CW: This article mentions sexual abuse and assault

With the recent censorship, and then reversal, of the movie ‘Fight Club’ still in the news, Chinese censors have decided that mere mentions of same-sex relations are simply too much for audiences.

The TV show ‘Friends’ has long been popular in China. The original series was released in all is uncensored glory back in the early 2010s in China. Later the streaming agreement ran out and that was the end of the show that one could call mildly entertaining if they were watching it in their second language. However, with recent love for the show rising again thanks to a special from last year entitled ‘Friends: The Reunion’.

While I probably would have gone with ‘Meta Friends’ or ‘Friends talking Friends with Friends’, the title they went with tells you all you need to know about the new special. When the cast got together to do what amounts to a video podcast about their show that ended nearly 20 years ago, people apparently around the world lost their collective minds. China being a hyper capitalist nation solely concerned with turning a profit, well that and becoming the world’s singular hegemonic superpower, had to get the rights.

Numerous streaming platforms in China began streaming the series on February 11th of this year. Many people who wanted to watch it had already seen the series before being it was available in its entirety previously (also China has an overflowing illegal streaming and bootleg DVD market). So of course fans of the series quickly took to social media to complain about censorship of the show. Then, as often is the case, censors censored criticism of their censorship.

It seems that the CCP decided to cut various sexually suggestive plotlines and clips of dialogue that included at least one lesbian subplot. One such instance was regarding one character, Ross, discussing how women can have multiple orgasms (I assume he googled this). This choice seems telling as it is likely CCP officials don’t want this sort of top secret information getting out. Perhaps even more offensive that cutting out the line was what they chose to replace it with though, “Women have endless gossips.” Yep, they really thought that was better.

The censors also decided to cut a lesbian plotline in which Ross’s ex-wife divorces him after she figures out that she is a lesbian, which is a double no-no for China. This has been increasing true over the past few years as China has sought to reverse the gender imbalance and imminent population decline through “strong marriages”, more children, and rejection of imagery that accentuates “the dark side of society” as they mentioned when this crackdown revved up in 2016.

6 years ago China decided that it must begin eschewing any deprecations of what they believe are “morally depraved” behaviors such as drinking, sexually suggestive clothing, reincarnation, and even gay people in television dramas. Similarly to TV, China has decided to ban all the fun stuff in the realm of video games, such as blood, sexual themes, antigovernmental content, alcohol consumption, skeletons, and more.

China doesn’t always ban stuff that is so enjoyable in entertainment however. They have also banned things like sexual violence, extramarital affairs, and sexual abuse. While these things are horrible (if they don’t occur between consenting adults that enjoy that kind of thing), they are things that happen in the real world unfortunately (hell they happen on a daily basis in China). Ignoring problems has never made them go away, so even for things that can actually be harmful to people like sexual assault and brutal violence when they happen in real life, pretending like they don’t exist may in fact exacerbate the problem.

China may decide that the backlash is big enough to reverse their decision, they did it with ‘Fight Club’. However, they also might not. Things regarding LGBTQ rights seem to get more than one of their goats. They have even banned “sissy boys” last year, even if they incredibly heterosexual, China is apparently the fashion police now too. They also really hate when groups criticize them, see there recent crackdowns on LGBTQ and feminist groups.

Just like with the ongoing Peng Shuai case, nothing will really change in China until people around the world get serious about human rights abuses. This obviously is not limited to China. Citizens must demand their governments preform self-improvements and call out other nations when they see injustices. There must also be consequences for those who fail to improve, they cannot be allowed to backslide or even stagnate. A TV show is a small thing (honestly I’d of said China was based if they just said they were banning it cause the show makes you an idiot), but what it represents is the oppression of large swaths of both the Chinese and world population.