Fuji TV Variety Sketch Deemed Homophobic, President Issues Apology

Warning: This article contains a discussion of homophobic terminology.

Fuji Television President Miyauchi Masaki on September 29th held a press conference where he apologized for the use of homophobic language in the network’s variety program Tonneruzu no Minasan no Okage Deshita – 30th Anniversary Special which aired on September 28th. The company received 104 objections to the content of the program from LGBT individuals, support groups and allies. 

Voices of Support and Scorn for the 30 Year-old Character

The skit at the center of the controversy included Ishibashi Takaaki of the popular comedy duo Tonneruzu (Tunnels) dressed as a character named “Homooda Homoo” (保毛尾田保毛男), who has a five o’clock shadow and pink cheeks, being teased by his co-actors.

Editors Note: This article doesn’t go into detail about the offensive expressions, so here are some of the controversial comments made during the program.

Beat Takeshi turns to Noriko (who is cross dressing as a school girl) and tells him “You’d get the death penalty for dressing like that in some countries.”
Beat Takeshi points at Homooda Homoo and says, “In elementary school an old guy like him would be waiting in the park.”
Noriko asks Homooda Homoo if he is gay, to which he replies, “It’s merely a rumor.”

The problem lies not only in the character, who is a stereotypical caricature of a gay man whose name consists of Japanese wordplay basically meaning “I’m gay”, but also with the use of the word “homo” on national television, which to some can hold the same weight that the terms fag or faggot do to English speakers.

It should also be noted that Japanese terms that can be considered homophobic slurs such as okama and homo have been reclaimed by some individuals, similar to how queer has gained a positive meaning and widespread usage in recent years.

When it was announced that the character, who was created some 30 years ago, would be making an appearance on the program, netizens expressed their concern, saying for example “I was surprised that I felt anxious just by hearing about the character. I wonder if this is what someone would call trauma?”

Miyauchi initially dismissed the claims, stating that the character’s appearance was “intended as a revival of a character created thirty years ago by the comedy duo,” before offering an apology, stating  “It is highly regrettable that many individuals found the appearance of the character to be unpleasant, and we must issue an apology.”

Immediately following the broadcast of the program, the network received around 100 comments of praise and criticism from viewers ranging from “It was very nostalgic” to “Consider how the content holds up to the modern age.”

Consideration for LGBT Individuals Growing

Written protests were addressed to Fuji Television and the program’s sponsors.

Outside of Japan, it is not uncommon for companies that lack consideration for LGBT individuals to be boycotted. Understanding of LGBT and other sexual minorities is continuing to spread in schools and workplaces across Japan.

Matsunaka Ken the 41 year old representative of the NPO Group Good Aging Yells, said of the program “I can’t believe that they’re still doing that sort of thing. When the character was created, it was common for soft-spoken boys to be called “homo”. It was a sensitive time, and I felt uncomfortable around my family or at school when those topics came up. I worry about how the children who are struggling with their gender or sexuality felt while watching the program.”

Source – <フジテレビ>特番でLGBT嘲笑、社長が謝罪

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