Whether the beloved ’90s sit-com Friends was homophobic still sparks fierce debate among modern audiences and longtime fans. And, apparently, the show’s actors, as well. (Spoiler: It was! But it was also a product of its time.)
Now, one of the actresses who played part of the show’s lesbian couple is sharing her thoughts about it.
Jane Sibbett played Carol, the ex-wife of Ross, played by actor David Schwimmer. In the sit-com, Carol leaves Ross after coming out as a lesbian and partnering off with another woman, Susan, with whom she later goes on to raise a child.
The awkward dynamic between Carol, Susan, and Ross was a frequent subplot throughout the series’ successful ten-year run.
In a recent interview with the TODAY show, Sibbet, who identifies as heterosexual, said, “We were never poking fun at being gay.”
“We were poking fun at a person who didn’t get it,” she explained, “who was uncomfortable with the concept of us being together.”
“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.”
Yeah, we’re really not sure that’s what network TV writers were thinking in 1994.
A few years ago, someone compiled all the homophobic and transphobic jokes made throughout the show’s 10 season run… It lasts for almost an hour.
Audiences have frequently noted that Chandler’s (played by actor Matthew Perry) obsessive fear of being perceived as gay is problematic.
And earlier this year, the show’s own creator, Marta Kauffman, acknowledged that the transphobic jokes certainly wouldn’t fly today, adding that if she could it over again, she probably wouldn’t have included them.
Related: Did You Know That Friends Was A Homophobic, Transphobic, Xenophobic, Misogynist Sitcom?
There may be a disconnect. It sounded like Sibbet was saying that the plotline with Ross’s wife wasn’t meant to mock LGBT people, but the article seems to frame the comment that she was defending the whole show, unless I missed something.
The show had a lesbian couple as recurring characters long before it was something most shows would even consider it. They were never portrayed as jokes, their relationship was treated as completely normal by the other characters, they got married and raised a child.
These are progressive, positive things, not homophobic things.
I agree. Why is a gay joke instantly homophobic? Recently the creative team behind Family Guy said that they’d stop with the gay jokes but I love them. When did people start getting such thin skin?
I agree too. These are solid jokes. A really stable lesbian couple, straight guys questioning their sexuality in a non violent way. Seems like just funny writing to me.
Absolutely! I agree 100% I also agree with SnakeyJ about the jokes on Family Guy. I’ll be honest, those jokes actually made me personally feel more included than excluded.
People are always trying to reinvent the past as something horrid. If you ever saw the long chain of text messages between me and a straight guy you’d think he was homophobic and I was heterophobic. He actually thinks my sexuality is entirely normal but sometimes joking behavior isn’t very PC. Friends wasn’t homophobic but may have had stupid jokes. In fact, it was entirely filled with stupid jokes.
Charlie in Charge
Only got to watch the first ten minutes or so but they were pretty tame. The show did seem to think just saying the word “lesbian” was its own punchline. (it probably was in 1994) but most of the humor was around the discomfort with an unusual parenting situation.
Maybe the Huey Lewis joke? I dunno.
Preach. The show was funny. Still is funny.
I still think having Kathleen Turner play Chandler’s dad was inspired.
But some of this is still hilarious. And walking the edge of “am i gay” anxiety and having fun with it isn’t the same as saying being gay is wrong or disgusting, just common. and the show was always saying that if you were gay, SO WHAT! Too few laughs in the world as it is, enjoy the jokes and situations.
I remember at the time feeling that the show was homophobic, but so were pretty much all shows. There weren’t options for gay people… unless you just turned off the TV and did something else.
Has anyone ever watched Willing disgrace
It is a stereotypical mess. How many years did it take for Will to get a steady boyfriend?
The brave first kiss was played for a joke.
A lot of my straight friends have a problem with being perceived as gay, not because they are homophobic, but because they believe that the “gay label” would cut their chances of getting p*ssy.
I think a lot of our straight allies feel the same way, but don’t say so because they don’t want to offend us.
If you’re conventionally good-looking and/or rich you don’t really have a problem hooking up with anyone. I think for most “allies” it has more to do with simply not wanting people to assume they’re something that they’re not. But also, “gay” has its own set of specific issues and limitations. Being an “ally” is much easier than actually being.
The lesbian couple on Friends I thought was rather dull. And their relationship was mostly played for cringe laughs. However, I suppose it was progressive for its time. Beyond that, the string the gay jokes were simply unfunny rather than being offensive. I wouldn’t say it was entirely a reflection of its time. There were shows around that era that knew better and did better and did a better job employing “queer humor”. I do think about what we would have ended up with it had they stuck to their initial plan of Chandler being “gay”.
