Friends Fans Angry Over Censorship in China

By Timothy Adams
Reruns of the popular NBC sitcom Friends are being censored in China, and fans are not too happy about it. The main cast of FriendsJennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Matt LeBlanc, Lisa Kudrow, and David Schwimmer – got together last year for a reunion special on HBO Max, where they reminisced on good times and happy memories during their 10 season run. Unfortunately, fans over in China aren’t able to watch all of the episodes in their entirety due to various streaming sites removing content, according to Reuters. The content that’s being censored also happens to involve LGTB storylines.
Friends was made available for Chinese viewers last week after a hiatus, available to stream on Tencent, Baidu’s IQiyi Inc, Alibaba’s Youku, and Bilibili. That’s when the differences in episode content were first spotted. Longtime fans that tried to rewatch episodes noticed lesbian, gay, trans, and bisexual issues were completely gone, with some incorrect translations also taking place. Some of the examples of things being censored involve Ross explaining how his wife was a lesbian, and Joey’s night out at a strip club being replaced with “go out to play.” The Joey changes were confirmed by Reuters as shown on the Tencent streaming service.
Some of the backlash made its way onto Weibo, China’s version of Twitter. “I resolutely boycott the castrated version of Friends,” a Weibo user shared. “This is a defiling a classic,” said another, with a third adding that “if you can’t show the complete version under the current atmosphere, then don’t import it.” China has cracked down on issues it has found to be controversial by closing websites, social media accounts, and platforms.
One of the celebrities to appear on Friends: The Reunion on HBO Max was Lady Gaga, who showed up to help Lisa Kudrow sing Phoebe’s famous song “Smelly Cat.” During an appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show (via Entertainment Weekly), Kudrow talked about her emotional encounter with Lady Gaga and revealed she had to re-learn the infamous tune.
“I was really nervous when I first heard that. And then I prepared. I realized I had to learn ‘Smelly Cat’ again. I tuned my guitar and realized I don’t know the chords,” Kudrow admitted. “All the chords were there for ‘Smelly Cat!'” Kudrow added with a laugh. “So thank you world, for posting the chords.” She continued, “I learned it, and then my throat closed … I was so panicked! I couldn’t get anything out! I didn’t know what was going to happen.”
“That really almost made me cry,” Kudrow said of the moment when Lady Gaga thanked her for playing Phoebe and for representing people who are different. “That blew me away. Also coming from her, because my son was in grade school, all the kids were listening to Lady Gaga and her whole message was everyone be yourself and just be you. That was amazing.”
What do you think of Friends censorship currently taking place in China? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!
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