- LGBT groups and Warner Bros. are silent after scenes containing sexually explicit material and LGBT content were censored in the Chinese streaming version of the Emmy Award-winning American sitcom “Friends.”
- Only season one has been made available in the re-release, it is already apparent censors intend to excise all content the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) finds objectionable, including, but not limited to, sexually suggestive material and LGBT content.
- The new release of “Friends” is not the first instance of the PRC censoring LGBT content within inbound foreign entertainment, such as when the Propaganda Department of the Chinese Communist Party censored the homosexual background of the lead singer of Queen, Freddie Mercury, in “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
LGBT groups and Warner Bros. are silent after scenes containing sexually explicit material and LGBT content were censored in the Chinese streaming version of the Emmy Award-winning American sitcom “Friends.”
While there are many instances of People’s Republic of China (PRC) censors altering Western entertainment — including the 2015 marketing of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” when the image of the black character, Finn, was reduced in size on the promotional poster — it is unclear whether Chinese officials or Warner Bros. itself altered the material.
Star Wars' Finn (who happens to be black) and Chewbacca (happens to be Wookiee) get shafted in China. HT @asmuniz pic.twitter.com/ATpvcd51L6
— Ray 鄺羡華 (@raykwong) December 1, 2015
The Daily Caller News Foundation reached out to Warner Bros. concerning the details of its licensing agreement with PRC streaming platforms, but the company did not respond to request for comment.
We celebrate LGBTQ+ artists, employees & fans and are proud of our stories that represent the LGBTQ+ experience, but acknowledge we have more to do. We are committing to tell more, authentic LGBTQ+ stories, nurture queer talent & harness our resources to advocate for equality. pic.twitter.com/c4oG6NFg6d
— Warner Bros. (@warnerbros) June 24, 2020
DCNF also contacted LGBT activist groups GLAAD and Human Rights Campaign, however they too did not make themselves available for comment.
Although “Friends” ran uncensored on PRC streaming platforms between 2012 and 2013, since Feb. 11, 2022, Chinese platforms Youku, iQIyi, Bilibili, and Tencent Video only offer censored versions.
Only season one has been made available in the re-release, it is already apparent censors intend to excise all content the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) finds objectionable, including, but not limited to, sexually suggestive material and LGBT content.
As the series took as its premise the interlocking love lives of six people, the censorship of the PRC’s episodes of “Friends” has drastically altered show, as topics such as strip clubs and orgasms have been harmonized, and several LGBT scenes and whole plot lines have been erased.
The entire backstory of the show’s protagonist, Ross, played by David Schwimmer, has been significantly modified in the new PRC streaming version, censors having removed all mention of Ross’s lesbian ex-wife divorcing him after embracing her homosexuality, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The PRC streaming of “Friends” also features the targeted removal of specific scenes which censors find objectionable. In episode 10 of the first season, “The One With The Monkey,” even a scene featuring a New Year’s kiss played as a gag between male characters Joey and Chandler — portrayed by Matt Leblanc and Matthew Perry, respectively — found itself on the cutting room floor, according to The Wrap.
Sexually charged content and LGBT material is not unique to the first season of “Friends,” a long-running show which aired between 1994 and 2004.
Later seasons of “Friends” feature increasingly graphic comedic bits, such as when Courtney Cox’s character, Monica, described seven erogenous zones to Chandler in “The One With Phoebe’s Uterus,” during season 4, episode 11.
In like manner, same-sex kissing between women is depicted on more than one occasion throughout the run of “Friends,” including in season 7, episode 20, “The One With Rachel’s Big Kiss,” which not only features a kiss between Jennifer Aniston’s character, Rachel, and Winona Ryder’s character, Melissa, but also a kiss between Rachel and Lisa Kudrow’s character, Phoebe.
By series end, “Friends” also included many additional LGBT scenes between male cast members PRC censors would purportedly find objectionable.
While it did not turn out to be so, beginning as early as season one, other characters suspected Chandler to be gay, such as his work colleagues. Even still, this bit was revisited many times, including in season 5, episode 5, “The One With The Kips,” in which Joey suspects Chandler to have been on a “gay cruise.” What’s more, later seasons came to explore Chandler’s relationship with his gay father who was revealed to be a drag queen working in Las Vegas.
Notwithstanding the heterosexual kissing in “Friends,” the series filmed almost all of the same-sex kissing from an angle which concealed most, if not all, of the embrace.
However, season 10, episode 1, “The One After Joey And Rachel Kiss,” broke this trend and was shot so as to put the kiss between Joey and Ross on full display.
The new release of “Friends” is not the first instance of the PRC censoring LGBT content within inbound foreign entertainment, such as when the Propaganda Department of the Chinese Communist Party censored the homosexual background of the lead singer of Queen, Freddie Mercury, in “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
The PRC drive to censor such content stems directly from the General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Xi Jinping who, as recently as December 2021, has made it clear he seeks to ensure all art and literature “serve the party.”
Xi has implemented increasingly tight internet regulations and enforces strict adherence to CCP doctrine, a worldview which regards the West’s promotion of “universal values” as “an attempt to weaken the theoretical foundations of the Party’s leadership,” according to leaked PRC documents.
The media and entertainment environment in the PRC is explicitly hostile to LGBT content, which the CCP perceives as a potential vehicle for “counterrevolutionary” thought. In past year, the PRC has issued an outright ban on “sissy men” and a Jiangsu court upheld the usage of teaching materials which classified homosexuality as a “psychological disorder.”
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