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Friends: why is the cult series censored in China?

Broadcast in China since February 11th 2022, “Friends” falls under the blow of censorship. What arouses the wrath of fans of the cult series.

Chinese censorship has cracked down on “Friends”, unleashing the wrath of fans of the American series. An ire in turn purged social networks. The long-awaited return, Friday, February 11, of the cult series of the 1990s on Chinese streaming sites was disrupted when followers noticed the disappearance of any reference to the homosexuality of one of the female characters. On the social network Weibo (equivalent to Twitter in China), the hashtag #FriendsCensored (“Friends censored”) has been viewed tens of millions of times. In the viewfinder? Changes to the second episode of the first season, as broadcast by Bilibili, Tencent, iQiyi, and Youku platforms. Indeed, the scenes and lines concerning the romantic relationship of Carole Willick and Susan Bunch were cut during editing.

“I discovered that all the dialogues mentioning the homosexuality of Carol, the ex-wife of Ross, had been cut. The cuts are obvious, ”wrote a user whose message attracted more than 177,000 likes, reports Afp. The communist power has increased in recent years its censorship of “sensitive” themes such as sexuality, violence or politics, particularly in imported works. An attitude that does not fail to arouse the irony of some Internet users. “Why talk about homosexuality? There is no such thing here, where eternal perfection reigns. Everyone is happy under this government,” quipped another Weibo user. These criticisms were in turn deleted from the social network and the subversive hashtag was replaced on Sunday with another: “Why is Friends so popular”.

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The series, which aired from 1994 to 2004 in the United States, is very well known in China, where millions of people have watched it on DVD. Many young Chinese say they learned English with the help of the program, which had already been streamed by Sohu between 2012 and 2013, without being censored. Following the success of the “Friends” reunion show, which aired last May, several Chinese platforms have acquired the rights to broadcast the special episode, reports CNN, and have been rebroadcasting the cult sitcom since February 11.

While it is difficult to say whether the changes made to the episodes of the sitcom were imposed by the authorities, the American media writes that “in 2016, China issued new guidelines stating that television programs should not include stories involving same-sex relationships, as well as other topics that “exaggerate the dark side of society” (…) and view homosexuality, extramarital affairs, one-night stands and underage love as being prohibited. »

Films censored in China

In 2019, several scenes from “Bohemian Rhapsody” referring to the sexuality of Freddie Mercury, the singer of the group Queen, were also erased from the version broadcast in China. More recently, David Fincher’s cult film “Fight Club” aroused the astonishment of moviegoers, for a truncated ending at the antipodes of the original work. After an outcry, the film’s ending was finally retconned. Some producers sometimes take it upon themselves to cut scenes from films or series in the hope of obtaining authorization for the Chinese market.

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