In China’s rendition of the much-anticipated Friends reunion special, something was missing: guest performers BTS, Lady Gaga, and Justin Bieber were nowhere to be found.
According to eagle-eyed viewers, the stars were cut on all three Chinese streamers having broadcast rights. Among other things, LGBTQ connotations were deleted.
— Students for a Free Tibet (@SFTHQ) July 21, 2017
It’s believed that the stars’ film was modified after they were previously accused of offending China.
In China, the American show is highly popular, and censorship has enraged fans.
“Please assist me! Is it possible that we will never progress and change? This has piqued my interest in learning more about the cut sequences “On the microblogging platform Weibo, one user made a comment.
Some fans have now found and posted the removed bits on social media on their own, while others have spread links to the whole show, which is hosted on piracy sites and is uncensored.
Friends have a huge fan base in China, and many Chinese millennials credit the show with introducing them to American culture and teaching them English.
The reunion show included celebrity and fan interviews, as well as all six major cast members discussing their experiences on the iconic series.
It’s unclear whether the government issued a censorship order or if streaming sites such as iQiyi, Youku, and Tencent Video imposed restriction on their own to prevent “politically sensitive” information from being broadcast.
Many fans noticed that the censorship was not uniform: iQiyi’s version had the shortest running length, at least six minutes shorter than the original 1hr 44min. The version on Tencent Video was censored for nearly five minutes, while the version on Youku was censored for almost four minutes.
BTS, Lady Gaga, and Justin Bieber aren’t the only celebrities that have upset China.
Last year, there were calls in China to boycott the South Korean boy band BTS because of statements made by one of its members concerning the Korean War.
Band leader RM had noted in a speech that South Korea and the United States shared a “history of pain” during the 1950-53 battle, in which the two countries fought together. Given Beijing’s support for the North in the crisis, his remarks outraged Chinese social media users.
The superstars were featured in a 13-second segment in the uncut Friends reunion episode, commenting about their appreciation for the show, with RM noting that the sitcom had taught him “the things about life and true friendship.”
Meanwhile, following her 2016 encounter with the Dalai Lama, American singer-songwriter Lady Gaga has been barred from performing in China. She outraged Chinese officials by expressing support for the Tibetan spiritual leader, who is seen as a symbol of Tibetan independence.
Because of the edit, her appearance in the Friends special, in which she sings the popular Smelly Cat song with Lisa Kudrow from the sitcom, would not have been broadcast on Chinese television. Justin Bieber’s presence in the show dressed as Spudnik – the potato and satellite-combination outfit that Friends reunion character Ross famously wore to a Halloween party – was also missed by Chinese viewers.
The Canadian pop star has been forbidden from performing in China due to “bad behavior.”When he shared a photo of himself visiting the infamous Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo in 2014, he sparked outrage. In China and South Korea, the shrine, which honours dead warriors and pays tribute to convicted war criminals, is considered a symbol of Japan’s refusal to apologize for its imperial past.