In 2004, after 10 seasons, Friends he said goodbye on NBC leaving behind a series that marked time and the most legendary group of friends on television. It's been 14 years since then, but the lives of Rachel, Monica, Phoebe, Ross, Joey and Chandler continue to arouse interest and fuel debates.
Television has changed and also its viewers, but Friends remains one of the most popular comedies – it's one of the most watched series in Netflix-, and not only because of nostalgia. Many spectators who did not see it at the time they are approaching her now. And they have discovered a program that, as with cultural products, is the son of their time, with all that that entails. In a video entitled Homophobic Friends, the filmmaker Tijana Mamula compiled in 2011 many of the jokes and homophobic situations of the series. And they are not few: the video, available on YouTube, lasts almost an hour. Ross' lesbian ex-wife or Chandler's transgender father give rise to recurrent inappropriate jokes. However, journalist Kelsey Miller defends in her book I'll Be There For You. The One about Friends (Hanover Square Press) that these jokes are the result of the social moment in which the series was broadcast.
Miller emphasizes in his book that in Friends It was the first wedding between two women in prime time in the United States. It was on January 11, 1996, in the chapter that picked up the link between Carol, Ross's ex-wife (and mother of his son), and Susan, an episode that was seen by almost 32 million viewers live. The NBC chain, fearful of the reaction of the public, hired extra personnel to attend the switchboard in anticipation of a barrage of protest calls. But only two people called to complain.
The one of Friends It was not the first same-sex wedding on American television. In 1991, the series Roc, about a black family living in Baltimore, showed the link of an uncle of the family that had just come out of the closet and that left in evidence the discomfort of the protagonist before the situation. In December of 1995, another comedy, Roseanne, showed the wedding of an acquaintance of the protagonist with his male partner in a chapter with constant homophobic jokes. In the case of FriendsDavid Crane, one of the creators, said: "I do not try to make the audience feel comfortable or uncomfortable. Homosexuals have lives, like everyone else. And those weddings are part of it. " As Kelsey Miller says, the gay wedding episode in Friends "It stands as an uncomfortable reminder of a time, not so long ago, in which jokes about gays were much more accepted on the screen than gay people themselves, not to mention gay marriage."
Things have changed a lot since then for the characters LGTBQ (Lesbian, Gay, Trans, Bisexual and Queer -Unusual, in English-) on the small screen, both in the number and in the way they are shown. The last annual report of GLAAD (acronym in English of the Alliance of Gais and Lesbians against Defamation) corresponding to the 2018-2019 season and published on October 25, records that in the US 8.8% of the characters with regular presence in series of prime time of the main open channels belong to the LGTBQ collective. It is the highest percentage since GLAAD started making this report 14 years ago. "While anti-LGTBQ policies are being debated, television stories and characters are more important than ever for understanding and acceptance," says GLAAD President Sarah Kate Ellis. The report highlights that in 2018 history has been made with the broadcast of the series with the largest number of transgender characters (Pose, created by Ryan Murphy). In addition, it highlights the incorporation to fiction Supergirl of Dreamer's character, interpreted by Nicole Maines, who this season is narrating her way to become the first transgender superheroine.
8.8% of the characters in American series belong to the LGTBQ collective, the highest percentage in 15 years
The journey to here is marked by memorable milestones. One of the most memorable is the departure of the protagonist from Ellen, played by Ellen Degeneres. On April 30, 1997, the episode was broadcast in which Ellen Morgan (the fictional character) accepted her sexual condition and made it public before 44 million spectators. The broadcast had raised great expectations after the release of the wardrobe, two weeks earlier on the cover of Time, from DeGeneres itself. The chapter won the Emmy for best comedy script. A year later, in 1998, it started Will & Grace, comedy about a homosexual lawyer and his best friend, heterosexual. The production of NBC remained eight seasons and returned in 2017 (now its tenth season is broadcast). Its relevance has been such that former Vice President of the United States Joe Biden said in 2012, by supporting gay marriage: "Will & Grace He did more to educate the American public than almost anything else. "
In the Spanish series, the situation of the LGTBQ characters has also changed a lot in a short time. As explained by Beatriz González de Garay, professor of Audiovisual Communication at the University of Salamanca and member of the Observatory of Audiovisual Contents, "homosexuality in fiction went from being hidden to being cornered in the margins, before jumping to the foreground; there society had to confront it and finally, today, accept that it is inside of it ". González de Garay emphasizes that in the nineties, "the discourse of tolerance" began to appear on Spanish television in the series, with characters from the upper middle class, young, attractive, such as those who played José Conde in Family doctor or Alejo Sauras in Afterclass. With the turn of the century and the legalization in 2005 of homosexual marriage in Spain, the plot weight of the gay characters no longer falls on their sexual orientation, but is one more characteristic. These would be the cases of Mauri (Luis Merlo) and Fernando (Adriá Collado) in There is no one living here, or of Maca (Patricia Vico) and Esther (Fátima Baeza) in Central Hospital. As of 2010, González de Garay highlights the search for a "differentiation with respect to the heteronormative and hegemonic integrative model", with characters with positive and negative traits, different ethnic groups, older ages …, as in Vis a vis or Elite.
For this professor specializing in studies of gender and sexual diversity in television fiction, Spain has lagged behind the US in the representation of LGTBQ reality, "but it has come a long way in a relatively short time". In both countries, the television industry has evolved in a similar way: "The first examples were strongly stereotyped and the characters had episodic or secondary interventions, and then they went on to more positive images, greater diversity and narrative weight". According to a study by González de Garay and Juan Carlos Alfeo, only 2% of the characters in the Spanish series broadcast in prime time are homosexuals and there's only one transgender character (Alba Recio in The one that is coming).
Although since that wedding of Friends a lot has been done in the representation of the LGTBQ collective, there are still chapters to be written.