The Advocate July/Aug 2022
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Friends' Lesbian Storyline Censored in China

Image of Ross and Carol with Carol's girlfriend

After a Chinese re-release of the sitcom Friends, some fans have accused the Chinese government of censorship after scenes featuring Ross’s ex-wife, Carol, who is a lesbian, were excluded from the program.

Last Friday, several platforms began running the first season of Friends, which first premiered in 1994, The Guardian reports.

Some viewers who were already familiar with the series realized that the scenes had been cut. The outlet notes that viewers also reported that lines from LGBTQ+ characters on the show had been taken out or mistranslated.

On the Chinese microblogging platform Weibo, the alleged Friends censorship saw tens of millions of hashtags and comments.

“Covering your mouth and ears does not mean non-existence,” one Weibo user wrote.

Another user asked what the censors would do when Phoebe agrees to serve as a surrogate for her brother.

One user commended Friends for even having LGBTQ+ characters on its first season, when queer characters were largely missing from television.

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

The Guardian reports that the criticism of the censorship was even censored as it was replaced with “Why is Friends so popular?”

The show is immensely popular in the country and had been available to stream online in its original version until 2018. However, Chinese President Xi Jinping has ushered in a new era of censorship in recent years that has largely targeted non-traditional families and values.

For instance, in 2016, a ban took place on showing queer people on TV. Then, last year, so-called “sissy men” were banned from TV. LGBTQ+ rights groups at universities have been shut down as well.

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