Friends reunion’s touching LGBT+ moment cut by Chinese censors

Friends The Reunion

Friends: The Reunion was censored in China, with LGBT+ fans – including Lady Gaga – cut from the eagerly-anticipated episode.

The reunion special has proven a massive hit across the world, with millions tuning in to see the stars of Friends reunite 17 years after the sitcom ended.

However, the celebrity-packed broadcast looked slightly different when it aired in China. Streaming platforms opted to remove around six minutes of footage from Friends: The Reunion, including moments when LGBT+ fans gushed about their love of the show.

Chinese streamers controversially cut a clip where German fan Ricardo said: “I was a gay man who wanted to have hair like Jennifer Aniston, so you can imagine how lonely I sometimes felt,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.

But that wasn’t the only moment that ended up on the chopping block – appearances from Lady Gaga, BTS and Justin Bieber were also cut from three separate versions of the broadcast, which aired on streaming platforms iQiyi, Tencent Video and Alibabu’s Youku.

Lady Gaga was cut from Friends: The Reunion over her meeting with the Dalai Lama

The streaming platforms, apparently expecting complaints from Beijing-based regulators, opted to remove a clip of BTS leader RM saying Friends “really taught me things about life and true friendship”.

The K-pop group has been targeted by censors in China since October last year, when they accepted an award celebrating cultural relations between the United States and South Korea. Comments made by RM about “shared sacrifice” were widely perceived as offensive by Chinese authorities.

Lady Gaga’s version of “Smelly Cat” alongside Lisa Kudrow was cut to just a few seconds. The singer has been considered a controversial figure in China ever since she met the Dalai Lama in 2016, who is considered a dangerous separatist by authorities in Beijing.

Meanwhile, a clip of Justin Bieber wearing Ross’ “Spudnik” Halloween costume was cut after the singer enraged Chinese fans in 2014 by visiting Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine. The religious site is controversial because it lists 1,068 people in its Book of Souls who were convicted of war crimes following the Second World War.

Elsewhere, Chinese streamers censored a clip showing Matt LeBlanc’s character Joey in a bathrobe with a photo of Ross stuck over his groin.

Friends: The Reunion aired on Thursday (27 May), and fans were blown away by the emotional episode, which saw the show’s stars get together and reflect on their incredible seven-season run.

It marked the first time Jennifer Aniston, Matthew Perry, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt Le Blanc and David Schwimmer were reunited on screen since Friends ended in 2004.

The moments celebrating LGBT+ fans were seen by some as course correction for the original run, which was largely devoid of queer representation.

The only major LGBT+ characters included lesbian couple Carole and Susan – who, despite sharing an historic on-screen wedding, were often used as a punchline – and Chandler’s dad, who was the butt of transphobic jokes.