It happened, the "Friends" reunion has officially been released, but it appears Chinese viewers are quite upset, because not everyone was there for them. The show has been edited, with Chinese streaming companies censoring bits that were deemed offensive or didn't fall in line with the country's cultural policies.
Reports say the length of the show varied depending on which streaming service viewers used, a sign, which media outlets say, suggests that a government regulator did not advise the companies and the latter made the decision on their own.
Who (What) is Missing?
Warning: spoiler alert! The show featured several high-profile guest appearances. Lady Gaga sang the iconic song Smelly Cat with Phoebe, portrayed by Lisa Kudrow. In China, the singer has been persona non grata since 2016 when she met with exiled Tibetan leader Dalai Lama. Beijing couldn't keep a poker face as they deemed Gaga was supporting Tibetan separatism.
Singer Justin Bieber appeared on the show dressed as Spudnik, a funny costume Ross, portrayed by David Schwimmer, once wore on Halloween. Bieber may have less awards and hits compared to Gaga, but his 2014 visit to Japan's controversial Yasukuni Shrine sparked a bigger uproar than Gaga's meeting with the Dalai Lama. The Tokyo shrine pays tribute to Japanese soldiers, including those that fought on the side of Nazi Germany during the Second World War.
World famous K-pop band BTS was too censored in the show. During their appearances, members of the band praised the sitcom, which they said taught them "things about life and true friendship".
Last year, BTS caused anger in China after the band's leader made a statement on the Korean War, while accepting a prize in the United States. RM said the two countries shared "a history of pain", referring to US support for South Korea during the 1950-1953 conflict, during which China fought on the side of North Korea.
All references about the LGBTQ community were censored as well. During the show, one gay man spoke about how the show gave him a sense of belonging.
Reaction of Fans
As mentioned earlier, "Friends" is extremely popular in China and it appears that the censoring of the show didn’t go down well with the multi-million army of the sitcom's fans.
"This is insane, if you introduce the show to China, don't cut the scene. If you have to cut it, then don't introduce it. What's the point of eating this castrated content?", one fan wrote.
"Help! Are we never going to move on and change? This will just make me want to find out more about the cut scenes", wrote another.
Yet, there were those that sided with the streaming services, saying the show itself is to blame for be censored.
"It's good to cut it. All the cut parts are done by entertainers who insulted China. Don't let some rat feces spoil the whole pot of congee", wrote one user.
The development comes several days after wrestler-turned actor John Cena recorded an apology to China in Chinese after he called Taiwan, which China considers parts of its territory, "the first country" to be able to see the latest "Fast & Furious" movie.
China has become a lucrative market for celebrities, who either refrain from or apologise after making comments that are deemed offensive in the country. However, some celebrities refuse to cave in to pressure. Reports say Quentin Tarantino's latest movie "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" was banned in China after the film director refused to cut out a scene that portrayed legendary martial artist Bruce Lee, a hero to many in China, in an unflattering light.