She told the “Los Angeles Times” that she wanted to donate four million dollars to her old university to enable a professorship in Afro-American literature there.
One person who, by the way, keeps defending “Friends” is David Schwimmer, who played Ross Gellar on the show. “The series was groundbreaking for its time by tackling sex and contraception, gay marriage and relationships as a sideline,” he told The Guardian in 2020. The context is important. “You have to think about what the show was trying to do back then. I’ll be the first to say that things weren’t appropriate or insensitive, but I think my sense of that was pretty good at the time. I dealt with social injustice and equal rights topics,” says Schwimmer.
Quellen: “The Guardian”, “Los Angeles Times”, “The Guardian”