The series won the hearts of a new generation of viewers and despite the passage of 28 years after the premiere of the first episode, it is still watched and broadcast – whether on streaming platforms or on television around the world. Nevertheless, it should be emphasized that the production has long been criticized, e.g. for homophobic jokes, sexism, transphobia, phobia or too little representation of heroes with a skin color other than white. The creator of the series, Marta Kauffman, in a recent interview with the BBC admitted that it was only years later that she understood exactly what she and other screenwriters were doing unfairly in the case of the character played by Kathleen Turner.
Marta Kauffman: “I feel stupid”
Marta Kauffman admitted during the program “The Conversation” on the BBC World Service that she made a mistake in the case of Charles Bing, Chandler’s biological father. She stressed that referring to her as ‘Chandler’s father’, even though she really was a trans woman, was a big mistake:
Pronouns weren’t something I understood back then. So we didn’t refer to this character as “her” was a mistake.
In fact, this thread has been raised for a long time. Scaachi Koul – the author of the popular Buzzfeed service – in the article “Friends” have grown old badly “, already a few years ago indicated that the character of Chandler’s father, who is assumed to be a transsexual woman in the series” is gay for incomprehensible reasons and for no reason drugs queen. ” To make matters worse, he was played by cissex actress Kathleen Turner, and the character itself became the source of many transgender jokes.
In fact, TV series Chandler Bing made a lot of offensive jokes about Dad who “dressed up as women” and acted as the drag queen Helena Handbasket in Viva Las Gaygas. The series has never accurately confirmed that she is a transgender person.
In an interview with Gay Times, Kathleen Turner said, “I don’t think the show has aged well. It was a half-hour sitcom. It became a phenomenon, but no one took it seriously as a social comment.” She emphasized that she agreed to portray this character because it was a breakthrough for that time: “They asked me if I wanted to be the first woman to play a man playing a woman? I agreed, because there weren’t many transgender and homosexual people on TV at that time.”
She emphasized, however, that the way Charles Bing was run was extremely misleading – due to the fact that he was presented as a homosexual, it was completely unreadable that he was in fact a transsexual person (which Kauffman herself confirmed only years later). As a result, viewers identified both concepts as the same – “They thought Charles was just changing clothes”.
Promotional materials photo: ‘Friends’, dir., prod. Warner Bros. Television (1994-2004)
In an interview with Kauffamn, she emphasized that when the series was being written, she tried to create a safe space for the cast and crew and did not tolerate transphobia off-screen:
I like to provide a work environment where we have happy writers, film crew and cast. Safety is very important to me – no shouting, a lot of tolerance. Once, I had to fire a guy who was joking about one of the camera operators with immediate effect because he was a trans person. Such things should not happen.
She also added that as the years go by, she understands better and better where she made mistakes in the production of “Friends”. “Now I can say that unfortunately I am guilty of this neglect. And I will never make these mistakes again. I was obviously part of the systemic racism in our industry. And she added: “I have learned a lot in the last 20 years. Admitting and accepting my guilt is not easy. Looking in the mirror is downright painful. I am ashamed that I was not smarter 25 years ago” – she emphasized clearly.
How to address trans and non-binary people?
“Gender identity is our inner perception of belonging to a given sex. According to the latest scientific knowledge, it is mainly biologically conditioned. We do not know the exact way of its formation, but there are studies on the probable influence of genes and hormones during the prenatal period” – he writes in his text for Niko Graczyk. He also emphasizes that “genitals are not the proper determinant of sex”. This is because it is not something binary, but a spectrum that consists of various features. It consists of: chromosomal sex (XY – male chromosomes, XX – female chromosomes), gonadal sex (ovaries or testes, or sex glands), hormonal sex, internal sex (this term refers to whether a person has fallopian tubes or vas deferens), external sex (external genitalia – vulva or penis) and phenotypic gender (such as body hair or having mammary glands).
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It may happen that one person has conflicting characteristics, e.g. some of them will be on the male side of the spectrum while the rest will oscillate closer to the female determinant. None of the above factors definitively determines a person’s sex. That is why the issue of identity and a sense of belonging to a given gender is so important – writes Graczyk.
A transgender person is someone whose gender does not match the mark assigned at birth. Most transgender people do not accept the definition of “a woman in a male’s body” or vice versa – the question of belonging or not belonging to a given gender is important. Therefore, a transgender woman is a woman because she feels like a woman – therefore her body is that of a woman, not a man. When we speak of a trans woman or a trans girl we are therefore dealing with a woman who was assigned the male gender at birth. A trans man or a trans boy is a man who is assigned a female gender at birth.
If you don’t know what pronouns to address to the person you are talking to, just ask “how to address you”, “what pronouns you use”. When you hear the answer, just follow it. It may also happen that the person uses different pronouns than you thought. If the person notices you that you are using wrong pronouns – apologize and follow their remark. Always use a name that the transgender person will introduce to you by. Using a name that does not match a person’s identity can be very harmful.