It is not something new, but for some time now, it has been surprising how ferociously the Chinese authorities are modifying some of their American releases. Beyond studios such as Disney that self-censor their own films so that they can reach the country, there are recent cases such as Bohemian Rhapsody, who lost scenes along the way on account of his LGTB content. Friends: The Reunion, the launch that everyone is talking about, has not been spared this censorship either, and its treatment in China has channeled various international tensions through the elimination of six minutes for the premiere on the platforms of streaming iQiyi, Youku y Tencent Video.
The original duration of Friends: The Reunion, originally released on HBO Max, is from 1:43:50. After experiencing various outages, iQiyi appeared with 1:37:54, on Youku with 1:40:16 and on Tencent Video with 1:39:23, so that hours later these last two services equaled the footage of iQiyi. What has been lost? As collected Variety, guest artist appearances Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga and the K-pop band BTS, along with the statements of two gay fans, the mention of the time Joey and Chandler originated on Monica to help her with a jellyfish sting, and the scene in which Joey himself appeared in his underwear with a photo of David Schwimmer.
What is the point of these omissions? Well, to begin with, BTS has a complicated relationship with the Chinese government, since a few months ago it accepted an award celebrating its contribution to relations between the US and South Korea. During the event, none of the members of the band mentioned the death of Chinese soldiers during the Korean War, something that provoked harsh criticism from Chinese nationalist groups. Lady Gaga, meanwhile, was declared “non grata” in the country for meeting in 2016 with the Dalai Lama, and Justin Bieber was criticized in 2014 for being photographed at the Yasukuni war shrine in Tokyo.
This shrine honors the Japanese soldiers of World War II, and as a result of this the Beijing Municipal Office of Culture, a year later, formally prohibited the singer from acting within its borders, for its “bad behaviors” both on and off stage. In the original cut of Friends: The Reunion BTS appeared in an interview expressing their love for the series, while Lady Gaga played Smelly Cat next to Lisa Kudrow. In the Chinese version, Kudrow only appears singing a verse to move on to the next scene, and there is no trace of Justin Bieber disguised as Sputnik during the costume parade that occurs at a certain point in the special.
What happened to the fans?
Not only the stars of music have disappeared in the Chinese montage of Friends: The Reunion: The same has also happened with two LGTB fans who told on camera how much the original series had helped them years ago. Ricardo, a German spectator, recounted: “I was a man gay that she wanted to have hair like Jennifer Aniston; you can imagine how lonely I felt sometimes “. While a young woman, shortly after, encouraged her girlfriend to appear on the plane saying “Like all Chandler, I finally found my Monica.”
It is still too early to assess the reactions to this aggressive edition of The Reunion, although several fans have already claimed to be “Bewildered” after stumbling upon the mutilated version of a long-awaited show. “Are we returning to the isolationist Qing dynasty, closed to the rest of the world?”asked a user on social networks. The truth is FriendsAs it happens in many parts of the world, it is a mass phenomenon in China, with such enormous fan support that no expense was spared when it came to acquiring the format from HBO Max.
And indeed the audiences of iQiyi, Youku and Tencent Video have accompanied, but once the censorship has been discovered the consequences have gone far beyond the specific complaints. Part of the public, fed up with this type of movement, has decided to get pirated copies of Friends: The ReunionWhile even a platform like Bilibili has managed to release an uncensored version, and of course without government authorization.
Do you want to be up to date with all the latest movies and series? Sign up for our newsletter.