Jennifer Aniston is speaking her opinion on people thinking the classic NBC sitcom Friends is “offensive” in hindsight, nearly 20 years after the show came to an end.
The 54-year-old – who arguably has had the most successful career post Friends as compared to the other cast members – talked with AFP out of Paris, while filming on set for her and Adam Sandler’s upcoming Netflix sequel, Murder Mystery 2.
“Comedy has evolved, movies have evolved,” she started.
“Now it’s a little tricky because you have to be very careful, which makes it really hard for comedians, because the beauty of comedy is that we make fun of ourselves, make fun of life,” she continued.
In recent years, comedy – whether it’s in movies, tv shows, or on stage for stand-up comics – has suffered much criticism in recent years regarding offensiveness and lack of compassion towards certain people or ideologies.
“[In the past], you could joke about a bigot and have a laugh – that was hysterical. And it was about educating people on how ridiculous people were,” she clarified. “And now we’re not allowed to do that.”
“There’s a whole generation of people, kids, who are now going back to episodes of Friends and find them offensive,” she explained. “There were things that were never intentional and others… well, we should have thought it through – but I don’t think there was a sensitivity like there is now.”
It’s no secret that Hollywood has cut back on the amount of comedies it has produced in recent years. Some people blame Netflix for the phenomenon, others think it’s because people and writers don’t want to attach their name to something that could be considered offensive.
Whatever the reason, Aniston expresses her disappointment and advocates for the importance of the genre in a world that “needs humor”.
“Everybody needs funny! The world needs humor!” she declared. “We can’t take ourselves too seriously. Especially in the United States. Everyone is far too divided.”
In regards to Friends and the way it’s aged as related to culture, this isn’t the first time it was criticized.
Last June, Friends co-creator Marta Kauffman addressed the issue of her hit sitcom not incorporating enough diversity – with an all white main cast – and being guilty of homophobic and transphobic jokes.
“I’ve learned a lot in the last 20 years,” Kauffman told the LA Times. “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.”
In retribution, she decided to pledge $4 million to Brandeis University in Boston, her alma mater, to “establish an endowed professorship in the school’s African and African American studies department,” per the Times.
“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 publication explained. “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.”