Chinese fans of ‘Friends’ angry after show re-released with censorship

Chinese fans of U.S. sitcom “Friends” have expressed dismay online after noticing censorship in recently released episodes of the beloved show, including of LGBT issues.

Several major Chinese streaming sites, including Tencent (0700.HK), Baidu’s IQiyi Inc (IQ.O), Alibaba’s Youku, and Bilibili (9626.HK), started showing a version of the first season of the show on Friday, its first re-release in China for several years.

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"Friends" episode "The One With the Holiday Armadillo" is one of the only ones that tackles Hanukkah.

“Friends” episode “The One With the Holiday Armadillo” is one of the only ones that tackles Hanukkah.
(NBC)

But fans soon noticed parts of the long-running show were different from what they had seen before and complained of censorship, which included the removal of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans-related content, as well as mistranslations.

In one example, a conversation in which a main character, Ross, explained his wife was a lesbian, was deleted.

Another scene in which another character, Joey, suggested going to a “strip joint” was translated as “go out to play” on the version shown on Tencent Video. Reuters confirmed the Tencent version of the re-released season included those changes.

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FRIENDS -- Season 1 -- Pictured: (back l-r) Matt LeBlanc as Joey Tribbiani, Lisa Kudrow as Phoebe Buffay, David Schwimmer as Ross Geller, Matthew Perry as Chandler Bing (front l-r) Courteney Cox as Monica Geller, Jennifer Aniston as Rachel Green  -- (Photo by Reisig & Taylor/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images)

FRIENDS — Season 1 — Pictured: (back l-r) Matt LeBlanc as Joey Tribbiani, Lisa Kudrow as Phoebe Buffay, David Schwimmer as Ross Geller, Matthew Perry as Chandler Bing (front l-r) Courteney Cox as Monica Geller, Jennifer Aniston as Rachel Green  — (Photo by Reisig & Taylor/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images)

In recent years, China has shut tens of thousands of websites and social media accounts that contained what it said was illegal content as well as “vulgar” and pornographic material.

“I resolutely boycott the castrated version of ‘Friends’,” said one user on China’s Twitter-like Weibo.

“This is a defiling a classic,” said another.

A third user said “If you can’t show the complete version under the current atmoshphere, then don’t import it.”

Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China CPC Central Committee, Chinese president and chairman of the Central Military Commission, delivers an important speech at a ceremony marking the 100th anniversary of the founding of the CPC in Beijing, capital of China, July 1, 2021.

Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China CPC Central Committee, Chinese president and chairman of the Central Military Commission, delivers an important speech at a ceremony marking the 100th anniversary of the founding of the CPC in Beijing, capital of China, July 1, 2021.
(Ju Peng/Xinhua via Getty Images)

The discussion was a “hot search topic” on Weibo on Sunday.

But in a sign the discussion itself may have caught the attention of censors, searches on Weibo on Sunday for several variations on the hashtag or search term #Friendshasbeencensored produced either zero or limited recent results.

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“Friends” has a vast fan base in China. Many watched it on pirated DVDs or downloads after the hit 10-season show first aired in the 1990s.

Chinese streaming site SOHU TV bought the broadcasting rights to the show but this ended in 2018, the company said.

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