Chinese fans concerned TV classic ‘Friends’ may become innocent victim of anti-racism protests

By Sun Haoran Source:Global Times Published: 2020/6/11 16:51:41

A screenshot of Friends Photo: CFP

Chinese fans are concerned that the classic television sitcom Friends might become an innocent victim of the worldwide anti-racism protests triggered by George Floyd's death after its co-creator said it "didn't do enough" for diversity in the show, noting that arts should not be taken hostage by political correctness and such an overreaction will not rectify the root cause of racial inequality in US society.

According to a recent BBC report, Friends co-author Marta Kauffman said, "I just wish I knew then what I know now. I would've made very different decisions," on a virtual panel interview in response to the question of what she wished she knew when she started out.

Kauffman added during the 2020 ATX TV Festival: "I mean we've always encouraged people of diversity in our company, but I didn't do enough and now all I can think about is, what can I do?" said the report. 

BBC also noted that despite its success, Friends has been criticized in recent years for its lack of diversity, even by its cast members, such as David Schwimmer and Lisa Kudrow, who played Ross and Phoebe in the sitcom.

Floyd was an African-American man who was killed by police during an arrest in Minneapolis on May 25. The incident sparked worldwide protests, with demonstrators desperately calling for an end to police violence and racism.

Kauffman's comment attracted a great deal of attention from Chinese internet users on Sina Weibo, and many Friends fans said the political correctness in the US may have gone too far, while showing great sympathy for  Floyd's tragic death.

"Friends was the introduction to US TV series for many Chinese," a netizen whose Weibo name was "Xiaozui Luanwen" and who claimed to be a die-hard Friends fan, told the Global Times on Thursday.

"I don't know why Kauffman said the show lacks diversity. For me, I didn't notice any racism in the sitcom, but could see all kinds of elements that depict the 'salad bowl,' such as Asians, blacks, Hanukkah, and LGBT," he said. "And the most precious part is that Friends showcases all those factors in bright and positive ways."

"Plus, two of Ross' girlfriends are minorities: the Asian girl Julie during the first few episodes of the second season and the black girl Dr Charlie Wheeler in the ninth and 10th seasons," he noted, adding that there are also black TV shows, such as Power and The Chi, with nobody criticizing them in the same way.

Friends is one of the most popular sitcoms in TV history, running for 10 seasons between 1994 and 2004. It has since gained large numbers of viewers around the world, including Chinese. There is also a cafe designed and decorated almost exactly in the same way as "Central Perk" in Season 10 of Friends by one of its fans in Beijing.

"I think the Floyd incident was a real tragedy and agree with the righteous fight again racism, but Friends should not be drawn into this issue," said another die-hard fan named "Yuan Yuan" on Weibo to the Global Times on Thursday.

"Rachel, Ross, Joey, Monica, Phoebe, and Chandler are lovely characters who gave me laughter and tears," said "Yuan Yuan". "I love them not because they are black or white, but for who they are."

"Shouldn't their acting skills and chemistry with the characters they play but not their ethnic backgrounds be the basis on which the actors or actresses are chosen?" she argued, pointing out that excessive political correctness will conceal and divert people's attention from the real root cause of racism in the US society, which is historical injustice and prejudice.  

There were also netizens who supported Kauffman, saying that TV shows should include more minorities as main characters, but most Chinese fans were afraid that Friends might become another innocent victim of the "Black Lives Matter" movement triggered by Floyd's death.

The classic US film Gone With the Wind was temporarily pulled from the streaming platform HBO Max on Tuesday amid current protests against racism and police brutality in the US, with many Chinese netizens expressing their disapproval and saying that the action has gone too far.

Friends, one of the most popular TV shows in the US, ranks No.21 on TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time and won the Outstanding Comedy Series award in 2002 for its eighth season while also getting 62 nominations for the Primetime Emmy Awards.


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