(NEXSTAR) – One “Friends” character can’t be there for you if you’re watching in China. In the most recent high-profile censoring of American imports, one Chinese streaming service has axed mentions of a character from the beloved NBC sitcom.
On Monday, the Washington Post reported Chinese customers of the video site Bilibili say references to the character Ross’ (David Schwimmer) ex-wife Carol, who is a lesbian, were cut out of the show.
A clip shared on Twitter shows one English-dubbed scene, when Ross tells his parents his ex-wife is gay. Ross can be heard sighing before saying, “Well… here’s the deal.” After this, the line about Carol is completely dropped. Instead, the characters sit in awkward silence before the live audience starts laughing, Ross’ parents look at each other incredulously and Ross’ mom turns to Monica, his sister, and says, “You knew about this?”
In the original scene, Ross can be heard saying, “Carol is a lesbian. She’s living with a woman named Susan. She’s pregnant with my child and she and Susan are going to raise the baby.”
LGBT themes and plots are very commonly pruned from non-Chinese TV and films when they release in China, as these communities are still considered controversial for some. Depictions of gay people are banned on both broadcast TV and streaming per the Chinese government.
While some references to homosexuality are able to skate through the cracks (Disney’s live-action “Beauty and the Beast”), some films are completely altered or never even released, Variety reports. The Oscar-winning “Bohemian Rhapsody” was stripped of references to Queen leader singer Freddie Mercury’s sexuality, while the 2017 romance “Call Me By Your Name” has never been released in the country.
In September, China’s National Radio and Television Administration (NRTA) also announced a ban on “effeminate” male aesthetics – like those popularized by Asian social media influencers and pop stars – from being depicted or featured on TV.
Hollywood is increasingly depending on Chinese releases for profitability, all while American films make efforts to become more inclusive. The struggle has resulted in unsatisfactory LGBT representation: blink-and-you’ll-miss-it references or scenes that can be easily cut.
Monday, Washington Post says Bilibili users also reported altered “Friends” dialogue involving strip clubs and “multiple orgasms.” Recently, Chinese streamer Tencent Video altered the ending of David Fincher’s 1999 film “Fight Club” to depict anarchist lead character Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) as being caught for his explosive crimes.
Homosexuality was only decriminalized in China in 1997 and removed from the country’s list of mental illnesses in 2001.