China censors Friends reunion, cutting Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, and BTS from the special
The three guest stars did not appear in the reunion special when it aired on China streaming platforms.
One of the ways Friends earned its place as the most iconic and popular sitcom was due to its global reach. Not only was the show translated into multiple foreign languages, but it also helped overseas teenagers — like those in China — learn about the American lifestyle. The country even acquired three major streaming platforms to broadcast the show to fans: iQiyi, Alibaba's Youku, and Tencent Video.
But when the long-awaited reunion aired this week, die-hard fans in China were surprised to find that some of the most popular guest segments featuring stars like BTS, Lady Gaga, and Justin Bieber, had been cut from the broadcast. According to Variety, reports also claim that China erased all LGBTQ references from the special, including a reflection from a German Friends fan named Ricardo who talked about how, as a gay man who wanted to "have hair like Jennifer Aniston," the show helped him feel like he belonged.
Fans missed out on Gaga's Smelly Cat duet with Lisa Kudrow, reflections from BTS who watched the show as young kids, and Bieber dressed in the popular potato costume as "Spudnick." There's no official confirmation on whether the edits were done due to time constraints or because of political reasons, as all three of the cut guest stars have had less than favorable reactions with the Chinese government over the years.
In October, BTS honored Korean War veterans, saying "we will always remember the history of pain that our two nations shared together and the sacrifices of countless men and women." The comment upset Chinese state media, as China fought with North Korea during that time. As for Lady Gaga, a meeting with Tibet's Dalai Lama in June caused her music to be banned from China as the Dalai Lama has been living in exile since 1959. Bieber has also been banned from performing in China for the outlandish behavior he exhibited during his "Believe" world tour (which included antics such as being carried up the Great Wall by two bodyguards.)
Yes, Friends is universally beloved — but in China, they might as well have titled the reunion episode "The One Where The Guest Stars Were Censored."