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“Friends” Reunion Cameos by Lady Gaga, BTS, and Justin Bieber Have Been Censored in China

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Each star cut from the program had previously faced backlash in the country.


Parts of “Friends” Reunion Censored

Segments of the “Friends” reunion special have been censored in China, including cameo appearances by A-list stars. 

The classic sitcom is incredibly popular in China, where many credit the show for teaching them English and major cities have their own Central Perk coffee shops for fans to visit. Because “Friends” is so beloved in the country, three Chinese streaming services, iQiyi, Alibaba’s Youku, and Tencent Video, all got the rights to air the highly-anticipated reunion.

When fans tuned into the program, however, scenes with stars like Lady Gaga, BTS, and Justin Bieber had been cut, along with a had a handful of moments referencing the LGTBQ+ community.

Why Cameos Were Cut

Each cameo star pulled from the program had previously faced backlash in the country. Popstar Lady Gaga, for instance, was banned in China in 2016 after she met with the Dalai Lama, who China accuses of being a separatist. Her scene singing “Smelly Cat” with Liza Kudrow, who played Phoebe, was thus removed from the special.

Like Lady Gaga, singer Justin Bieber was also banned in China in 2017 but for unspecified “bad behavior.” The ban notably came after he posed at the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, which is a controversial landmark to many in China. His scene dressed in the Spudnik costume that David Schwimmer’s Ross wore in a Halloween episode of the show was taken out of the reunion.

A brief clip of K-pop superstars BTS discussing their love of the show was also deleted because the band previously faced trouble in the country for comments they made about the Korean War in 2020. Specifically, they mentioned the “history of pain” the U.S. and South Korea share but did not mention the loss China suffered. 

It is unclear if the streaming services were ordered to cut these bits or if they did so on their own as a precaution. 

The reunion special has become a hot topic on the Chinese social media app Weibo, where the hashtag #Friends has been viewed 1.24 billion times. While some are discussing the censorship and sharing the clips that were deleted on Chinese streamers, most are largely praising the “Friends” reunion for the nostalgia and emotion it stirred in them. 

See what others are saying: (New York Times) (The Guardian) (Variety)

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Priyanka Chopra Jonas Says “The Activist” Reality Series “Got It Wrong”

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The controversial series is now being reworked into a documentary, which Chopra Jonas hopes will better “highlight the actions and impact” of global activists.


Priyanka Chopra Jonas Apologizes For “The Activist”

Actress Priyanka Chopra Jonas responded to controversies surrounding “The Activist,” a CBS reality competition series she was slated to co-host that is now being reworked following widespread backlash. 

“The Activist” was going to show real activists competing against one another in various challenges in an effort to promote their philanthropic causes. After many expressed disgust at the premise, CBS said it would scrap the footage already shot and turn the idea into a one-time documentary special highlighting the work and impacts of different activists.

“The show got it wrong, and I’m sorry that my participation in it disappointed many of you,” Chopra Jonas wrote on Instagram. “The intention was always to bring attention to the people behind the ideas and highlight the actions and impact of the causes they support tirelessly. I’m happy that in this new format, their stories will be the highlight.”

“I’m proud to collaborate with partners who have their ear to the ground and know when it’s time to hit pause and re-evaluate,” she added.

Chopra Jonas closed her post by thanking the “global community of activists” for their hard work, which often goes unacknowledged. 

Controversies Surrounding “The Activist”

Musician Usher and dancer Julianne Hough were cast to host alongside Chopra Jonas. After a release announcing the show and their casting went out last week, it was slammed online by activists and journalists alike. 

Actress and activist Jameela Jamil wrote that the network would have been better off donating the presumably large production costs to charity instead of “turning activism into a game.”

Women’s activist Gina Martin thought turning charity into a competition was counterintuitive, arguing “the whole *essense* of activism is solidarity and community.”

Writers from The Verge, The Washington Post, Essence, and countless other outlets likewise published pieces slamming the program. The Post’s Michele L. Norris accused CBS of ​“trying to capitalize on the current avalanche of doom in the daily news cycle.”

