Marta Kauffman is trying to make amends. Around the turn of the century, she scored a boatload of cash. But critics claim she didn’t do it justly, so she’s writing a check to balance justice’s scales.
In the early ’90s, Marta co-created the mega-hit Friends, which aired from 1994 to 2004 on NBC. Those familiar with the show will know it starred Jennifer Aniston, Lisa Kudrow, Courteney Cox, David Schwimmer, Matt LeBlanc, and Matthew Perry. The program told tales of six twenty-somethings navigating the ups and downs of life in New York.
But the show portrayed a paltry part of the Big Apple: the white part.
From the Los Angeles Times:
With the exception of a few scattered performers glimpsed in the background of the Central Perk coffee shop where the gang hung out, nonwhite characters on Friends were scarce. Lauren Tom, Gabrielle Union, Mark Consuelos and Craig Robinson were among the people of color who appeared on the show, but their interactions with the main characters were often fleeting.
The most high-profile response to the criticism came in 2003 with the appearance of (black actress) Aisha Tyler as a paleontology professor who worked with Ross (Schwimmer) and eventually dated him — after first dating Joey (LeBlanc). But even Tyler’s character was gone after just nine episodes.
Marta was once averse to criticism over such a Caucasian capture of the city:
Kauffman felt Friends was being unfairly singled out, claiming there was too much attention on the near-absence of Black people and other people of color: “It was difficult and frustrating.”
Fast-forward to personal improvement:
But now, Kauffman says, she gets it.
Marta, the Times reports, has “had a dramatic change of heart.” She “feels that the criticisms about Friends were fair.”
The lady now realizes she was a racist:
The series’ failure to be more inclusive, Kauffman says, was a symptom of her internalization of the systemic racism that plagues our society…
She waxed to the outlet via Zoom:
“I’ve learned a lot in the last 20 years. Admitting and accepting guilt is not easy. It’s painful looking at yourself in the mirror. I’m embarrassed that I didn’t know better 25 years ago.”
Back during the program’s production, controllers had corrupt ideas about chemistry:
Producers at times would push back against the criticism, citing the electric chemistry of the main performers. But Schwimmer said in a 2020 interview that he felt it was “just wrong” that there was not broader cultural representation on the series. He added that he had pushed for Ross to date diverse women: “I really felt like Ross should date other people, women of all races.”
Apparently, 2020 was an unprecedented portal to enlightenment. Marta, for certain, metamorphized.
“It was after what happened to George Floyd that I began to wrestle with my having bought into systemic racism in ways I was never aware of. That was really the moment that I began to examine the ways I had participated. I knew then I needed to course-correct.”
Rapping about her reckoning’s been a raze:
She teared up during a panel at the 2020 ATX TV Festival as she discussed confronting her personal shortcomings.
“What makes this truly emotional for me is that I want this connection I didn’t have,” she said. “I deeply, deeply want this connection with the Black community that I didn’t have. Because of Friends, I never attained that.”
But she’s come upon a way to right her wrong: Marta’s contributing a chunk of change to a college, and it can’t be used to elevate white people.
That reckoning was the catalyst for her decision to pledge $4 million to her alma mater, the Boston area’s Brandeis University, to establish an endowed professorship in the school’s African and African American studies department. …
The Marta F. Kauffman ’78 Professorship in African and African American Studies at the private research university will support a distinguished scholar with a concentration in the study of the peoples and cultures of Africa and the African diaspora. The gift will also assist the department to recruit more expert scholars and teachers, map long-term academic and research priorities and provide new opportunities for students to engage in interdisciplinary scholarship.
Since announcing she’s donating the dough, Marta’s gotten “nothing but love.”
“It’s been amazing. It surprised me to some extent, because I didn’t expect the news to go this wide. I’ve gotten a flood of emails and texts and posts that have been nothing but supportive. I’ve gotten a lot of ‘It’s about time.’ Not in a mean way. It’s just people acknowledging it was long overdue.”
If a person believes they’ve done wrong, they should certainly try to atone for their sin. If that is indeed her heart, will her offering sufficiently satisfy the woke? Or will Friends continue to be decried as whiteness pegging the red?
Either way, her remorse is somewhat situated by the time traveler’s paradox: A sitcom smash is a one-in-a-million win; if she travels back and recasts the show, it almost surely never achieves success.
As for systemic racism, if Marta is aware of such a thing, she would do far more good to expose it. For reasons which remain unclear, those who claim its existence have yet to point to actual mechanisms so they may be removed.
Back to her penance, if it falls short, she can simply give again. According to Celebrity Net Worth, Marta’s worth $400 million.
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