Friends star Matt LeBlanc has spoken out against claims that the ‘90s sitcom was homophobic.
The show followed a group of close-knit friends living in New York and is considered the blueprint for comedy sitcoms.
The US sitcom first aired in 1994 and ran for ten years before concluding in 2004.
It starred David Schwimmer, Lisa Kudrow, Jennifer Anniston, Courtney Cox, Matthew Perry and LeBlanc, who currently presents Top Gear.
But long-running rumors have caused speculation as to whether there were homophobic undertones in the show.
Speaking to the BBC, LeBlanc said he doesn’t think the US sitcom contained homophobia in its episodes.
Friends star ‘disagrees’ with claims
‘I’ve heard those rumors too about people taking pot shots at Friends, but I don’t want to get into that. I disagree with all that,’ said the Top Gear host.
Continuing. LeBLanc told of how the sitcom – and his current BBC project – steered clear of problematic storylines.
‘On Top Gear we tend to steer clear of any sort of political content, nothing too topical. On Friends, we steered clear of that kind of thing, too.
‘Friends was about themes that stand the test of time – trust, love, relationships, betrayal, family and things like that,’ he continued.
In 2014, Tijana Mamula watched all 10 seasons of Friends to compile all of the gay jokes into one 50 minute video. And, to an extent, it did show how much homophobia and transphobia is in the show.
We came up with some arguments for and against on the very question, was Friends homophobic? Decide for yourself:
The Friends Is Homophobic Argument
- The ‘no homo’ moments between Chandler and Joey often come across as really, really lazy.
- Chandler is often assumed to be gay. That would be fine, but he’s often insulted by it.
- The name Amanda (A-man…duh!) was effectively ruined for everyone for at least a couple years.
- Ross: ‘In much the same way that homo ergaster is now thought to be a separate species from homo erectus…’ *Rachel laughs* Joey: ‘Erectus?’ Rachel: ‘Homo!’ This is deeply uncomfortable.
- Repeat misgendering of Chandler’s transgender parent.
- ‘We’re getting married!’ Ross’s ex-wife’s partner Susan says, which is apparently the cue for the laugh track.
- When two characters of the same gender kiss, it is played as a joke/disgusting if it’s two men and erotic/to titillate the guys if it’s two women
- Phoebe’s song: ‘Some men love women, some men love men, some men are bisexuals, but some just think they’re kidding themselves!’
- ‘I’m just not that comfortable with a guy as sensitive as you,’ Ross says to Sandy, a straight male nanny (played by Freddie Prinze Jr), firing him for threatening Ross’ masculinity. ‘That’s fair’, Sandy responds, an example of a queer character not reacting in a way that shows they are offended or insulted.
- Repeat gender policing. Ross: ‘Why is my boy playing with a Barbie?’
- While the majority of the jokes are not hugely offensive, they could be seen as examples of ‘microaggressions’. We are meant to love these six characters, and with them making (sometimes insulting) jokes about the LGBTI community, it could feel demeaning.
- A lot of these jokes breeze by, causing an underlying feeling of homophobia and transphobia in the series. When people are laughing at these jokes, it could come across that it is normal and fine to make them in everyday situations.
The Friends Is Gay-Friendly Argument
- Most of the jokes made in the video show the characters being foolish. Like when Joey is asking whether homo sapiens became extinct because they are ‘homo’. It’s more of a joke on his stupidity, rather than his views on gay people.
- Friends was one of the first TV shows, ever, that showed a same-sex wedding.
- David Crane, one of the creators, is gay
- Susan and Carol (the main recurring gay couple in the series) are probably a couple of the most well-adjusted characters of the series. They have other characteristics other than being lesbian characters. Carol is endearing and sweet while Susan is contemptuous of Ross’ quirks. It is probably because they were based on real people. The couple were written as tribute to creators Marta Kauffman and David Crane’s best friends in New York. They said: ‘We didn’t create them for any particular political reason or because of lesbian chic. It was just an opportunity to tell a really interesting story.’
- Phoebe indicates that she could be bisexual. She hit on Ross and Monica’s cousin.
- Ross is the one that probably shows the most ‘homophobic’ attitudes in the series. He dislikes the idea of his ex-wife being in a same-sex relationship and he thinks having a male nanny is ‘unmanly’. But as the series go on, it is clearly shown that Ross is in the wrong. He becomes more supportive of his ex-wife and partner, and even hires a lesbian nanny.
- A lot of people don’t like the ‘Phoebe’s ice dancing ex-husband comes out as straight’ scene. But it is a parody, and it’s funny.
- Rachel and Phoebe kiss! Ross and Joey kiss! Monica and Rachel kiss (although you don’t see it)!
- You could argue Friends used jokes about the gay community similar to the way All In The Family did with racism in the 1970s. Shining a light on homophobia, it could force you to question your own views on LGBTI people. And at a time when many other shows were making far more offensive jokes, Friends moved the conversation forward to where we are today.
- Saying that, ‘gay jokes’ are one thing. You could easily make hours of video of jokes about men, women, Italians, control freaks, hippies, the overweight, other races, etc etc
- After all, if we can’t laugh at ourselves, how in the hell can we laugh at anybody else?