It’s not the first time China has censored a series or film. This time “Friends” got it and the fans are angry.
In a highly networked world, in which international film distributors and streaming services bring their series and films to every country in the world, there are inevitably different sensitivities. Only recently Egyptian MPs opposed the film “Foreign Friends,” which dealt with homosexuality too loosely.
In China, there have often been political protests and the studios have given way more than once. In the “Queen” film “Bohemian Rhapsody” all scenes in which Freddie Mercury is shown as gay were cut out. Now it has caught one of the most famous series in the world: “Friends”. But why does the actually quite harmless sitcom have to be censored?
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Removed “Friends” dialogue: outcry on social media
According to a report by CNN, the series has a huge number of fans in China. On the occasion of the reunion show in 2021, several services have therefore joined forces to once again acquire the rights to the ten seasons: Bilibili, Tencent, Youku, Sohu, iQiyi have had the series in their program since February 11, 2022.
However, there is one major change: right in the first episode, several lines of dialogue revolving around Ross’ (David Schwimmer) ex-wife Carol, who left him for a woman, were removed. The friends’ conversations revolve around the fact that Carol is now a lesbian and has been dating a woman. Other lines of dialogue dealing with sex between women have also been cut. The outcry from Chinese fans on the social network Weibo was great, the hashtag #FriendsCensored got 54 million hits, but was then also deleted by the service on the grounds that “This topic is not shown in accordance with the relevant laws and regulations.” And it’s even a corner more uncomfortable.
Chinese fans feel attacked
In a particularly bizarre moment, the streaming services changed the Chinese subtitles in the episode. Ross originally says, “Women can have multiple orgasms,” the subtitles now read, “Women can gossip indefinitely,” while the audio track and English subtitles still have the orgasm phrase.
According to CNN, many viewers complained that they took it as an insult to their English language skills. Incidentally, the episode was not yet censored in China in 2012, and the country only issued new guidelines for television series in 2016: Since then, the stories have not been allowed to address homosexual relationships, extramarital sex, one-night stands or relationships with minors. Disney recently objected to such a rule, though not in China.