Before hearing John Cena and LeBron James’ take on Friends: The Reunion, it’s best to process this context.
Like in the US, Friends has an incredibly popular base in China. Of course, it does — the show was fantastic. Knowing the widespread interest in the sitcom’s reunion special that dropped Thursday, Communist China stepped in to censor and cut the episode before its citizens could view it. Among the cuts were appearances by K-pop supergroup BTS, Justin Bieber, and Lady Gaga, and any cameos from LGBTQ Friends fans.
It turns out, BTS leader RM saying the show “really taught me things about life and true friendship” was a problem. The CCP booted that scene completely. Why is BTS so hated in China? In October, RM mentioned the “history of pain and shared sacrifices” of South Korean and US soldiers during the Korean War, which China took as an insult as it supported the North in the war.
Lady Gaga, meanwhile, became an enemy of China in 2016 after a meeting with the Dalai Lama, whom Beijing views as a dangerous separatist. That’s unfortunate because those in China had to miss out on Gaga’s praise of Phoebe’s “Smelly Cat.” Nothing says Friends like that cringe-worthy song…
The Communist Party of China is still anti-Bieber because in 2014 he posted a video of a visit to Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine, a site viewed as a no-go in the eyes of the Chinese government. Bieber earned himself a blacklist, one that isn’t going away.
China has sent a reminder to its citizens and its followers in the NBA and Hollywood: Gaga, Bieber, and BTS are not to be viewed as humans, but as threats.
As for LeBron James and John Cena, it’s unclear how they can get a copy of the special’s Chinese-edited cut. Maybe they will just have to fast forward past those scenes?