Throughout the run of 1990s-era sitcom Friends’, Chandler Bing’s transgender father was repeatedly referred to as his father, a man, which at the time failed to ruffle any feathers.
Over twenty years later, however, the show’s co-creator Marta Kauffman has expressed regret over how Chandler’s father was addressed, saying she is sorry for having misgendered the character, who was played by Kathleen Turner.
As Buzzfeed reports, in an interview with BBC News set to be released July 11, Kauffman lamented the fact that throughout the show’s run, characters “kept referring to [Helena] as ‘Chandler’s father,’ even though Chandler’s father was trans.”
“Pronouns were not yet something that I understood,” Kauffman continued, “so we didn’t refer to that character as ‘she.’ That was a mistake.” Kaufman did not say whether or not she believed the character should be referred to as Chandler’s “mother,” or perhaps as the “non-birthing parent.”
The character first made an appearance during Season 7, Episode 22, aptly titled “The One With Chandler’s Dad.”
In the episode, Monica and Chandler visit Las Vegas to find his father, who had abandoned him as a child to pursue an affair with their pool boy.
Chandler’s father, played by Kathleen Turner, is seen performing in a drag show under the name “Helena Handbasket.”
During a 2019 interview with Watch What Happens Live, Turner stated that she would not agree to play the role were it cast in the present moment, suggesting that the role could be filled by an actual biological male who identifies as trans.
Throughout the show, it is never explicitly stated that the character is trans, only that he is gay and presents as a woman. Nevertheless, critics have recently deemed the jokes made at the character’s expense as “transphobic.”
This is not the first time Kauffman has apologized for an aspect of Friends.
In June, she pledged to donate $4 million to fund an endowed chair in Brandeis University’s African and African American studies department to atone for the show’s lack of diversity.
Kauffman said she is now “embarrassed” to have facilitated the creation of show starring straight white people. The show was wildly popular and is still in syndication.
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