‘Friends’ Reunion: The One Where They Get Censored in China

In China, the reunion episode of “Friends” was all about grudges.

The drawback wasn’t “Friends,” however the pals of “Friends.”

Appearances by Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber and the Ok-pop group BTS had been dropped from completely different variations of the much-anticipated particular once they streamed on Thursday on three Chinese video platforms.

Each lacking cameo concerned a star or group that had been a previous goal of Beijing’s ire, and followers suspected the present was caught in censorship gear.

Lady Gaga has been verboten in China since she met with the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan non secular chief, in 2016. Justin Bieber’s troubles with China started in 2014, when he posted a photograph from the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, which honors Japan’s battle lifeless, together with battle criminals from World War II. And the South Korean music group BTS uncared for final 12 months to say the sacrifice of China’s troops when recalling the ache of the Korean War — although the troops fought on the facet of North Korea.

One lacking clip was a duet between Lady Gaga and Lisa Kudrow as they sang her character Phoebe’s jingle, “Smelly Cat.” Also lacking in the Chinese broadcasts had been recollections from BTS members of watching the present once they had been youthful and an look by Mr. Bieber dressed as “Spudnik,” as David Schwimmer’s character did in an episode.

The particular, which premiered on Thursday on HBO Max in the United States, introduced the solid of the 1990s sitcom again collectively for reminiscences and performances. It was a significant viewing occasion in China, the place the present is beloved, in half by a millennial technology that grew up watching it on DVD and infrequently used it to be taught English. The sitcom was so in style that in main Chinese cities, it spawned look-alike fan cafes of the present’s espresso store, Central Perk.

Some fan accounts on social media famous that the lengths of every model of the particular different, relying on which streaming web site customers watched it, a probable indication that the net video platforms had reduce the present on their very own to keep away from any potential grief with China’s watchful web regulator.

The incident is the second reminder in every week of the ability China wields over Hollywood stars and Beijing’s willingness to chop celebrities from its large market in the event that they diverge from its political dogma. This week, John Cena, the skilled wrestler and a star of the latest “Fast and Furious” film, apologized after he referred to Taiwan as a country in an interview. China considers the self-ruled island to be part of its territory.

Faced with being reduce off from enterprise in China, and its beneficial field workplace, most celebrities have tried to keep away from delicate topics in China, like Tibet, Taiwan, Xinjiang and protests in Hong Kong.

On Chinese social media, nostalgia for “Friends” overwhelmed dialogue of the censorship on Friday. Still, some grumbled.

“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?” wrote one fan.

Others had been completely satisfied to take a break from celebrities they believed had insulted China.

“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.

“For these entertainers who insulted China and support independence for Hong Kong, Taiwan and Tibet, it’s natural to cut their parts,” added one other.

Lin Qiqing contributed analysis.

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