David Schwimmer Defends ‘Friends’ From Critics Who Called The Show Racist & Sexist

In a new profile from The Guardian, David Schwimmer parsed out his thoughts on criticism the sitcom 'Friends' has faced recently, sharing that he found the show to be 'groundbreaking in its time.'

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David Schwimmer, 53, is looking back on his popular sitcom Friends only with fond memories despite an onslaught of criticism. The actor, who portrayed the role of Ross Geller from 1994-2004, shared in a new profile with The Guardian that when it comes to contemporary critiques of the show exhibiting racism, sexism, and body-shaming, his response is simply, “I don’t care.” Of course, the actor offered far more to the retort than that. David went on to share that he found the show, “groundbreaking in its time for the way in which it handled so casually sex, protected sex, gay marriage and relationships.” Beyond just waxing broad strokes of the series — also starring Jennifer Aniston, 50, Matt LeBlanc, 52, Courteney Cox, 55, Matthew Perry, 50, and Lisa Kudrow, 56 — the actor posited a few examples of its mild progressivism during the ’90s and early 2000s.

“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,” he observed. “I feel that a lot of the problem today in so many areas is that 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,” the actor went on. “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.”

As a fix for the criticism that Friends has faced, the actor purposed that perhaps, “there should be an all-black Friends or an all-Asian Friends.” The two-time Emmy nominee also insisted that he “was well aware of the lack of diversity [on the show] and I campaigned for years to have Ross date women of color. 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.”

Promotional image for ‘Friends’ [NBC].
While the series has faced hefty criticism as time has passed, David did note that he believed, the series did handle religion in a thoughtful manner. “I don’t think that was earth-shattering or groundbreaking at all, but I for one was glad that we had at least one episode where it wasn’t just about Christmas. It was also Hanukkah and, even though I played the Hanukkah armadillo, I was glad that we at least acknowledged the differences in religious observation.”

Since his time on the Golden Globe winning sitcom, David has maneuvered his career between film and TV. Of late, he appeared on the anthology series American Crime Story where he earned an Emmy nomination for his work as Robert Kardashian in the 2016 edition, chronicling the O.J. Simpson trial. Moving forward through a transforming industry, David wanted to assure readers that he is “aware of my own privilege as a heterosexual white male whose parents were able to pay for a private education for me. I’ve always felt a sense of responsibility to give back and to call things out if I see an abuse of power.”

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