'I'm embarrassed': 'Friends' creator Marta Kauffman pledges $4M for show's lack of diversity
‘Friends’ is probably one of the iconic TV shows of all time and it has all the credentials to prove it. The story revolves around a group of six friends – Monica, Phoebe, Rachel, Ross, Chandler, and Joey – from Manhattan, New York, as they pass through different parts of their lives with the comfort and support of each other to be the perfect antidote to the pressures of life. Created by Marta Kauffman and David Crane, the show won numerous accolades during its run and defined an era of television. However, there have been a lot of discussions around how the show lacked diversity and was criticized for the same.
For more than a decade, co-creator Marta Kauffman rejected those claims and deemed the criticism “difficult and frustrating”. However, it seems she has finally realized why the comedy series faced a lot of backlash for lack of diversity. A lot of people believed that the characters were living in an environment that was dominated by white people even though the series was set in New York City.
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It seems Kauffman has had a change of heart in recent times and understands why the show received a lot of harsh words from viewers. In a recent interview, Kauffman revealed that she has learned a lot in these 20 years and she is “embarrassed” that she didn’t know how wrong they were at the time.
While speaking to the Los Angeles Times, Kauffman said, “I’ve learned a lot in the last 20 years. 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.”
In an attempt to redeem herself, the 65-year-old acclaimed producer announced that she will be donating $4 million to her alma mater, Brandeis University, to fund an endowed chair in the university’s African and African American studies department. For the uninitiated, an endowed chair or a professorship is a “faculty position that is privately funded by an endowment. The endowment is a donation that remains locked. The interest from the grant gives the school money to operate on, ensuring sustainable financial support.”
But how did Kauffman realize that she became a part of “systemic racism” in ways that she was never aware of? According to her, it was the George Floyd incident that changed everything and that was the moment she started “examining” her past decisions. She added, “It was after what happened to George Floyd that I began to wrestle with my having bought into systemic racism in ways I was never aware of. That was really the moment that I began to examine the ways I had participated. I knew then I needed to course-correct.”
Since Kauffman announced the $4 million pledge, she has received immense support and love from the people who acknowledged her sincerity to do something about racism in the country. She added, “It surprised me to some extent because I didn’t expect the news to go this wide. I’ve gotten a flood of emails and texts and posts that have been nothing but supportive.”
The announcement comes almost a year after Jennifer Aniston, David Schwimmer, Lisa Kudrow, Matthew Perry, Courtney Cox, and Matt LeBlanc got together for ‘Friends: The Reunion’. The special episode featured segments that showed how diverse the show’s fanbase is and included appearances from celebrities such as BTS, Mindy Kaling, and Malala Yousafzai.
Kauffman seems to be a believer in better late than never, and that’s why she is being appreciated for her latest work.