In other cases, the Chinese subtitles differed from the English dialogue. When Joey recommends a smitten Ross, recently left by his wife, to go to a striptease, his advice translates into encouraging Ross to “go out and have some fun”. In another episode, a reference to “multiple orgasms” is turned into a comment about women “having endless gossip”.
Few TV shows, let alone imported from overseas, inspire as much devotion in China as “Friends,” which spans generations from nostalgic millennials who used it to learn English in the 1990s to young Chinese urbanites who see in the show their own struggles to do this in the big city. Fans had been anticipating its airing on platforms like Tencent, Youku, iQiyi and Bilibili, which started streaming the show on Friday.
Known in Chinese as the “Chronicle of Old Friends”, the show’s popularity has persisted over the years. In the 1990s and 2000s, “Friends,” viewed via digital files and pirated DVDs, provided insight into American life at a time when China’s economy and society were just beginning to open up.
Today, its charm as an apolitical depiction of utopian city life continues to comfort many exhausted young Chinese professionals. On Douban, two fan clubs dedicated to “Friends” have more than 100,000 members, while its fan page on Weibo has more than 100,000 fans and more than 570 million views.
Last year, when the show held a reunion special, Chinese fans left work and crowded into “friends” themed cafes to watch what state news agency Xinhua said. described as a “nostalgic and heartbreaking tribute”. In trials, several have described crying during this.
The creative editing of the show, which previously aired uncensored on Sohu and iQiyi platforms before streaming deals expired, comes as Chinese regulators tighten their scrutiny of media, including censoring LGBTQ content. and banning depictions of effeminate men.
Last month, the ending of the movie “Fight Club” was changed on Tencent’s streaming site. In this version, viewers were told that Chinese law enforcement had successfully stopped character Tyler Durden’s plan to blow up several buildings. The original ending was restored after complaints.
On Monday, discussion of changes to “Friends” appeared to have been censored. On Weibo, the hashtag #FriendsCensored was among the most popular discussion topics on Friday night before being deleted the next morning.
Still, fans were able to air their grievances with the changes to their beloved show, wondering why references to a lesbian character had to be removed or why censors chose to insert stereotypes about women. “I would say civilization is moving backwards,” said one.
“From all over the world, we are the ones who are so fragile that we cannot look at this [show]another commenter said. “A 30 year old show came up 30 years later. It’s hilarious,” one user replied.
Pei-Lin Wu in Taipei and Lyric Li in Seoul contributed to this report.