HBO Max’s highly anticipated “Friends” reunion was edited upon its release on Chinese streaming services, according to reports.
Appearances on the nearly two-hour special by Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber and the K-pop group BTS were trimmed from the special on three Chinese streamers — iQiyi, Youku and Tencent Video — according to the The New York Times. Fans who spotted the missing cameos were quick to suspect censorship by the Chinese government, the report said, but it remains unclear if the cuts came at the direction of the government or were an attempt by the platforms to head off potential complaints.
Also missing were references to LGBTQ+ topics, as well as a scene from the original series in which Monica (Courteney Cox) talks about having urinated on Chandler’s (Matthew Perry) leg after a jellyfish sting. All three platforms cut different material, with iQiyi removing a total of six minutes, Youku cutting four and Tencent five.
Lady Gaga appeared in the Ben Winston-directed special to perform the song “Smelly Cat” with Lisa Kudrow. She has been banned from touring in China since 2016, when she met with the Dalai Lama. BTS were featured briefly to discuss their love of the NBC sitcom as international fans, but have been controversial in China since the band’s leader neglected to mention Chinese troops in comments about the death toll of Korean War.
Bieber is also banned from China for “bad behavior” during past tour stops in the country. He also drew the ire of the Chinese government in 2014 when he shared a picture of himself at the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, which pays tribute to fallen Japanese soldiers, including some who are viewed as war criminals by China.