Friends Censored In China To Remove Any Mention Of Carol Being A Lesbian

In the latest disappointing censorship news out of China, fans of the American sitcom "Friends," are outraged to discover that the re-release of the popular series has been greatly censored. In a not-so-shocking development, it turns out that any moment referencing LGBTQIA+ themes or sex has been modified or straight-up edited out.

The editing was noticed immediately, as the first episode of the series shows Ross (David Schwimmer) informing his parents that he and his wife Carol (Anita Barone for one episode and Jane Sibbett for the rest of the series) are splitting up because she's come out as a lesbian. In the new Chinese edit, he tells his parents that they are getting a divorce, and the scene cuts to their shocked reaction. In season 1, episode 10 "The One With The Monkey" a New Year's Eve kiss shared between Chandler (Matthew Perry) and Joey (Matt LeBlanc) has been completely omitted.

As Jiayun Feng reported for SupChina, this change is massive, as "Friends" is one of the most beloved foreign television shows in the country. "Since its original run, from 1994 to 2004, the series has not only entertained a generation of Chinese viewers, but also inspired its learning of the English language and influenced its understanding of American culture," Feng said. "Last year, when a reunion special of the show aired, it prompted watching parties, emotional essays, and trending hashtags on Chinese social media." The censorship changes have sparked an outrage from fans, who believe that this act of censorship is moving culture backward.

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In the second episode, the word "lesbian" is still spoken by the characters, but the Chinese subtitles allegedly chose to ignore it in translation. In "The One With Joey's Dirty Day," the suggestion to go to a strip club is translated as "going out to have fun," and in "The One with the East German Laundry Detergent," Ross' acknowledgement that women can have multiple orgasms is mistranslated to women "having endless gossip."

The changes have become a trend since Xi Jinping came into power in 2012, enforcing traditional gender roles to the point where portraying effeminate men has been explicitly banned. According to Feng, the hashtag "Friends is censored" #老友记删减#" was the most trending topic on Friday night on Weibo, but the tag had been censored by Saturday morning and searching for the tag results in the message "This topic is not shown according to relevant laws and regulations." The complaints have mostly been noticed in season 1 episodes, so there's no telling how the storyline of Chandler's transgender parent is going to go, if it even exists.

While censorship is hardly new in China, it is a concerning sign of what may become possible in other parts of the world. America is currently battling "Don't Say Gay" laws which look to criminalize any discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in the classroom, and would require teachers to out queer students to their parents if they disclose to someone at school that they identify as LGBTQIA+. Americans love to imagine ourselves as a "free country," and on a superior moral compass compared to countries like China, but it's hard to see much of a difference between banning Carol's lesbian status on a show from nearly 30 years ago and banning the mention of the word "gay" in a classroom in 2022. Censorship is censorship and homophobia is homophobia no matter what environment it exists in.