“We were poking fun at a person who didn’t get it.”
Although Friends became one of the most successful television comedies of all time, it hasn’t particularly aged well when it comes to certain topics – especially when it comes to the LGBTQ community.
The misgendering of Charles Bing, Chandler exhibiting ‘gay panic’ traits whenever he was mistaken as gay (which was a lot of the time), Ross – in general, have attributed to the show’s negative LGBTQ reputation.
One aspect of the show that has garnered significant criticism since its conclusion is the treatment of Ross Gellar’s ex-wife Carol Willick and her lesbian partner, Susan Bunch.
However, Jane Sibbett – who starred as Carol for the first seven seasons (she was absent after) – recently defended the show’s portrayal of the couple, telling Today: “We were never poking fun at being gay.
“We were poking fun at a person who didn’t get it, who was uncomfortable with the concept of us being together. And that was the great beauty; the great truth in that the joke’s on the people that don’t get it, that this is all about love.”
Jessica Hecht (Susan) – who currently stars in Netflix’s LGBTQ dramedy, Special – also praised how the show handled the couple, and her co-star, saying: “She’s so beautiful to act with, and such an amazing person.
“I do feel like we were successful at not over-characterizing it as anything but a loving relationship.”
She added: “It was just these two women who were in love, who had a balance between the two of them and were so devoted to each other. And I think that was ahead of its time.”
Despite recent attitudes towards their relationship, it’s important to acknowledge that their relationship was groundbreaking at the time. In the second season, the two got married, which made it the second gay marriage on a sitcom after Roseanne.
The episode attracted over 30 million viewers and became the highest rated program of the week.
Last year, we spoke to Academy Award-nominated actress Kathleen Turner – who played Chandler Bing’s trans parent on the show – and she admitted: “I don’t think it’s [Friends] aged well. It was a 30 minute sitcom.
“It became a phenomenon, but no one ever took it seriously as a social comment.”
During Friends’ run, the character was never actually acknowledged as trans, and was referred to as either gay or a drag queen. She was often mocked by the other characters – especially for her drag show, which was titled Viva Las Gaygas.
“Yeah, people thought Charles was just dressing up,” Kathleen added.
Video editor Tijana Mamula compiled a clip of all the homophobic scenes from the show – watch below.