Friends: The Reunion Unites China Streamers Against Free Expression?

Yesterday, we reported how fans of Friends in China were able to be a part of HBO Max's Friends: The Reunion special with Mathew Perry, Courtney Cox, Jennifer Aniston, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, David Schwimmer, and series creators David Crane and Marta Kauffman, – but not everyone else was "invited." It was discovered that China's leading streaming services Tencent Video, iQiyi, and Youku had aired the special minus around six minutes of footage with BTS, Lady Gaga, and Justin Bieber, along with footage of LGBTQ fans and other moments. Now, the three streaming services have joined together to take the fight to the true "big bad" in this entire situation… rival platform Bilibili?!

Image: HBO Max

A popular platform with a younger, more open-minded generation who like their reunion specials aired in their entirety thank-you-very-much, Bilibili did the unthinkable by actually having the uncensored version as well as the segments that were censored streaming on their service. And just to be clear, the videos were posted by users of the platform and not the platform itself. Apparently never willing to let an example of ten-ton irony/hypocrisy go unembraced, iQiyi, Tencent, and Youku (who held the rights to stream the special) offered statements expressing their "severe condemnation" of Bilibili and its unwillingness to respect IP Laws and a "healthy copyright environment."

Yes, you read that right. A trio of services that made the political decision to remove six minutes of footage from an intellectual property because of personal beliefs or who they are as human beings is now making the argument about respecting intellectual properties. But in case you think we're reading too much into this, we thankfully have iQiyi ("disrespecting of intellectual property, flagrant piracy and behavior that undermines of the order of the online video industry") and Tencent's ("severely harming the legitimate rights and interests of both the content creators and the rights holders") own words to use against them.

The New York Times reported earlier that the reunion special was missing scenes when it streamed in China this week. As the NYT explains, "Each missing cameo involved a star or group that had been a past target of Beijing's ire, and fans suspected the show was stuck in censorship gear… Lady Gaga has been verboten in China since she met with the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, in 2016. Justin Bieber's troubles with China began in 2014, when he posted a photo from the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, which honors Japan's war dead, including war criminals from World War II. And the South Korean music group BTS neglected last year to mention the sacrifice of China's troops when recalling the pain of the Korean War — even though the troops fought on the side of North Korea."

Our favorite friends are back on the set that started it all. Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry, David Schwimmer, and special guests reunite to discuss everything from their casting process to whether or not Ross and Rachel were really on a break. Witness the unbreakable bond of the group that perfectly captured the moment in life when your friends become your family.

And since you're here…

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About Ray Flook

Serving as Television Editor since 2018, Ray began five years earlier as a contributing writer/photographer before being brought onto the core BC team in 2017.
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