Norris added that the show’s “prize,” which was to attend the G20 summit in Italy, boiled down to activists fighting “merely for the right to crash an international conference and try to shake down world leaders for cash.”

Responses From Those Involved

Chopra Jonas is not the only host to address the criticism. Before the idea was canned, Hough wrote a lengthy Instagram post saying she was listening to the dialogue regarding the program. 

“There is a feeling of insult, dehumanization, insensitivity and hurt that is being rightfully felt,” she wrote. 

“I do not claim to be an activist and wholeheartedly agree that the judging aspect of the show missed the mark and furthermore, that I am not qualified to act as a judge,” she added, though she stopped short of actually stepping down from the gig. 

CBS ended up releasing a joint statement with Global Citizen and Live Nation acknowledging the failings of the concept. 

“It has become apparent the format of the show as announced distracts from the vital work these incredible activists do in their communities every day,” the statement said. “The push for global change is not a competition and requires a global effort.”

The statement said the new documentary will “showcase the tireless work of six activists and the impact they have advocating for causes they deeply believe in” without any competitive element.

See what others are saying: (CNN) (Vanity Fair) (BBC News)

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Health Officials in the U.S. and Trinidad Shut Down Nicki Minaj’s Vaccine Claims

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After the rapper claimed her cousin’s friend had severe side effects from the vaccine, Dr. Anthony Fauci said she should be “thinking twice about propagating information that really has no basis.”


Health Officials Condemn Nicki Minaj’s Vaccine Statement

Health officials in the United States and Trinidad and Tobago are refuting claims rapper Nicki Minaj made this week suggesting that COVID-19 vaccines can lead to testicular swelling.

“My cousin in Trinidad won’t get the vaccine cuz his friend got it & became impotent,” Minaj tweeted Monday. “His testicles became swollen. His friend was weeks away from getting married, now the girl called off the wedding. So just pray on it & make sure you’re comfortable with ur decision, not bullied.”

Minaj has not been vaccinated herself but did say she might receive the jab at some point so she can tour. Still, she sent several other tweets Monday peddling vaccine skepticism. 

The symptoms Minaj described in the tweet about her cousin’s friend fall more in line with those of various sexually transmitted diseases. The CDC has repeatedly noted that there is “currently no evidence that any vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines, cause fertility problems in women or men.”

International health officials doubled down on this after Minaj’s remarks went viral. Dr. Terrence Deyalsingh, the Health Minister for Trinidad and Tobago, said his department takes every claim of this nature seriously and found no proof that Minaj’s anecdote was true after spending hours thoroughly researching it. 

“Unfortunately, we wasted so much time yesterday running down this false claim,” he said during a press conference on Wednesday. 

“As we stand now, there is absolutely no reported side effect or adverse event of testicular swelling in Trinidad, or, I dare say anywhere else?” he continued. “None that we know of anywhere in the world.” 

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House’s leading infectious disease expert, likewise debunked Minaj’s story while speaking to CNN.

“She should be thinking twice about propagating information that really has no basis, except a one-off anecdote, and that’s not what science is all about,” Dr. Fauci told Jake Tapper this week. 

Nicki Minaj Claims She Received Invite to Discuss Vaccines at the White House

As vaccine misinformation continues to spread and elongate the pandemic, the Biden administration has unveiled several efforts to instill trust in the science behind it. Minaj claimed Wednesday she was invited to the White House to discuss the vaccine and ask questions on behalf of those who need convincing. 

A White House official, however, claimed that she was not offered a trip but rather a call with “one of our doctors to answer questions she has about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine.” Minaj slammed the White House on Instagram Wednesday night for undercutting her claim. 

“Do you think I’d go on the internet and lie about being invited to the fucking White House?” she said in a 14-minute video. “Like, what?!” 

“You know what the request was? ‘We’d like to offer Nicki an invitation to come to the White House to speak with two people,” she continued. “With, what is that man’s name? Dr. Fauci? And with the Surgeon General.” 

