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“Friends”: China not only censors allusions to homosexuality

“friends”
China doesn’t just censor references to homosexuality

Nobody can split good friends? The cast of “Friends”.

© imago/Everett Collection

“Friends” returns to China – but clearly censored. Allusions to any form of sexuality have been completely defused.

After a long absence on TV and streaming: “Friends” is back in China. The US sitcom has been available since Friday on streaming platforms such as Tencent, Youku and Bilibili from episode one. But Chinese fans who are familiar with the cult series immediately noticed that some dialogues were not translated faithfully to the original.

As reported by CNN, among others, Chinese fans protested against censorship via the social platform Weibo. But the hashtag #FriendsCensored soon disappeared.

Orgasms become gossip

From the very first episode of 1994’s “Friends,” viewers saw a massive change. Ross (David Schwimmer, 55) originally says that his wife left him for another woman. The reference to lesbian love is missing.

Not only allusions to homosexuality fell victim to the scissors. When Joey (Matt LeBlanc, 54) once suggested going to a strip club, Tencent now says he wants to “go out and play.”

In another scene, the friends talk about the advantages of men and women. Ross says women have the advantage of having multiple orgasms. In the new Chinese version, this is actually translated as “women chat a lot”.

Censorship of “abnormal sexual relations”

In older Chinese broadcasts, the sexualized scenes are still uncensored. State censorship in China has only been taking action against sexuality in films and series since 2015. “Abnormal sexual relations,” which the government says includes homosexuality. For example, when the film “Bohemian Rhapsody” was broadcast, all scenes dealing with Queen singer Freddie Mercury’s homosexuality fell victim to the scissors.

Criminal behavior is also a thorn in the side of the censors if it is not sanctioned in the films. For example, the pessimistic finale of “Fight Club” was recently replaced by a text panel that drafts a different ending along the lines of “crime doesn’t pay”. After international criticism, the People’s Republic rowed back.

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