Matt LeBlanc reacts to Friends' 'homophobic, sexist' controversy

Publish Date
Friday, 23 February 2018, 2:43PM

Matt LeBlanc has defended Friends after it was criticised by millennials for "homophobic, transphobic and sexist" storylines, insisting the show has stood the test of time.

The actor, who played Joey Tribbiani in the sitcom, argued that because of the way it handled universal themes like love and relationships, the show hasn't dated since it ended almost 18 years ago.

Speaking to the BBC, LeBlanc, 50, who is soon to return to his role as a Top Gear presenter, explained: "I've heard those rumours too about people taking pot shots at Friends, but I don't want to get into that. I disagree with all that.

"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."


However, he added that he doesn't enjoy making "politically incorrect" jokes because they lose their relevancy pretty quickly, according to the Daily Mail.

LeBlanc's character was at the centre of one of the main criticisms of the show's politically incorrectness, with Joey mocking Monica Geller's weight by saying "some girl ate Monica!" when he saw an old video of her.


Other plots that were called out included the treatment of Chandler Bing's father who was mocked by his son and the rest of the gang for his drag act, which has been deemed to be transphobic by modern viewers.

The show was also slammed for other topical issues such as a lack of racial diversity in the cast and sexism towards Rachel Green's male nanny.

While the show hasn't gone down so well with younger viewers, diehard fans are still clinging on to hope of a reunion show or film starring the original cast.

Jennifer Aniston recently hinted at the possibility of a reunion when she appeared on Ellen.

"Anything is a possibility, Ellen. Anything. I mean, George Clooney got married … that's like an anything can happen," she said.

The rest of the cast haven't been so keen on the idea, including LeBlanc, who previously said he "doesn't see" it happening.

Why have millennials criticised Friends?

Friends arrived on Netflix UK in January 2018 and was watched by a new generation of viewers, who were shocked about the politically incorrect jokes and storylines that appeared in the 90s sitcom.


Monica Geller, played by Courtney Cox, is a beautiful and successful chef with an envy-inducing apartment in 1990s New York.

However, the rest of the main cast, who happen to be her flatmates, brother and closest friends, won't let her forget that she used to be overweight.


In a scene where the gang is watching her old prom video, Joey Tribbiani is shocked to see her looking bigger, shouting: "Some girl ate Monica!".

Another, now iconic, moment in the series is a scene in which a chubby Monica dances while eating a bagel.

But it hasn't gone down well with modern viewers, who have branded it 'needlessly lazy and cruel'.


Chandler Bing is ashamed of his parents, and the rest of the group use this as fodder to mock him for the whole 10 seasons.

It is revealed that Chandler's father had an affair with the pool boy behind his mother's back, and works as a drag queen in Las Vegas, played by Hollywood A-lister Kathleen Turner.

Known for his acerbic wit, Chandler makes plenty of jokes at every character's expense, which includes his father.


After seeing him on stage, he asks: "Don't you have a little too much penis to be wearing a dress like that?"

The canned laughter of a 90s audience has stayed on the old reruns, but millennial viewers have dubbed these jokes "transphobic".

One furious viewer tweeted: "What I've learned from Friends being added to Netflix: the homophobic and transphobic jokes age it SO BADLY."


In series two Monica gets into a relationship with Dr Richard Burke, who happens to be her father's best friend and 21 years older than her.

After struggling to come to terms with their attraction to each other, the pair enter a relationship that quickly turns serious, but they break up when he reveals he doesn't want any more children.


The show did portray the relationship as controversial with many characters mocking the age gap, particularly considering Monica and Rachel went to high school with his daughter.

However, new viewers are confused about how the storyline made it into the show in the first place.

One called the storyline "creepy", pointing out that Richard had known his girlfriend since she was a baby.


In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal and the #MeToo and Time's Up campaigns that have followed, gender equality is at the forefront of conversation in Hollywood right now.

But back in the 90s, Friends wasn't so concerned about offending either men or women, and has now come under fire for enforcing gender stereotypes.


In one episode Rachel gets a nanny for her daughter Emma, but Emma's father Ross isn't comfortable when he discovers that the nanny is a man and questions if he is gay.

In season seven Rachel hires an assistant who isn't qualified for the job purely because she is attracted to him and hopes to date him.

New audiences claim that in 2018, Ross would be called a sexist and Rachel would be fired for sexual harassment.

The supposed sexism in the series has been slammed by the Netflix generation, with one saying they want to 'strangle' Ross for his comments about the nanny.


New York City has long been a melting pot of different cultures, and things were no different in the 1990s when Friends began.

But all six of the main characters are white and people of colour rarely feature throughout the 10 seasons.


One of the only prominent roles given to a black actor was Dr Charlie Wheeler, a palaeontologist who serves as a love interest to both Ross and Joey in season nine.

Another non-white character was Ross's other girlfriend Julie, who gets dumped when Rachel confesses her feelings for him.

Viewers have hit out against the lack of diversity, saying there are "no black people in Friends".


Chandler was increasingly uncomfortable with his sexuality in the earlier seasons of Friends, and was horrified when he discovered that a lot of women assumed he was gay when they first met him.

In one scene a co-worker tries to set Chandler up with a man and the rest of the episode is dominated by his obsession with proving that he's straight.


He even uses his friend's grandmother's funeral as an opportunity to hit on a woman to prove that he's not gay.

The scenes haven't stood the test of time, with one saying they "can't get over"' the homophobic undertones of the episodes.