Chinese fans of “Friends” are angry after the show is re-run with censorship

FILE PHOTO: “Friends” actors appear in the photo room at the 54th Annual Emmy Awards in Los Angeles on September 22, 2002. From left, David Schwimmer, Lisa Kudrow, Matthew Perry, Courteney Cox Arquette, Jennifer Aniston, and Matt LeBlanc. Photograph: Mike Blake/Reuters

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BEIJING (Reuters) – Chinese fans of the American sitcom “Friends” have expressed their displeasure online after noticing the censorship of recently released episodes of the beloved show, including gay issues.

Many major Chinese broadcasting sites, including Tencent (0700.HK)IQiyi Inc in Baidu (IQ.O)Yoko Ali Baba and Bilibili (9626.HK)A copy of the show’s first season premiered on Friday, its first re-release in China in several years.

But fans soon noticed that parts of the long-running show were different from what they’d seen before and complained about censorship that included the removal of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender-related content, as well as mistranslations.

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In one example, a conversation in which a lead character, Ross, explained that his wife was a lesbian was deleted.

Another scene where another character, Joey, suggested that going to the “bar joint” was translated as “going out to play” in the version shown on Tencent’s video. Reuters has confirmed that Tencent’s re-release season version includes those changes.

In recent years, China has shut down tens of thousands of websites and social media accounts that contained what it said were illegal content as well as “obscene” and pornographic material.

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One user of the Chinese Twitter-like Weibo website said: “I firmly boycott the castrated version of ‘Friends’.

Another said, “This is a classic sacrilege.”

A third user said “If you can’t show the full version under the current atmoshphere, don’t import it.”

The discussion was a “hot topic” on Weibo on Sunday.

But in a sign, the discussion itself may have caught the attention of the censors, searches on Weibo on Sunday for several variations of the hashtag or search term #Friendshasbeencensored yielded no results or limited results recently.

“Friends” has a wide fan base in China. Many watched it on pirated DVDs or downloads after the Season 10 show that first aired in the 1990s.

The company said Chinese streaming website SOHU TV bought the rights to broadcast the show, but that expired in 2018.

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(Reporting: Alby Chang and Martin Quinn Pollard) Editing by Lincoln Fest.

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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