Major Chinese streaming platforms have removed a lesbian plotline in the sitcom Friends, which initially debuted in China from 2012 to 2013 without any censorship and ultimately became very popular in the communist country.
Chinese streaming platforms again purchased the broadcasting rights to the show, following the popularity of the 2021 HBO special Friends: The Reunion, in which the six main actors returned to reminisce about the hit show, according to a report by CNN.
Platforms including Bilibili, Tencent, Youku, Sohu, and iQiyi began streaming Friends this Friday but censored LGBT content in the show, reportedly sparking outrage among fans on social media.
In one episode, conversations about Friends character Ross and his ex-wife, Carol Willick, who divorces him after realizing she is a lesbian, were deleted. Other discussions featuring sexually suggestive content were also edited out.
Fans reportedly took to the Chinese social media platform Weibo to express their dismay over the censorship, and the hashtag #FriendsCensored became the most popular trending topic on the site on Friday night, with more than 54 million views.
By Saturday morning, however, Weibo censored the hashtag, with the results now showing the message: “this topic is not shown according to relevant laws and regulations.”
One scene, for example, in which Ross said “[Women can have] multiple orgasms” while debating men and women’s advantages with his friends, was edited to say, “Women have endless gossips,” despite keeping the original soundtrack and English subtitle.
This caused those who understand English to mock the censorship attempt, calling it an “insult to our English language ability.”
“Not only does it ignore women’s sexual desire and enjoyment, but also reinforces the gender stereotype of women,” one Weibo user — whose comment garnered more than 81,000 likes — said.
China is no stranger to censoring content.
Bohemian Rhapsody, the biopic of British rock band Queen, for example, was released in China in 2019 with more than two minutes of LBGT content — including scenes of two men kissing, and the word “gay” — deleted from the film.
Recently, the communist regime changed the ending of the 1999 movie Fight Club so that the government authorities are victorious. The ending of the film was removed and replaced with a message informing viewers that the authorities won.
Similarly, China censored the Tencent Video version of the 2005 Nicolas Cage thriller Lord of War, which was also made over in favor of a more government-friendly ending.
Movie studios have gone to great lengths to appease the communist regime by presenting the country as a technologically advanced superpower. Other films have been subjected to self-censorship, sometimes changing entire plotlines in order to break into the Chinese market.
You can follow Alana Mastrangelo on Facebook and Twitter at @ARmastrangelo, and on Instagram.