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'Friends' Co-Creator Regrets Misgendering Trans Character

'Friends' Co-Creator Regrets Misgendering Trans Character

'Friends' Co-Creator Regrets Misgendering Trans Character

“Pronouns were not yet something I understood,” she said.

rachelkiley

Friends co-creator Marta Kauffman is continuing to speak out about some of the regrets she has about representation in what became one of the most popular shows of all time.

Although Friends remains extremely prominent in pop culture even today, there has been a lot of discussion in recent years about creative choices that weren’t great at the time, but definitely don’t hold up now, including the treatment of Chandler Bing’s transgender mother.

“Pronouns were not yet something I understood,” Kauffman said during an interview on The Conversation recently. “So we didn’t refer to that character as ‘she.’ That was a mistake.”

The show’s narrative frequently muddied the waters and left audiences, especially those watching today, confused as to whether the character was supposed to be a transgender woman or a gay man living as a drag queen. It didn’t help that she was frequently referred to with male pronouns, called both Charles Bing and Helena Handbasket (a drag stage name), yet was portrayed by Kathleen Turner, a cis woman.

But the modern day conversations surrounding the character have helped clear things up, while also drawing attention to the problematic representation. And Turner herself has agreed that the decision didn’t age well.

“How they approached me with it was ‘would you like to be the first woman playing a man playing a woman?’” she told GayTimes in 2018. “I said yes, because there weren’t many drag/trans people on television at the time.”

Friends’ treatment of Helena isn’t Kauffman’s only regret from the series’ 10-year run. She has also spoken out recently about how criticism of the lack of diversity on the show was valid, and something she’s embarrassed about.

“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. That was really the moment that I began to examine the ways I had participated. I knew then I needed to course-correct,” she told the LA Times, backing her words up with a $4 million pledge to establish an endowed professor at Brandeis University’s African and African American Studies Department.

“Admitting and accepting guilt is not easy. It’s painful looking at yourself in the mirror. I’m embarrassed that I didn’t know better 25 years ago,” she continued. “But until in my next production I can do it right, it isn’t over. I want to make sure from now on in every production I do that I am conscious in hiring people of color and actively pursue young writers of color. I want to know I will act differently from now on.”

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Rachel Kiley

Rachel Kiley is presumably a writer and definitely not a terminator. She can usually be found crying over queerbaiting in the Pitch Perfect franchise or on Twitter, if not both.

Rachel Kiley is presumably a writer and definitely not a terminator. She can usually be found crying over queerbaiting in the Pitch Perfect franchise or on Twitter, if not both.