Friends creator regrets the show treated Chandler’s transgender parent
Friends co-creator Marta Kauffman is expressing regret over the sitcom’s portrayal of Chandler Bing’s transgender parent, played by Kathleen Turner.
Shortly after responding to criticism of the sitcom’s lack of diversity, Friends co-creator Marta Kauffman expresses regret over the show’s treatment of Chandler’s transgender parent. Co-created by Kauffman and David Crane, Friends premiered on NBC in 1994 and ran for ten successful seasons before fading in 2004. The hit sitcom was helmed by six white actors – Jennifer Aniston, Courtney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matthew Perry, Matt LeBlanc and David Schwimmer – who s reunited last year for a highly anticipated reunion on HBO Max.
However Friends Set in New York City, the sitcom features very little diversity and is often criticized for its lack of roles for people of color, despite appearances by Lauren Tom, Gabrielle Union, Mark Consuelos and Craig Robinson. Friends is also criticized for portraying Chandler Bing’s transgender parent, who went by the name Charles on the show. Portrayed by Kathleen Turner, the character has had relationships with men and worked as a drag queen in Las Vegas under the stage name Helena Handbasket.
In a recent interview with The conversation on BBC World Service (via Variety), Friends Co-creator Marta Kauffman has expressed regret over the show’s portrayal of transgender people. Kauffman acknowledged that it was a “mistake“to confuse Chandler’s transgender mother with his own”dad.” Read what she said below:
Pronouns weren’t something I understood yet. So we didn’t call this character “her”. It was a mistake.
Kauffman’s comment comes less than a week after the Friends co-creator responded to criticism over the lack of diversity of the show she is now”embarrassed” by. To reckon with how Friends missed the diversity target, Kauffman pledged a $4 million donation to Brandeis University’s African and African American Studies department for an endowed chair. Now, in light of her recent comments, it remains to be seen if Kauffman will take similar steps to help rectify the show’s transgender portrayal.
Friends was praised for its inclusion of a lesbian couple – Ross’ ex-wife Carol (Jane Sibbett) and partner Susan (Jessica Hecht). However, the same cannot be said for his portrayal of Chandler’s transgender parent. In addition to being gender-bad, the character was often the butt of transphobic jokes, including Chandler refusing to accept her gender identity, calling her dead, and pretending to vomit upon seeing her perform on stage. In 2019, Turner also expressed regret over how the character was portrayed and said she would not accept the role if it were offered to her today. Turner and Kauffman’s comments are just one of many signs that the TV industry is changing the way it thinks about proper LGBTQ+ representation.
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