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“Friends” co-creator Marta Kauffman apologized in a recent interview for misinterpreting the character’s transgender mother Chandler Bing during the show’s 10-year run.
“Pronouns weren’t something I understood yet,” Kauffman told the BBC in an interview due to air on Monday. “So we didn’t call that character ‘her’. That was a mistake.”
She said she also regretted calling Bing’s older character “father” rather than “mother.”
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“We kept calling him Chandler’s dad, even though Chandler’s dad was trans,” she told the BBC.
In the early seasons of the syndicated sitcom, references to Charles Bing, who also headlined a drag review as Helena Handbasket, were relegated mostly to one-line jokes like that of the first season in 1995 when Chandler (Matthew Perry) said, “If I become my parents, I’ll either be a blonde alcoholic chasing after 20-year-old boys, or I’ll end up like my mother.”
In season seven, however, as Chandler and Monica Geller (Courtney Cox) were preparing to get married, the two traveled to Las Vegas to meet her estranged relative at her drag review and invite her to the wedding.
Actress Kathleen Turner played Chandler’s transgender mother while Morgan Fairchild appeared as her birth mother multiple times.
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In a scene between Fairchild and Turner at Monica and Chandler’s wedding reception, Turner’s character accuses Fairchild’s character of being too old to wear her low-cut dress, causing Fairchild to fire back, “Didn’t you a little too much penis to be wearing a dress like that?”
The show never actually used the word transgender, referring to Charles as gay and a drag performer.
“People thought Charles was just dressing up,” Turner told The Gay Times of the character.
Turner appeared three times in season seven in 2001, including Monica and Chandler’s wedding, and said in 2018 that she wouldn’t have taken the role today since a real trans woman could play it now.
Kauffman said she recently fired someone for making a joke about a transgender cameraman.
“It just can’t happen,” she said.
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Kaufman also said she regretted not having enough diversity on the majority-white show, admitting it was “clearly part of the systemic racism in our business.”
“I wasn’t aware of that, which makes me feel stupid,” she said. “It was a very valid and extremely challenging critique that, still…excites me.”
Kauffman, who also created Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin’s ‘Grace and Frankie’ show, said “If I had known then what I know now, there are some things I would have changed. But I don’t. didn’t know them and I’ve since learned.”
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She also pledged last week to donate $4 million to her alma mater, Boston-area Brandeis University, to establish an endowed chair in the Department of African and African-American Studies at school.”