Minaj said that when she expressed concerns about traveling, they offered the chance to also do a live chat on the social media platform of her choice. Throughout the remainder of her video, she repeatedly made startling claims suggesting the media was targeting an attack on her to make her look dumb so people would stop asking questions about the vaccine. 

By Thursday, that video had been viewed over 1.6 million times. “I Stand With Nicki” trended on Twitter Thursday as some claimed the media has twisted her words, while others slammed her fanbase for supporting the rapper as she promoted misinformation.

See what others are saying: (Complex) (New York Times) (The Guardian)

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Julianne Hough Responds to Criticism Over “The Activist” Reality Series

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Many slammed the show for belittling activism efforts all over the world, and Hough said their feelings of “insult, dehumanization, insensitivity, and hurt” are justified.


Julianne Hough Responds to Criticism

Julianna Hough, one of several hosts on the upcoming CBS reality competition series “The Activist,” said Tuesday that the growing outrage against the show is “rightfully felt.”

According to Deadline, the series will follow six real activists that are “teamed with three high-profile public figures” as they fight for three major global causes: health, education, and the environment. Those activists will “go head-to-head in challenges to promote their causes, with their success measured via online engagement, social metrics, and hosts’ input.” Musician Usher and actress Priyanka Chopra Jonas will serve as hosts along with Hough. 

The activists’ goal is to amplify their message and then advance to the G20 Summit in Italy so they can raise funding and awareness for their causes, but the premise left a sour taste in many peoples’ mouths. Some argued that it was degrading to make activists compete on a stage for resources and attention, while others thought the celebrity hosts were not suited for a show about philanthropy.

On Tuesday, Hough acknowledged those complaints in a lengthy post on Instagram. She said she is listening to them “with an open heart and mind.”

“There is a feeling of insult, dehumanization, insensitivity and hurt that is being rightfully felt,” she wrote before admitting that she is not an activist and is not qualified to host the program. Hough stopped short of stepping down from the series. 

“I do not claim to be an activist and wholeheartedly agree that the judging aspect of the show missed the mark and furthermore, that I am not qualified to act as a judge.”

Hough mentioned the controversy she sparked in 2013 after wearing blackface as part of a costume. She noted that this likely added “insult to injury” regarding her casting and apologized again for the incident. Still, she said that she felt compelled to join the series so she could “be a part of something that highlights and is centered around sharing activists’ work on a larger platform.”

“I felt it would help educate, mobilize, and inspire people around the world to get involved in activism because so many worthy causes need attention, funding, and most importantly, the power to effect real change,” she added. 

Hough is not the only person to respond to the outrage the show sparked. A spokesperson for Global Citizen, an international advocacy group co-producing the show, released a statement to Deadline defending the series. 

“The Activist spotlights individuals who’ve made it their life’s work to change the world for the better, as well as the incredible and often challenging work they do on the ground in their communities,” the spokesperson said. “This is not a reality show to trivialize activism. On the contrary, our aim is to support activists everywhere, show the ingenuity and dedication they put into their work, and amplify their causes to an even wider audience.”

Backlash Against “The Activist”

Criticisms against the show started rolling in on Twitter after a press release announcing the series and its hosts was published on Sept. 9. Many, including real-world activists, were quick to express their concerns over the series. 

“Couldn’t they just give the money it’s going to take to pay this UNBELIEVABLY expensive talent and make this show, directly to activist causes? Rather than turning activism into a game,” wrote activist and actress Jameela Jamil. 

British women’s activist Gina Martin slammed the decision to cast Usher, Chopra-Jonas, and Hough as the hosts.

“Why the hell is there a TV show that turns activist into a competition when the whole *essense* of activism is solidarity and community?” Martin added. “This is the absolute worst.”

Others called the series “performative” and “horrific.” Nabilah Islam, a progressive organizer and former Georgia congressional candidate, argued that activism is difficult enough “without having to dance and sing for a bunch of millionaires while they decide who’s worthy of their crumbs.”

“The Activist” is currently slated to debut on October 22 and air for five weeks. It is unclear if CBS will be amending the show’s rollout following the ongoing criticisms. 

See what others are saying: (Deadline) (The Hollywood Reporter) (Rolling Stone)

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