If you were looking at your Bingo card and had “white people can no longer be friends,” you’d be the winner of this game.
‘Friends’ creator’s $4M apology for lack of diversity: ‘I’m embarrassed,’ by Adriana Diaz, NY Post, June 29, 2022
The one with guilt.
“Friends” has long been criticized for its lack of diversity, but co-creator Marta Kauffman is finally ready to admit her failure — with a $4 million apology.
Kauffman, 65, initially struggled to grasp the “difficult and frustrating” criticisms of her television series, choosing to believe the successful show was being singled out, she told the Los Angeles Times.
But nearly two decades after the show wrapped, Kauffman has begun to see the error of her ways.
“I’ve learned a lot in the last 20 years,” Kauffman said in a Zoom interview. “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,” the television writer.
The popular show, which ran from 1994 to 2004, features a group of six white, heterosexual best friends living in Greenwich Village — a famously gay neighborhood — in New York City — a historically diverse city.
Throughout the 10-year run of the show, the sitcom continued to whitewash New York City and rarely featured a character of color. “Friends” only introduced two recurring characters of color, both of whom were brought on as short-lived love interests for Ross.
Along with millions of other Americans, the 2020 murder of George Floyd pushed Kauffman to reckon with the country’s racist past and her own part in perpetuating systems of racism.
“I knew then I needed to course-correct,” she explained.
In an attempt to redeem herself, Kauffman pledged $4 million to her alma mater, Brandeis University, to fund an endowed chair in the school’s African and African American studies department, one of the oldest in the country.
The Marta F. Kauffman ’78 Professorship in African and African American Studies “will support a distinguished scholar with a concentration in the study of the peoples and cultures of Africa and the African diaspora” and “assist the department to recruit more expert scholars and teachers, map long-term academic and research priorities and provide new opportunities for students to engage in interdisciplinary scholarship,” the Waltham, Massachusetts-based university announced.
“It took me a long time to begin to understand how I internalized systemic racism,” Kauffman told Brandeis. “I’ve been working really hard to become an ally, an anti-racist. And this seemed to me to be a way that I could participate in the conversation from a white woman’s perspective.”
Last year, “Friends: The Reunion” aired to honor the iconic show, its beloved characters and die-hard fans. The show faced renewed calls to address its glaring lack of diversity, but Kauffman didn’t feel it was appropriate.
When Friends dominated the airwaves—and continues to do so in syndication and via streaming services—not one viewer or fan of the show cared that the vapid stars of the stars of the sitcom were all-white. They tuned in to be the seventh character of the show, the unnamed and uncredited actor/actress who knew everything about Ross, Rachel, Joey and the other white people populating the episodic television program.
Now, embarrassing white people in the present for past transgressions that showed diversity isn’t a strength (recall, Friends is one of the most popular sitcoms to this day, raking in millions in mailbox money for actors and writers to this day) is the primary function of those peddling diversity, inclusion, and equity. Tolerance, too.
When you realize anti-whiteness is the primary currency of our time period, you understand why a creator of Friends would fall on her knees and apologize for celebrating the fact white people were once allowed to be friends and participate in freedom of association.
“The past is in the past. It was never meant to last.”