Friends actress Jane Sibbett, who played Ross’s lesbian ex-wife Carol in the sitcom, has said the show was “never poking fun at being gay.”
In the first season of Friends, it was revealed that Carol ended her relationship with Ross when she met a woman called Susan and realised she was a lesbian. In the second season of Friends, Carol and Susan had a wedding ceremony.
However, in recent years, Friends has come under fire from some fans, who have criticised the show for jokes at the expense of LGBT+ characters.
Friends actress Jane Sibbett: ‘We were poking fun at a person who didn’t get it’
In an interview with Today, Sibbett said she appreciated the way they handled Friends‘ lesbian storyline.
“We were never poking fun at being gay,” she said. “We were poking fun at a person who didn’t get it, who was uncomfortable with the concept of us being together. And that was the great beauty; the great truth in that the joke’s on the other people that don’t get it, that this is all about love.”
Jessica Hecht, who played Susan, was also interviewed, and spoke of her joy at playing “an iconic gay character.” She also praised Sibbett and said that the representation of a lesbian couple was “ahead of its time.”
“We were never poking fun at being gay. We were poking fun at a person who didn’t get it, who was uncomfortable with the concept of us being together.”
– Jane Sibbett, who played Carol in Friends
The actresses previously opened up about representing a lesbian couple on screen in an interview with Metro in 2017.
Sibbett revealed at the time that—when they filmed their same-sex wedding—they weren’t allowed to kiss.
Friends showed one of the first lesbian weddings on TV (NBC)
“We had blackouts in Lima and Texas, the affiliates were blocked out. There were at least two affiliates that refused to air it,” she said.
Friends fans have criticised the show for problematic jokes
While Friends was one of a small number of television shows representing LGBT+ characters in the 1990s, some fans criticised it when it arrived on Netflix last year for its problematic jokes.
Some viewers complained on Twitter that the show featured homophobic, transphobic and misogynistic storylines.
Perhaps the most controversial of these was the representation of Chandler’s relationship with his father, who came out as a trans woman in the show. Chandler refused to recognise her gender identity and pretended to become physically sick while watching her perform on stage.
In an interview with USA Today in April of this year, Friends co-creator Marta Kauffman said she regretted the show’s transphobic jokes.
“I think we didn’t have the knowledge about transgender people back then, so I’m not sure if we used the appropriate terms.
“I don’t know if I would have known those terms back then. I think that’s the biggest one.”