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What’s “Game of Thrones” without the sex and gore?
Fans in China know, and they’re not happy about it. For the much-anticipated season 8 opener Sunday night, government censors deprived viewers of about six minutes of action deemed inappropriate for citizens.
The fantasy epic's final-season first episode was aired in China simultaneously via the website of Tencent, the Chinese tech giant. But Chinese viewers were finished viewing the first episode long before viewers in the U.S after censors airbrushed out key scenes.
In the first episode, the scenes that were cut amounted to six minutes of the total 54-minute run time, with fans in China left in the dark about Bronn’s dalliances in a King’s Landing whore house and the gory details of how Theon Greyjoy used arrows and axes to free his sister.
“I thought the censored version meant only cutting the bed scenes,” one angry fan commented on China’s Weibo social network after watching.
Another said: “When I was watching, I wasn’t even a little worried about my dad being there. Even the fighting scenes are cut, with even those cut, why bother watching!”
Game of Thrones is well-known around the world for its explicit sex scenes and bloody violence, but Chinese fans are well-used to severe censorship ever since Tencent won the exclusive rights to the show in China in 2014.
Chinese fans don’t have the option of watching the show on HBO’s own website as it has been blocked for almost a year after English comedian John Oliver mocked Chinese President Xi Jinping on his satirical television show “Last Week Tonight.”
The Chinese government has ramped up its efforts to force TV and film productions to cut scenes they deem too vulgar, including the editing of a scene in the Oscar-winning “The Shape of Water” to make it seem like a naked woman was wearing clothes.
Despite the censorship, the show has a huge following in China, with anticipation ahead of season 8 dominating Weibo discussions over the weekend.
“I’m begging Father Tencent not to censor too much, thank you,” one Weibo user wrote ahead of the season 8 opener airing.
But at least some users found a silver lining in the fact the version they saw would be significantly shorter: “Those of us in China will know the ending to the show before people abroad,” one Weibo user joked. “Does that mean we can leak spoilers to everyone else?”
Cover: A man dressed up as a "White Walker", known from the fantasy series "Game of Thrones", sits in a Hamburg cinema on a throne during the continuation of the series (season 8, episode 1). Photo by: Mohssen Assanimoghaddam/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images