‘Friends’: China on the Hot Seat Over Censorship

‘Friends’: China on the Hot Seat Over Censorship

Friends has managed to cement itself among some of the most popular sitcoms ever. It started airing in 1994 and despite the passage of well over two decades, it is still popular among audiences both old and new. This is thanks not in a small part due to various deals made with international broadcasters and streamers.

Of late, one such deal has been made between top Chinese streaming platforms such as Youku and Tencent which sees the series being availed to a whole new audience in earth’s most populous country.

Fans however have started to notice that there is a difference between the official version of the show and the version that is currently being streamed by audiences. In the official version of Friends that aired in the US, Ross’ ex-wife is gay. They are expecting a child together which creates a kind of dynamic between Ross, his ex, and his ex’s girlfriend.

Fans have noticed that some moments have been edited out. For example, when Ross shares that his ex-wife is lesbian, that moment is edited out in its entirety. Another instance where Joey suggests going to a strip club is edited and instead, it says they should go out to play.

The Chinese Government has also managed to silence the critics with the #Friendshasbeencensored muted in China’s most popular social media app – Weibo. The search results don’t return any results. This would have been buried if Reuters had not published a report for the rest of the world to see.

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This should not have come as a surprise as China is known for its stance on matters LGBTI. Most of Chinese content is streamlined to adhere to The China Communist Party policies. Such policies censor anything that could be deemed as belittling to the Chinese culture, religious policy, the so-called social morality among others.

This is not the first time the Chinese audience has been exposed to diverse human experiences on the LGBTI front whether from abroad or at home. The government however is always on top of it, banning even local content. While local creators have found ways to navigate the laws by foregoing anything that might be deemed as overtly Queer, they are still a long way from portraying LGBTI people as regular citizens.

The Chinese market is the largest film market not only for their local content but also for Hollywood movies. The Chinese version of Hollywood is on track to surpass American Hollywood in terms of revenue and audiences.