‘Friends’ plotlines, other suggestive material censored on Chinese streaming services

Chinese streaming services have censored an LGBTQ plotline and other sexually suggestive segments from “Friends” — prompting outrage from rabid fans of the popular sitcom.

Axed was dialogue in the series’ first episode about Ross’s ex-wife, Carol Willick, who divorced him after realizing she was a lesbian.

Several sexual exchanges were altered. Ross’ comment in one episode that “[women can have] multiple orgasms” became “women have endless gossips,” according to CNN.. Ross had made the statement in a debate the pros and cons of men and women.

The TV show developed a large and loyal following in China after it was first broadcast uncensored by streaming services Sohu video and iQiyi in 2012. But it was removed in 2013 when its contract ended, CNN said.

Following the widespread popularity of HBO Max’s “Friends: The Reunion” last year – which was heavily censored by China – several Chinese streaming service providers bought broadcasting rights to the show.

Bilibili is one of the Chinese streaming services to censor the hit television show.
VCG via Getty Images

However, Chinese fans of the show were quick to notice that the “Friends” episodes released on Chinese platforms such as Bilibili, Tencent, Youku, Sohu and iQiyi on Friday were different than they remember.

Fans outraged by the censorship took to Chinese social media website Weibo, where #FriendsCensored became the top trend on the site with over 54 million hashtag views, CNN reported. However, the hashtag itself was later censored on Saturday morning.

One Weibo user wrote “Not only does it ignore women’s sexual desire and enjoyment, but also reinforces the gender stereotype of women,” in a comment that garnered over 80,000 likes, the outlet said.

“Friends” fans used the hashtag “#FriendsCensored” on social media to express their outrage over the move.
“Friends” fans used the hashtag “#FriendsCensored” on social media to express their outrage over the move.
NBCUniversal via Getty Images

Others called the censored clips an “insult to our English language ability.”

The show, which ran from 1994 to 2004, stars Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer as a group of friends living in New York City.

The “Friends: Reunion” broadcast saw a number of alterations, with appearances from Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, K-pop supergroup BTS or references to the LGBTQ community or urine were all cut. iQIYI, Youku and Tencent Video each aired differently altered versions of the special, with iQIYI cutting a full six minutes from the broadcast, the BBC reported.

"Friends" developed a large and loyal following in China after it was first broadcast uncensored by streaming services like iQiyi in 2012.
“Friends” developed a large and loyal following in China after it was first broadcast uncensored by streaming services like iQiyi in 2012.
VCG via Getty Images

In a similar move, China also cut scenes depicting Queen singer Freddie Mercury’s sexuality from the 2019 film “Bohemian Rhapsody” in addition to violence and nudity from the 2017 R-rated movie X-Men movie “Logan,” according to Polygon.

In 2016, China introduced new guidelines for networks to avoid plotlines involving same-sex relationships and “exaggerate the dark side of society,” according to CNN.

Last fall, Chinese lawmakers announced entertainers with “incorrect political positions” will be barred from appearing on broadcasts as part of sweeping new restrictions to make Chinese media a more “patriotic atmosphere” for fans, Reuters reported.

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