‘Friends’ creator on misgendering characters on the show

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  • ‘Pronouns were not yet something I understood’

    Friends is one of the most iconic nighties shows many know and love, and can recite the script word perfectly, with some desperate for a comeback, although some have criticised it for not “ageing well”.

    Executive producer, Marta Kauffman, has reflected on the show and has revealed she regrets misgendering a transgender character in the sitcom, which starred Jennifer Aniston, Matt LeBlanc, David Schwimmer, Lisa Kudrow, Courteney Cox, Matthew Perry and his on-screen girlfriend Janice (Maggie Wheeler) known for the iconic laugh.

    In the series Chandler Bing’s – played by Matthew- trans parent Helena Handbasket – portrayed by Kathleen Turner – was addressed as “Chandler’s father”, which Marta has recognised was a “mistake” caused by her lack of knowledge surrounding pronouns.

    In an interview with The Conversation on the BBC World Service, the screenwriter said: “We kept referring to her as ‘Chandler’s father’, even though Chandler’s father was trans. Pronouns were not yet something that I understood. So we didn’t refer to that character as ‘she’. That was a mistake.”

    The 65-year-old creative has stressed the importance of her workplaces being a “safe place” for all cast and crew.

    She continued: “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.”

    Marta has also recognised the lack of diversity in Friends, and she has vowed to be more inclusive in future productions as it is another regret she wish she could go back and change.

    Addressing the criticism over under-representation in programme, she said: “Friends has been criticised in a number of ways. The biggest one being that we did not have enough representation of Black people,.

    “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. And 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.”

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