Friends creator’s $4 million apology for lack of diversity

The one with guilt.

Friends has long been criticized for a 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 understand the “difficult and frustrating” criticism of her television series and chose to believe the hit show was singled out, she told the Los Angeles Times.

But nearly two decades after the show ended, Kauffman has begun to see the error of their ways.

“I’ve learned a lot over the last 20 years,” Kauffman said in a Zoom interview. “Admitting and accepting guilt is not easy. It hurts to look at yourself in the mirror. I’m embarrassed that I didn’t know any better 25 years ago,” the TV writer said.

The popular show, which ran from 1994 to 2004, features a group of six white, straight best friends who live in Greenwich Village – a famous gay neighborhood – in New York City – a historically diverse city.

Marta Kaufman
Co-founder Marta Kauffman donated $4 million to her alma mater, Brandeis University, and her department of African and African-American Studies.
Getty Images,

Throughout the show’s 10-year run, the sitcom continued to whitewash New York City and rarely featured a character of color. “Friends” only introduced two recurring characters of color, both spawned as short-lived love interests for Ross.

Along with millions of other Americans, the 2020 killing of George Floyd prompted Kauffman to confront the country’s racist past and her own part in maintaining racism systems.

“I knew then that I had to correct the course,” she explained.

In an attempt to redeem herself, Kauffman pledged her alma mater, Brandeis University, $4 million to fund an endowed chair in the school’s department of African and African-American Studies, one of the oldest in the country.

The cast and creators celebrate "friends"
Kauffman recently admitted that she can think of “a hundred” things she would do “differently” with the show now.
NBC via Getty Images

The Marta F. Kauffman ’78 Professorship in African and Afro-American Studies “will support a distinguished scholar with a focus on the study of the peoples and cultures of Africa and the African diaspora” and “help the department recruit more experienced scholars and teachers, to map long-term academic and research priorities and provide students with new opportunities to engage in interdisciplinary scholarship,” announced the Waltham, Massachusetts-based university.

“It took me a long time to understand how I internalized systemic racism,” Kauffman told Brandeis. “I’ve worked really hard to become an ally, an anti-racist. And that seemed like a way for me to engage 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 was again urged to address its glaring lack of diversity, but Kauffman didn’t think it was appropriate.

"Friends: The reunion"
“Friends” aired for a decade, produced 10 seasons and shot its stars to stardom, but it continues to draw criticism from progressives.

“I don’t know how the two were related. And I don’t know how we were able to address it in the context of this reunion, by going into all the things that we did wrong. And there were others,” she told the LA Times.

Kauffman has spoken out about her regrets from the show in recent years, telling the Hollywood Reporter ahead of the reunion that there are “probably a hundred things I would have done differently,” but clarified that the cast wasn’t consciously chosen to do that she is completely white.

However, her co-creator Kevin Bright doubled down on his choices, noting the “chemistry” between Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, David Schwimmer, Matt LeBlanc and Matthew Perry.

“I would have been crazy not to hire those six actors. What can I say? I wish Lisa was black?” he told the Hollywood Reporter.

Kauffman told the LA Times that since announcing the $4 million pledge, she’s received “nothing but love,” along with “people acknowledging it was long overdue.”

“In this case, I’m finally literally putting my money where my mouth is,” Kauffman said. “I feel like I’ve finally been able to make a difference in entertainment.”

“I have to say, once I agreed to that and I stopped sweating, it didn’t relieve me, but it lifted me up. But until I can get it right in my next production, it’s not over yet. From now on, with every production I do, I want to make sure I’m consciously hiring people of color and actively nurturing young writers of color. I want to know that I will behave differently from now on. And then I feel unencumbered.”

https://nypost.com/2022/06/29/friends-creators-4m-apology-for-lack-of-diversity/ Friends creator’s $4 million apology for lack of diversity

Emma Bowman

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