Marta Kauffman says she now understands why people have criticized “Friends.”
The co-creator of the hit comedy series. he told the Los Angeles Times Initially, he thought that people were unfairly targeting the sitcom for its lack of diversity, but explained that he “learned a lot in the last 20 years”.
“Admitting and accepting blame is not easy,” Kaufman said. “It is painful to look at yourself in the mirror. I’m ashamed I didn’t know better 25 years ago.”
Friends, which aired from 1994 to 2004, starred Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matthew Perry, Matt LeBlanc and David Schwimmer. It had been criticized for its lack of long-standing characters of color.
In 2020, Schwimmer told The Guardian he was “well aware of my privilege as a straight white male” and said that “Friends” took place during a “pre-awakening” time when history was not as inclusive.
“Maybe there should be an all-black ‘Friends’ or an all-Asian ‘Friends,'” said Schwimmer, who played Ross for 10 seasons. “But I was very aware of the lack of diversity and campaigned for years for Ross to date women of color. One of the first girlfriends I had on the show was an Asian-American woman, and then I dated African-American women. That was a very conscious push on my part.”
That didn’t go over well with some who pointed out that the all-black cast comedy “Living Single” ran from 1993 to 1998 (before “Friends” by a year) and, like “Friends,” focused on six young adults. and their intertwined lives in New York City.
Kauffman, who created “Friends” with David Crane, told the LA Times that he came to better understand systemic racism in the US after the murder of George Floyd and, consequently, the complaints about the show.
That helped motivate her to donate $4 million to her alma mater, Boston’s Brandeis University, for the establishment of an endowed chair in the school’s African and African American studies department.
Since the endowment was announced, Kauffman said he has “received nothing but love”.
“It has been incredible. I was surprised to a certain extent, because I did not expect the news to be so wide-ranging,” she said. “I have received a flood of emails, texts and posts that have been nothing but supportive. I’ve gotten a lot of ‘It’s about time’. Not in a bad way. It’s just people acknowledging that it was long overdue.”