Co-creator of 'Friends' Acknowledges 'Mistake' of How Show Treated Trans Character

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Wednesday July 6, 2022

Chandler (Matthew Perry) with his transgender parent (Kathleen Turner)
Chandler (Matthew Perry) with his transgender parent (Kathleen Turner)  (Source:NBC)

With "Friends," Marta Kauffman created an enduring hit together with David Crane; but the way the show treated the transgender parent of one lead character was a resounding miss that Kauffman now regrets, IndieWire reported.

In the sitcom, which ran for 10 seasons from 1994-2004 (and is still popular worldwide), the character Chandler Bing (played by Matthew Perry) has a transgender parent (played by Kathleen Turner).

Looking back in a recent interview with the BBC's "The Conversation" on the way that the show dealt with the character, Kauffman addressed how "We kept referring to her as 'Chandler's father,' even though Chandler's father was trans," The Huffington Post recounted.

Explained Kauffman: "Pronouns were not yet something that I understood. So we didn't refer to that character as 'she.' That was a mistake."

The show made comedic hay from the character, the article noted, recalling that "Chandler endured numerous jokes about his 'dad,'" and observing that the show "never explicitly addressed whether Charles was trans, but Kauffman confirmed that she was."

Kauffman went on to create other hits, including the long-running Netflix comedy "Grace and Frankie," The Huffington Post went on to say.

"I like very much to create an environment where we have a happy set and a happy crew," Kauffman said."It's very important to me that where we are is a safe place, a tolerant place," she went on to say, adding, "I fired a guy on the spot for making a joke about a trans cameraperson. That just can't happen."

"Friends" has long had detractors decrying the show's lack of diversity, and who have called out the show's outdated jokes about sexist tropes, body types, and sexuality.

One running joke concerned Ross' first wife, who was a lesbian. In a 2018 appearance on BBC Radio 5, British journalist Rebecca Reid said the show's "homophobia is staggering — the punchline of every joke about Ross is that his ex-wife is a lesbian, as if that's some failing of his and that it's hilarious that she's a lesbian."

On the other hand, the show has recently been subjected to censorship in China due to references to LGBTQ+ people.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.