It’s no secret that American TV and movie exports are popular beyond our borders, but sometimes content viewed as lewd, violent, or politically inflammatory can run afoul of foreign censorship authorities. China, for instance, is a major consumer of American TV and film, but many shows are, shall we say, altered, for the viewing public. According to Bloomberg Technology, Netflix export BoJack Horseman is the most recent show to receive such treatment and was pulled from the country’s iQiyi streaming service just days after its June 19 debut.
In explaining the move, officials from the company said, “Adjustments need to be made to the content.” At this point, the nature of the adjustments is anyone’s guess, but it could have something to do with the show’s depictions of substance abuse and mental illness.
A chronicle of the morose misadventures of an alcoholic, has-been horse, the show is not exactly wholesome family fun, but one can think of edgier, more questionable content without trying all that hard. That said, China’s state-run media regulator has censored far tamer shows in the past, including both The Big Bang Theory and The Good Wife.
As others have pointed out, this throws a wrench into Netflix’s plans to make inroads in China, a potentially enormous market that it has yet to penetrate. The streamer also plans to partner with iQiyi on the release of Mindhunter and season 2 of Stranger Things, but it remains to be seen if those shows will be released intact.
BoJack Horseman’s release came on the heels of a licensing deal inked with iQiyi in April. The agreement was widely seen as a coup for Netflix, which had been seeking an avenue to deliver its content to the country. Evidently, there are still hurdles left to clear. In a recent interview, Yang Xianghua, senior vice president of iQiyi, said that if Netflix wants to release series in China on the same date as in other markets, the company will need to give the country’s censors and advanced look at the content in case edits need to be made.
In any case, for those following Netflix’s continued quest to conquer the streaming landscape, this is one to keep an eye on.