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Girl in a jacket

‘Friends’ creator establishes African and African-American studies program

Friends is an American sitcom that first aired in 1994 and went on for a total of 10 seasons. Its fans love how the 90s show made viewers relate to the characters’ daily lives, and how they somehow made the triumphs and tribulations, as well as the growth of the individual characters, entertaining for their audience.

However, while many adore the show, co-creator and producer Marta Kauffman might not have been completely happy with her own work. Kauffman revealed in an interview that she is “embarrassed” and “guilty” about the lack of diversity in her classic sitcom. As her own way of making up for this, Kauffman is donating $4 million to establish the Marta F. Kauffman ’78 Professorship in African and African American Studies at Brandeis University.

The American TV writer-producer recalled herself being bothered by the show’s critics. She also said it was “difficult and frustrating” for her when the show was critiqued for its lack of character diversity at first. Eventually, she started being critical of herself following George Floyd’s death in 2020.

“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,” Kauffman said. “That was really the moment that I began to examine the ways I had participated. I knew then I needed to course-correct.”

Friends aired for 10 seasons with a total of 236 episodes, and all six main characters were white. Representation and diversity weren’t completely absent from the show, as they had guests of color from time to time, but that it was just that–the few characters of color that were on the show weren’t really given important roles and only starred in a handful of episodes. Kauffman now acknowledges this lack of diversity, which is why she is establishing the African and African American Studies program.

According to a report by LA Times, the Marta F. Kauffman ’78 Professorship in African and African American Studies will support a renowned academic who focuses on the study of the peoples and cultures of Africa. The program will also help the department outline the long-term academic and research objectives, appoint more highly skilled scholars and educators, and obtain additional possibilities for students in interdisciplinary areas.

“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,” Kauffman said.

Upon getting the media attention, Kauffman claimed to have “received only love,” adding that the response has been generally amazing.  She was actually surprised because she didn’t anticipate the news to be spread that much. Also, she’s been receiving tons of uplifting emails, texts, and posts, saying “it’s about time” as a phrase, in an appropriate manner, by admitting that it was way overdue.

 

 

Other POP! stories you might like:

QUIZ: The one where we test your extremely specific ‘Friends’ knowledge

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The one where Jennifer Anniston staged that FRIENDS reunion at the Emmys

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