Erika Alexander’s mission to educate David Schwimmer on Friends and Living Single continues.
In a recent essay published on Zora, called “Why The Friends vs. Living Single Twitter Beef Really Matters,” Alexander wrote more about Schwimmer’s comments to The Guardian about how he felt there should be an all-Black or all-Asian version of Friends and her subsequent Twitter exchange with Schwimmer.
“You see, David didn’t realize that the so-called, all Black Friends had already happened,” she wrote. “In fact, I was in it. A sitcom I’m proud of, called Living Single, created by Yvette Lee Bowser. And we happened a year before his show, Friends, was on the air. In fact, Living Single had happened within the same studio, Warner Brothers, in Burbank, on the annexed lot near his called The Warner Ranch.”
Alexander continued to explain why the comments showcase Schwimmer’s white male privilege, despite giving examples in The Guardian interview of how he was combating his privilege. “What’s unfortunate is that he created an interesting example of [white male privilege] while doing so because the show he was in was not the original, it was a knock-off,” she said.
“…Our digital encounter exposed two realities; one rooted in perceived stature, and the other in implicit value,” she continued. “Living Single had a Black cast of six, young New Yorkers living in the same complex facing life and love together. But we were on a so-called ‘Black show,’ and that designation is the beginning of marginalization. So David didn’t have to pay attention to our show, and frankly, why would he? If you’re the king of the hill why pay attention to, well, us. But believe me, you couldn’t miss Friends. It was everywhere.”
Alexander wrote that the lack of focus on Living Single in favor of Friends exhibits how Black creatives are often overlooked, despite Black creatives setting the path for America’s culture.
“In America, Black people consistently innovate and create original content and unique trends. Hell, we disrupted European dominance and began a path to a world-class American culture the minute we stepped off the slave ships, but rarely do we get props or fair payment for it,” she wrote. “See, on a deeper level, ignorance–unconscious or otherwise–explains how systematic, racist structures lead to the erasure of Black history and set precedent. Add water, marinate, and fry and that’s what made our small Twitter debate explode.”
Alexander explained the origins of Friends to Shadow And Act in 2019, where she said the show was created to be a more mainstream (i.e. white) version of Living Single.
“If you were on a show with a Black cast you weren’t seen as a show with a Black cast, which is how I like to see it. They saw you as a Black show. So they would often put you in a cultural ghetto. That would undermine any sort of ambitions that you might have to grow the show beyond its locked-in demographic,” she said.
“I’m saying we should have gone beyond that. And I think it was just a lack of imagination and people who left money on the table,” Alexander said.
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