I mean, yes, we knew this. But it’s still kinda good to see the people who made the mistakes making some attempt to own up to it.
Everyone who lives in NY, has lived in NY, has visited NY, or hell, has watched a show set in NY where they actually take the time to do things right, knows how diverse the city is. So the fact that Friends managed to focus on a group of all-white friends, who mostly interacted with other white people, was problematic even back then, but it was become even more of a sore point as people look back on it and realize not just how bad it was, but how little self-awareness everyone involved possessed.
Friends co-creator Marta Kauffman has spoken about this subject before, most notably at the 2020 ATX TV From the Couch, where she admitted that if the show had been made today she would have made “very different decisions.” And not just on the matter of diversity, Kauffman also expressed, during the Tribeca Film Festival’s Friends 25th anniversary celebration, that she can no longer watch certain episodes because the she finds the storylines troubling.
You can say that again.
The show, is, of course, a product of its time, and it’s always going to have issues when viewed with the lens of today, issues that should be raised, and that are important, but that perhaps, we, as a society, weren’t as good at recognizing back then. But the diversity thing is something that should have been obvious all those years ago.
“It was, to a certain extent, a product of the time period and of my own ignorance,” Kauffman explained on an episode of CNN’s special History of a Sitcom. “There were Black shows and there were white shows. There weren’t a lot of shows that were interracial.”
A little cringey, and a lot privileged, to be sure. But it’s better than no acknowledgment. Creators in 2021, take note – not that you should need to. This should be ingrained. Natural.