Friends’ co-creator Marta Kauffman has finally responded to years of criticism concerning the TV show’s startling lack of diversity. Aiming to reverse any damage such neglect has done, Kauffman has donated $4 million to the college at which she is an alum, Brandeis University.
The donation has been made to place roots for an endowed professorship in the university’s African and African American studies department which was established in 1969 and is, in fact, one of the oldest departments of that kind in the United States. The newly proposed Marta F. Kauffman ’79 Professorship in African and African American Studies will allow the department to employ more teachers, teach more students and support a current scholar already in the program.
Friends has been criticised for some time now, seeing as it featured hardly any people of race during its ten-year stint on air. This is particularly problematic considering that the sitcom takes place in the widely multi-cultural New York City. Kaufmann spent a long time rejecting claims of racial neglect but has since said that the George Floyd protests caused her to take a closer look.
Kauffman told the Los Angeles Times, “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. That was really the moment that I began to examine the ways I had participated. I knew then I needed to course-correct.”
She added: “What makes this truly emotional for me is that I want this connection I didn’t have. I deeply, deeply want this connection with the Black community that I didn’t have. Because of Friends, I never attained that.”
The Friends Reunion, aired in May 2021, seemingly managed to sidestep the issue altogether. Hopefully, Kauffman’s recent comments and donations will begin to make some small reparations.