China censors LGBT+ plotline from Friends

Three characters from the TV show Friends

Chinese streaming services have censored multiple episodes of Friends for featuring LGBT+ characters and plotlines, including Ross’ ex-wife Carol.

Several major Chinese streaming platforms – including Tencent, Bilibili, Youku and iQiyi – began showing the first season of Friends on Friday (11 February).

However, several episodes of the beloved US sitcom have been altered to remove LGBT+ characters and stories about queer identities, South China Morning Post reported.

Conversations about Ross’ (David Schwimmer) ex-wife, Carol (Anita Barone), have been removed from episodes streaming on Chinese platforms.

In the show, Carol divorced Ross after realising she is a lesbian. She went on to marry another woman and is the mother of Ross’ son, Ben.

South China Morning Post reported that one mention of lesbians was left uncut from the second episode of the show, but the Chinese subtitles did not translate it.

Additionally, censors deleted a scene where Chandler (Matthew Perry) and Joey (Matt LeBlanc) kiss on New Year’s Eve.

It was also reported that the platforms edited a line about women having “multiple orgasms” to “women have endless gossips”.

Friends previously debuted on Sohu and iQiyi in 2012 without any censorship and was available to watch up until 2013.

Fans took to Chinese social media site Weibo to protest the censorship, and the hashtag #FriendsCensored got over 54 million views on Friday night, CNN reported.

But the hashtag was later removed from Weibo on Saturday morning. Search results on the platform showed that the topic was “not shown according to relevant laws and regulations”.

One person wrote on Weibo that platforms shouldn’t have streamed Friends “if you can’t broadcast [the complete version]”.

“[The streaming video platforms] spent big bucks to buy the rights [to the show], but efforts to alter lines and edit out scenes ended up being slammed by the audience. What for?” they wrote.

Another user echoed this sentiment and said that if platforms can’t “show the complete version under the current atmosphere, then don’t import it”, Reuters reported.

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

Other users reportedly called for a boycott of the censored version of Friends, according to South China Morning Post.

In 2019, Chinese censors removed several scenes containing LGBT+ content from Freddie Mercury biopic Bohemian Rhapsody. This included scenes of two men kissing and the word “gay”.

The Friends reunion special was also heavily revised when it aired in 2021. Chinese streaming platforms removed around six minutes of footage from Friends: The Reunion including moments when LGBT+ fans shared their love of the show.

The platforms also cut segments featuring BTS, Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga.