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'Friends' criticized for all-white cast, Lisa Kudrow argues: 'Look at it as a time capsule'

The actress, who famously played Phoebe on the sitcom, came to the defense of 'Friends' when asked how it would be different if it were recreated today.

'Friends' criticized for all-white cast, Lisa Kudrow argues: 'Look at it as a time capsule'
Image Source: The Trevor Project's 2017 TrevorLIVE LA - Arrivals. BEVERLY HILLS, CA - DECEMBER 03. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)

Even if you haven't watched every single season of Friends, it's likely that you've seen a couple of episodes here and there and had a good laugh. Though the '90s show has become iconic, creating a shared experience for people across the world, it has been highly criticized over the years for its all-white cast. Characters and actors of color feature sparingly. In fact, you probably can't name a major black character from Friends off the top of your head. Responding to this criticism during an interview with British newspaper The Times, Lisa Kudrow (who famously played the unforgettable Phoebe), claimed that viewers should look at the sitcom as a "time capsule," rather than focusing on what it did wrong, INSIDER reports.



Reporter Jonathan Dean asked the actress how she imagined the show could be different if it were to be produced today. "Oh, it'd be completely different," Kudrow responded. "Well, it would not be an all-white cast, for sure." After all, the sitcom ended almost two decades ago now, and a lot has changed. Both in the industry and elsewhere, representation and inclusivity are slowly being considered important pillars of any project. She continued, "I'm not sure what else, but, to me, it should be looked at as a time capsule, not for what they did wrong." Friends, she argued, was progressive for the time it was aired in.


Where else would you see a couple choose to adopt, a woman become a surrogate for her brother, and a single mom? LGTBQ+ representation was also normalized; Ross, one of the six friends, raises a son with his lesbian ex-wife and Chandler's father was a drag queen in Las Vegas. This is something that Kudrow pointed out without hesitation. "This show thought it was very progressive," she stated. "There was a guy whose wife discovered she was gay and pregnant, and they raised the child together? We had surrogacy too. It was, at the time, progressive." That said, we must not forget that many of these plot points were added as comedic relief, which, while under the pretense of representation, only further mischaracterizes minority communities.


However, to Kudrow, though the show was more than just a "fun comedy," it was more "about people connecting." The actress explained, "Part of what appeals about [Friends] now is that young people have this unconscious nostalgia for personal connection. And not just right now during the pandemic, but before that." Ultimately, she does not regret being a part of the show. "I don't see a reality where Friends was anything but good," she affirmed. Not everyone agrees with her. In 2017, for instance, rapper Jay-Z made a spoof of the sitcom for his 'Moonlight' music video. The cast, in a total subversion of the original show, was all-black. At the time, Friends co-creator David Crane said he didn't have Tidal (the streaming platform where the music video first aired), but that he was "just happy that the show is still part of the cultural zeitgeist after all these years." Perhaps if the sitcom had featured some actors of color, it would still be culturally relevant instead of just a form of escapism.



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