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Friends gay storylines censored in China, sparking backlash

China's government banned depictions of "sissy" men from TV last September.

By Jamie Tabberer

Words: Jamie Tabberer; picture: NBC

Chinese censors have removed gay-related storylines from a re-release of iconic US series Friends.

The NBC show, which originally ran from 1994 to 2004, featured a prominent same-sex couple in the form of Ross’s ex-wife Carol and her partner Susan.

However, fans noticed scenes featuring the characters – played by Jane Sibbett and Jessica Hecht, respectively – were absent when the show became available for streaming on various entertainment platforms including Bilibili, Youku, Sohu, Tencent and iQiyi, last Friday (11 February). 

In the pilot, conversations between Ross and Joey about Carol’s sexuality had also been tweaked. Also cut is a scene where Joey and Chandler share a New Year’s Eve kiss. 

The show has previously aired uncensored in China.

“Don’t dare to show completely gay content”

The censorship has become a trending topic on social media platform Weibo. According to The Guardian, one Chinese Friends fan complained: “Covering your mouth and ears does not mean non-existence.”

Another added: “In today’s China, under a similar environment, not only is there no TV drama with high popularity and high reputation, which can insert gay characters into the play in a similar way, but even introduced foreign TV shows don’t dare to completely show gay content.

“I don’t understand why this line was cut, why it’s still the same here after 30 years, we are even going backwards.”

Last year, Chinese censors also cut gay references from HBO Max’s Friends: The Reunion special.

The Chinese government then made headlines last September after banning depictions of effeminate men from TV. According to The Advocate, the National Radio and TV Administration told broadcasters to “resolutely put an end to sissy men and other abnormal esthetics.”

Tencent also made headlines last month after releasing a version of the Brad Pitt-starring film Fight Club, but with a different ending that saw the state foil the main character’s plot.

Check out the Attitude February issue, out now.

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