The season finale may have aired 15 years ago, but the hit sitcom Friends is still as popular as ever. And due to the influx of popularity with streaming services (Stan in Australia), a whole new generation of audiences have been able to enjoy the lives of Ross, Rachel, Monica, Chandler, Joey, and Phoebe.
While the popularity of the show has never dwindled and its stars aging like a fine wine (ahem, Jennifer Aniston), fans have said that the storylines themselves haven’t stood the test of time.
The story detailed the occasionally “transphobic, homophobic and sexist” plots, that wouldn’t hold today, in particular, Chandler Bing’s (Matthew Perry) fear of being perceived as a gay man or the jokes about his cross-dressing father, Charles Bing, a.k.a Helena Handbasket (Kathleen Turner).
In a new interview with The Guardian, actor David Schwimmer, 53, who played paleontologist Ross Geller, has defended the show saying that it was “groundbreaking for its time”.
“The truth is also that show was groundbreaking in its time for the way in which it handled so casually sex, protected sex, gay marriage, and relationships,” he said.
“The pilot of the show was my character’s wife left him for a woman and there was a gay wedding, of my ex and her wife, that I attended.”
Schwimmer went on to say that today, “so little is taken in context.”
“You have to look at it from the point of view of what the show was trying to do at the time,” he added.
“I’m the first person to say that maybe something was inappropriate or insensitive, but I feel like my barometer was pretty good at that time.
“I was already really attuned to social issues and issues of equality.”
Schwimmer was so attuned, in fact, that he was the one to push for more diversity in who Ross dated.
“I was well aware of the lack of diversity and I campaigned for years to have Ross date women of colour,” he said, resulting in the character dating Julie (Lauren Tom) and Charlie Wheeler (Aisha Tyler).
“One of the first girlfriends I had on the show was an Asian American woman, and later I dated African-American women. That was a very conscious push on my part.”
Schwimmer also admitted that for a while after the show ended, he felt “pigeonholed in this one genre, this one idea”.
“I got Friends when I was 27 but I had done all this work on stage,” he said.
“But all that was just eradicated. As far as the public was concerned, I came out of the womb doing a sitcom. So that was frustrating as if it obliterated all the other training, all the other roles I had done.”
If you’re wondering where Schwimmer stands on a Friends reunion, you’ll be sorely disappointed because he doesn’t “think it’s possible given everyone’s career trajectories”.
“I think everyone feels the same: Why mess with what felt like the right way to end the series?
“I don’t want to do anything for the money. It would have to make sense creatively, and nothing I’ve heard so far presented to us makes sense.”