January 27, 2020 8:36:15 pm
Friends alum David Schwimmer has defended the beloved 1990s sitcom after younger viewers called out the show for its “problematic” storylines, describing it as transphobic, homophobic and sexist, and the actor has suggested a more diverse remake of the series.
“Maybe there should be an all-black ‘Friends’ or an all-Asian ‘Friends’,” Schwimmer told The Guardian.
The show was a phenomenal hit during its decade-long run till 2004 and later went on to find cult status with new audiences through TV reruns and Netflix.
Schwimmer, who played Ross Geller, one of the six leads in the NBC series, said he was “well aware of the lack of diversity” on Friends and even campaigned for years to have his character date women of colour.
“One of the first girlfriends I had on the show was an Asian American woman, and later I dated African American women. That was a very conscious push on my part,” the actor said.
Ross dated Julie, played by Lauren Tom, in season two and Charlie Wheeler, essayed by Aisha Tyler, in season nine and ten.
The actor also made a reference to a Christmas episode where the makers touched upon the Jewish festival of Hanukkah. Ross and his sister Monica, played by Courteney Cox, were depicted as Jews in the series.
“It’s interesting also how the show handled the Judaism of the characters. I don’t think that was earth-shattering or ground-breaking at all, but I for one was glad that we had at least one episode where it wasn’t just about Christmas.
“It was also Hanukkah and, even though I played the Hanukkah armadillo, I was glad that we at least acknowledged the differences in religious observation,” he added.
Schwimmer also expressed his frustration at older shows being judged out of context.
“The truth is also that show was ground-breaking in its time for the way in which it handled so casually sex, protected sex, gay marriage and relationships. The pilot of the show was my character’s wife left him for a woman and there was a gay wedding, of my ex and her wife, that I attended,” he said.
Ross’ wife Carol Willick, who upon realisation that she is a lesbian, leaves him for her friend Susan Bunch (Jessica Hecht). Actors Anita Barone and Jane Sibbet played Carol in the show.
“I feel that a lot of the problem today in so many areas is that so little is taken in context. You have to look at it from the point of view of what the show was trying to do at the time.
“I’m the first person to say that maybe something was inappropriate or insensitive, but I feel like my barometer was pretty good at that time. I was already really attuned to social issues and issues of equality,” Schwimmer said.
The show also starred Jennifer Aniston, Matthew Perry, Lisa Kudrow, and Matt LeBlanc.
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