I hear you; the limitations most straight guys fear is being ignored, or sexually ostracized by women if they are perceived as gay ( in other-words, being friend zoned), of course I wouldn’t discount the fear of being perceived as “less manly” because of the guy label.
Others of course find sex between two men repulsive, which I understand, still doesn’t make them homophobic.
I honestly don’t think, or maybe I never took Friends seriously to perceive any homophobia, that is just me. I’m going to watch a bit of that 1 hour completion to see if truly the jokes were offensive or not.
Well… time for a quick gay joke /yes ? “Did you hear the one about the homosexual spider ? Wouldn’t leave his mate’s fly alone” Boys … Some of us like taking a pot-shot at ourselves sometime…It doesn’t hurt / I’ve got quite a few ‘gay’ jokes which are seriously inoffensive …About sharing a couple of them here from your repertoire… ( I know this is not going to please everyone but what the heck- you’ve got to live ! )
My 70 yo stepdad (Dick The Barber for 50 yrs) used to tell a joke I told him. “A gay guy walks in and asks for a haircut. All is going fine until the barber nicked him with his clippers. ‘Oh, so sorry!’ he said. ‘No problem.’ the guy replied. Ten minutes later, when his paying up the barber asks him, ‘BTW, how’s your head/’ ‘Never had any complaints!’ was his answer.
I could not love Kathleen Turner more! Playing Chandler’s father was amazing!
Nope still don’t see/hear it.
But I am not going to take the opinion of those that weren’t born or old enough to watch a show in it’s 1st run as gospel either. Especial one that didn’t realize that the kid was Ross’s.
No, Friends was not LGBT-phobic. At least not any more than any LGBT show, e.g. Will & Grace, Queer as Folk, etc. Comedy uses caricatures and stereotypes, whether positive or negative. Friends was no different. The jokes were never mean-spirited toward the community. It made fun of the straight male characters, and their discomfort and distorted masculinity (the women were mostly spared). If you disagree, can you cite any meme from the show that was subsequently used by homophobes?
Friends was not “queer-phobic”. The problem is that it leaned on that type of humor a lot. And it was actually kinda stale even during its time. While its “queer representation” was entirely background players. Will and Grace has not aged all that well (though at its best it’s still good for some laughs), it and definitely was too stereotype dependent. But it delved into the “culture” and had representation at the forefront. The gay humor in Friends was mostly just lame, and it was mostly lame because it wasn’t actual humor. They just continuously used gay panic for laughs.
I would say that Friends was more in line with well meaning but condescending “Not that there’s anything wrong with that” episode of Seinefeld. A show that has gotten a pass but could be looked at more closely is the Golden Girls. For every Jean or Clayton there were “image consultants” and “fancy man” episodes.
Oh, the Golden Girls had a ton of them–even IN episodes centered on sympathetic portrayals of gay people (Blanche’s brother, Dorothy’s old friend who falls in love with Rose) They also had wildly un-PC racial jokes, fat jokes, you name it. Often they gave Sophia the jokes, presumably because she was ancient and from a foreign country and it’d seem more forgivable.
What can I say; one either gets indignant or laughs out loud. I still think the show’s hilarious (same with Friends), but I get that some people wouldn’t.
Frankly I find the portrayal of Cam on Modern Family to be far more homophobic than anything Friends did.
And I can take you to any gay bar in the US and prove you wrong.
“Yeah, we’re really not sure that’s what network TV writers were thinking in 1994.”
That’s unwarranted. I’m sure if you check into it, you’ll find that’s almost exactly what co-creators David Crane, a gay man, and his partner Kauffman, who IIRC based Carol & Susan on a real couple she knew, were thinking.
For pete’s sake, in the middle of the ’90s they had a recurring lesbian couple in arguably the healthiest relationship on a big hit show.
When Ross had discomfort with it, it was not due to a bias against lesbians but because one of them was his ex-wife. That seems believable as the “situation” part of a situation comedy.
And even he managed to get his shit together and support his ex at her wedding.
Sometimes, yeah, he was ignorant about gender roles but that’s in character for many straight men in the ’90s, and probably too many today.
But Ross’ masculine anxieties over having two women as primary caregivers of his son were consistently if gently mocked and it was shown how foolish he was being.
Where’s the homophobia?
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