At least six minutes of Friends: The Reunion were censored by multiple streaming platforms in China when it premiered worldwide on Thursday across several streaming apps.
According to Variety, platforms like iQiyi, Youku, and Tencent Video not only edited out the parts featuring BTS, Lady Gaga, and Justin Bieber, they also censored LGBTQ+ references and a shot of actor Matt Leblanc in his underwear.
The reasons for the censorship were attributed to the artists’ history with the Chinese government.
Lady Gaga guest-starred on the episode and sang Smelly Cat (a tune composed by the character Phoebe Buffay) alongside Friends actor Lisa Kudrow. This portion was cut since Gaga had met Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama in 2016.
In 2014, Bieber got into trouble after he posted a photo of himself at the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo. The shrine is considered controversial as it honours both war criminals as well as casualties from World War II. Bieber has been banned from performing in China as the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Culture felt that his behaviour was bad both on-stage and off-stage. This resulted in the singer’s appearance in the potato costume “Spudnik” (a Halloween costume donned by the character Ross Geller in an episode) being omitted from the special.
During the episode, the hit South Korean boy band BTS spoke about their fond memories associated with the show. The clip was cut as China took offence as the band did not mention the sacrifices of Chinese troops during the Korean War. During an award show, they acknowledged the pain of South Korean and American troops but failed to mention the Chinese troops which had fought alongside North Korea during the war.
The three platforms also cut references to the LGTBQ+ community, including a statement made by a German fan who said, “I was a gay man who wanted to have hair like Jennifer Aniston, so you can imagine how lonely I sometimes felt.”
Despite the edits, the special was well-received in China. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the episode has a rating of 9.5/10 on the Chinese TV and movie review site Douban.
Friends: The Reunion is currently streaming in India on Zee5.