'Friends': Is Co-Creator Marta Kauffman's Apology Too Little Too Late?

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credit: Terence Patrick/HBO Max

The show Friends was a phenomenon during its time. But in the 18 years since its final episode aired, the series’ creators have received a lot of criticism for the show’s lack of diversity and its many transphobic, fatphobic, and homophobic storylines.

While creators Marta Kauffman and David Crane have acknowledged the show’s problems in hindsight, it wasn’t until this past week that either of them actively apologized for their wrongdoing.

Speaking about the show’s lack of diversity in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Kauffman said,

“I’ve learned a lot in the last 20 years. 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.”


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Fans and critics have called on Kauffman and Crane to address the show’s problematic casting time and time again since the pilot aired in 1994. And while Kauffman has admitted to having some regrets about parts of the show in the past, she told the L.A. Times that she used to feel like the show was receiving more negative attention than it deserved, which she found “difficult and frustrating.”

So, then, what exactly inspired this random new awakening?

In the interview, Kauffman said that it wasn’t until 2020 that she really started to understand why people wouldn’t give it up, why it was so important to them that she speak up, and why they would continue to press her on Friends all-white cast, despite the show ending so long ago.

She said,

“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 that I needed to course-correct.”

She added,

“What makes this truly emotional for me is that … I deeply, deeply want this connection with the Black community that I didn’t have. Because of Friends, I never attained that.”


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In addition to this long-overdue public acknowledgment and admission of the show’s lack of diversity, Kauffman also pledged $4 million to establish an endowed professorship in the African American studies department at Brandeis University. She says this donation is her way of “putting her money where her mouth is,” because simply speaking up is not enough.

She’s not wrong. She’s long past the point where a passionate declaration of regret is enough because she’s had plenty of opportunities for that.

Also, let’s not forget that, while this is a step in the right direction for Kauffman, the cast’s lack of diversity is just one of the many aspects of Friends that hasn’t aged well. There are other underrepresented groups that deserve an apology from her as well — so she still has plenty of atonement left to do.


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Looking back at some of Kauffman’s interviews from over the years, there has definitely been an ongoing theme where she addresses a problem with the series but then still low-key defends the show’s decisions by feigning ignorance. In fact, she’s used the “we didn’t know any better” argument over and over in interviews.

Back in 2019, Kauffman told Us Weekly that she regrets the “Fat Monica” storylines, but followed the admission up with,

“Yeah, if I had known better, I would have done things differently. But, I didn’t.”

The same year, she told For The Win that if she were to make the show today, she’d change the way they approached Chandler’s transgender father’s story. But, again, she didn’t exactly own her error. She said,

“I think we didn’t have the knowledge about transgender people back then, so I’m not sure if we used the appropriate terms. I don’t know if I would have known those terms back then.”

And, you know, maybe she truly didn’t know better back then, but she certainly knows better now, and she needs to continue to do the work to make things right.


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For many, Kauffman’s new acknowledgment of the show’s lack of diversity is “too little, too late,” especially since she recycled the “didn’t know better” line in her apology — which is obviously a very tired excuse by now.

She says she’s committed to doing better by actively recruiting writers and cast members of color when she moves on to future projects. Only time will tell if she actually follows through on this new pledge.


‘Friends’ Executive Producer Doesn’t Regret Lack of Diversity Or All Those Problematic Storylines

Ashley Ziegler
Aside from being a writer, Ashley is a mom of two girls and a wife to a passionate public school administrator. When she does have free time (cue laughter from working moms everywhere) she loves going to hot yoga classes, watching anything on Netflix that isn't a cartoon, and weaving her way through every aisle of Target while listening to one of her favorite podcasts.