China’s three top streaming platforms carved out appearances by Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber and LGBTQ fans from HBO’s much-anticipated “Friends: The Reunion,” infuriating fans.
Also cut from the program that debuted Thursday: South Korean boy band BTS, a shot of Matt LeBlanc’s Joey in his underwear, and a reference to peeing on a jellyfish sting, Variety and Agence France Presse reported.
About six minutes were censored in the 104-minute program resurrecting the long-time American sitcom about six New York friends, which has a massive fan base in China. China’s iQiyi, Alibaba’s Youku and Tencent Video cut many of the same scenes, Variety noted.
The full HBO Max version included Gaga singing “Smelly Cat” with Lisa Kudrow’s Phoebe (check it out up top). She thanks Kudrow for being “the different one, the one who was really herself” on the show. The Chinese version had Kudrow singing a single lyric alone.
Lady Gaga was banned from touring in China after she met in 2016 with exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, whom China has described as a dangerous separatist.
Bieber’s funny strut down a catwalk in the wacky “Spudnik” potato costume that Ross wore for Halloween in a season 8 episode also completely vanished in the Chinese reunion versions.
Bieber was banned from performing in China for a “series of bad behaviors,” including a 2014 visit to Tokyo’s Yasukuni war shrine, which honors Japanese war dead, including World War II war criminals.
Fans in China were furious about the cuts.
“I’m fxxking speechless. Either give us the unedited version or never broadcast the clip. What is the point of watching the censored version?” asked @Maidoufudaye on Weibo, The Guardian reported.
“Is homosexual … anti-China?” asked another Weibo user.
Another complained: “Are we reverting to the isolationist Qing dynasty, closed off to the rest of the world?”
BTS was also erased from Chinese versions of the reunion special. Last October, China nationalists slammed BTS for failing to mention Chinese soldiers’ sacrifices in the Korean War during the band’s acceptance speech for a prize celebrating the group’s contribution to American-South Korea relations.
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