ANOTHER 'FRIENDS' APOLOGY: Creator Marta Kauffman sorry about portrayal of Chandler's trans parent
‘Pronouns were not yet something that I understood’, said Marta Kauffman regretting wrong depiction of Chandler’s transgender mother
We all have grown up watching the iconic and classic sitcom ‘Friends’. It has a special place in our hearts. Created and conceptualized by Marta Kauffman and David Crane, the series revolved around a group of close friends Monica, Phoebe, Rachel, Ross, Chandler and Joey from Manhattan, New York. It focused on their lives and situational comic chaos surrounding them in each situation wherein they always supported and stayed with each other through the highs and lows of life. The show was an instant hit when it premiered in 1994. Even today it has remained one of TV’s most globally loved and cult series since it went off the air in 2004 after 10 seasons. Even after its unprecedented global success, many fans and users have pointed out the show for its lack of diversity and also transgender misrepresentation.
In an interview with ‘The Conversation’ on the BBC World Service which would be airing on July 11, Marta Kauffman openly ended by confessing how it had been a huge “mistake” on her part to refer to the transgender mother of Chandler Bing (Matthew Perry) as his “father” in the epic sitcom ‘Friends’.
Marta Kauffman in her recent interview with BBC World Service started off by saying, “Pronouns were not yet something that I understood. So we didn’t refer to that character as ‘she.’ That was a mistake.”
Actress Kathleen Turner who played the role of Chandler (Matthew Perry) transgender mother in the series in an old video interview dated November 2019 at “Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen” answered a fan’s question related to her experience of playing Chandler’s father in ‘Friends’ by saying that she wouldn’t have done this role if it ever got offered to her again “because there would be real people able to do the role.”
Marta, who has also been the creator and brainchild behind Netflix’s hit series ‘Grace and Frankie’, in her interview with BBC World Service also opened up on how she tries to create a warm and welcoming environment on sets for all people said, “I like very much to create an environment where we have a happy set and a happy crew. It’s very important to me that where we are is a safe place, a tolerant place, where there’s no yelling. I fired a guy on the spot for making a joke about a trans cameraperson. That just can’t happen.”
In an earlier interview with Los Angeles Times, accepting her mistake of lack of racial diversity in the show and giving more insight on it, Kauffman shared, “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.”
She also added, “Friends has been criticized in a number of ways. The biggest one being that we did not have enough representation of Black people. And over the course of the last few years I’ve gotten to the point where I can say, unfortunately, Yes, I am guilty of that.”
Marta finally concluded the interview by saying, “I’ll never make that mistake again. I was clearly part of systemic racism in our business. I was unaware of that, which makes me feel stupid. That was a very valid, extremely difficult criticism which still I get emotional about. If I knew then what I know now, there are certain things I would have changed. But I didn’t know them and I have since learned.”
It's true that even though 'Friends' has been applauded by fans for its inclusion of a lesbian couple which includes Ross's ex-wife Carol (Jane Sibbett) and her partner Susan (Jessica Hecht). But sadly, the show has received plenty of ire and flak for its wrong portrayal of Chandler’s transgender mother. Besides being incorrectly gendered by makers in the series, she had also been a target of homophobic jokes in the show which included Chandler’s blatant denial to accept her gender identity alongside demeaning her and also pretending to throw up while seeing her perform on stage.