First, China banned late-night gaming and even femininity in men—not a simple task, one may say. But the country went for it—then Ross Geller’s suspended 22 K-pop accounts on its social media site Weibo. Now, it’s been revealed that Chinese streaming platforms Tencent, Youku, Bilibili, and IQiyi have removed references to Carol Willick. Ross Geller’s ex-wife and a lesbian character and politically sensitive images. And sexually suggestive language from the hit sitcom Friends. Which returned to the services this month. Understandably, the move caused fans of the TV show to express their anger on social media.
In the first episode of the show, conversations regarding Carol. Ross mentions that “there was only one woman” for Carol in the original version. Who leaves him for her friend Susan Bunch. While his friend Joey asks him if he ever knew she was a lesbian, Bloomberg cited this example reporting on the censorship, “In the original episode, Ross tells his parents, ‘So, here’s the deal: Carol’s a lesbian. She’s living with a woman named Susan. She’s pregnant with my child.
And she and Susan are going to raise the baby.’ His parents look at each other in shock. In China, the scene skips from ‘Here’s the deal’ to the parents looking shocked.”
Fans have since taken to Weibo to protest censorship of the show, with #FriendsCensored becoming the most trending hashtag on the site. Many users mocked this as an “insult to [they’re] English language ability.” One Weibo user said: “Not only does it ignore women’s sexual desire and enjoyment, but also reinforces the gender stereotype of women.” This comment received over 81,000 likes. Comments by viewers on the Bilibili streaming service criticized the changes for rendering plotlines incomprehensible.
Earlier this year, censors rewrote the ending of the David Fincher movie Fight Club. They were replacing its iconic final scene with a line of on-screen text declaring that all criminals were brought to justice. Before returning to Chinese screens, Friends debuted on the country’s streaming platforms Sohu video and iQiyi in 2012 without any censorship and was available to watch until its streaming agreement ended in 2013.