In her latest round of public self-reflection, “Friends” creator Marta Kauffman admitted that misgendering Chandler’s transgender parent, as played by Kathleen Turner, was a humorless misstep.
In Season 7, Turner appeared in two episodes to play Chandler’s (Matthew Perry) parent, Helena. The character had been referenced to in previous seasons as “Chandler’s father.” Kauffman explained during an interview with the Conversation on the BBC World Service that the mistake came from a lack of understanding.
“We kept referring to her as ‘Chandler’s father’, even though Chandler’s father was trans,” she said, per the Huffington Post. “Pronouns were not yet something that I understood, so we didn’t refer to that character as ‘she’. That was a mistake.”
In addition to addressing the lack of inclusive language on “Friends,” Kauffman has also recently expressed regret over the lack of diversity throughout the series. “Friends” — which starred Perry, Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc and David Schwimmer — had no nonwhite characters in its main ensemble. The long-running ’90s sitcom continues to dominate the zeitgeist thanks to streaming, syndication and era-specific nostalgia.
In a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times, the television writer said she began understanding the criticism directed at her series today, particularly following the waves of Black Lives Matter protests in 2020.
“It was after what happened to George Floyd that I began to wrestle with my having bought into systemic racism in ways I was never aware of,” Kauffman said. “That was really the moment that I began to examine the ways I had participated. I knew then I needed to course-correct.”
Following the admission, Kauffman pledged $4 million to the African and African American Studies program at her alma mater Brandeis University.