Friends Continues to Apologize for Being So White

Illustration for article titled iFriends/i Continues to Apologize for Being So White
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Friends, an insufferable show that is somehow always on mute in the corner of every waiting room, is once again rearing its head into contemporary conversation. Six months after David Schwimmer told The Guardian he was “well aware of the lack of diversity” on the show and claimed he “campaigned for years to have Ross date women of color,” a Friends creator is atoning.

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Co-creator Marta Kauffman addressed the show’s lack of diversity during the digital 2020 ATX TV Festival, speaking through tears. “I wish I knew then what I know today. I would have made very different decisions,” she said. “We’ve always encouraged people of diversity in our company, but I didn’t do enough. Now all I can think about is what can I do? What can I do differently? How can I run my show in a new way? That’s something I wish I knew when I started showrunning but all the way up through last year.”

Does she wish she knew that New York is one of the most diverse cities on the planet? It’s true that Schwimmer’s character Ross dated an Asian woman (played by Lauren Tom) and a black woman (Aisha Tyler), but they were the exceptions on a predominantly white show that ran for a decade. In that same Guardian interview, Schwimmer said, “Maybe there should be an all-black Friends or an all-Asian Friends,” seemingly unaware of the superior sitcom Living Single. I like to think what he was aiming for was something closer to, “Maybe there should be an all-black or an all-Asian show given the same resources to obtain the same level of popularity as Friends.

Senior Writer, Jezebel. My debut book, LARGER THAN LIFE: A History of Boy Bands, is out now.

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DISCUSSION

winglessvictory
WinglessVictory

I (I’m white) and my husband (also white) were discussing a few days ago about how in our childhoods - raised in the 60's and 70's - you didn’t have any choices about what to watch, so EVERYONE watched whatever was on, whether the cast was all black or all white or a mixture. We both grew up in the South around plenty of racism, but if Sanford and Son was on, everyone watched it. Flip Wilson, The Jeffersons, Good Times, What’s Happening, Grady...oh, and Chico and the Man. Not to say that these show weren’t problematic. Just saying it was a strange time. Can’t see the likes of that happening again, where large groups of white audiences would tune in to watch show with an all black cast.