Richard Branson on criticism that Friends was anti-LGBT

British businessman Sir Richard Branson has weighed in on the criticised often levelled at sitcom Friends for being anti-LGBT.

Branson, 69, famously appeared as a souvenir seller on an episode of the show in 1998 called “The One With Ross’ Wedding,” in which the Friends cast travelled to London.

“I haven’t seen [Friends] since those days,” Branson said, responding to the fact Friends has been labelled homophobic and transphobic in an interview with MailOnline.

“But if you go back in history, you’re going to find lots of examples like that, aren’t you?” he said.

“It’s something [candidate for the US presidential election in the 2020] Joe Biden is suffering from at the moment. Not to do with gay people, but [he’s suffering from] things he did years ago.

“But people can change. Society can change. And attitudes, generally, change for the positive.”
Branson added: “Obviously future sitcoms or films must portray things differently.”

Friends had a lesbian storyline

Friends featured a long-running lesbian storyline as Ross’ ex-wife Carol and her partner Susan raised Ben, Ross’ child. But the show also had long-running jokes about Chandler’s sexuality and his drag-queen dad where being gay was portrayed as negative.

Jane Sibbett, who played Ross’s lesbian ex-wife Carol in the sitcom, has said the show was “never poking fun at being gay.”

In an interview with Today in June 2019, Sibbett said she appreciated the way they handled Friends‘ lesbian storyline.

“We were never poking fun at being gay,” she said. “We were poking fun at a person who didn’t get it, who was uncomfortable with the concept of us being together. And that was the great beauty; the great truth in that the joke’s on the other people that don’t get it, that this is all about love.”

Jessica Hecht, who played Susan, was also interviewed, and spoke of her joy at playing “an iconic gay character.” She also praised Sibbett and said that the representation of a lesbian couple was “ahead of its time.”

On June 29, Branson chartered a Virgin Atlantic plane for the inaugural Pride flight, which saw members of the LGBT+ community in the UK fly to New York for World Pride.