LGBTQ Asian tv viewers are taking a Singaporean tv channel to task after it presented a toxic depiction of gay men.
When Singapore’s national broadcaster Mediacorp featured a gay basketball coach on the show My Guardian Angels, LGBTQ viewers were both excited and cautious. Unfortunately, Mediacorp then disappointed LGBTQ viewers by perpetuating negative stereotypes about gay men. Namely, they had that coach not only molest a teenage boy but then implied that another boy was sexually assaulted off-camera. Even worse, the coach then spread a sexually transmitted disease to the boy.
According to Yahoo News, this storyline has resulted in heavy criticism from Singapore’s LGBTQ community. Artist Teo Yu Sheng has been especially vocal against the tv show and tv station. In an Instagram post published on Monday, July 13, Teo Yu Sheng criticized Mediacorp’s depiction as extremely harmful to the LGBT+ community” and said it “perpetuates the stereotype that gay men are predatory pedophiles with STDs.”
Singaporean organization Action for AIDS also released a statement condemning the storyline. The organization demanded that Mediacorp end “homophobic portrayals in its productions.”
“Throughout history, minority groups have often been stereotyped as representing a danger to others in society, this includes the portrayal of homosexual men as pedophiles,” Action for AIDS said. “Scientific evidence does not support this.”
In response to this pushback, Mediacorp issued a public apology and said it was “sorry to have caused offence and distress” and that any harm was not intentional.
“The intention and overall message of this sub-plot is to encourage young people to be aware of potential dangers, and not be afraid to speak up and protect themselves,” the broadcaster stated in its defense.
“Mediacorp has hitherto depicted pedophiles preying on young girls in other dramas. In both scenarios, there was no intention to depict the LGBT+ community in a negative light.”
“We are sorry to have caused offence and stress. We have heard your feedback and will continue to exercise vigilance and be mindful of our portrayal of characters.”
In addition, Chase Tan, the actor who portrayed the coach, apologized in an Instagram post for causing distress to the LGBTQ community.
“I’m deeply saddened that the role I played has caused distress in the community and I’d like to emphasize that it was never my intention. I’m an aspiring actor and every opportunity given to me is precious. I do not mean to disrespect anyone in the process.”
He added, “Over the years, I have had the pleasure of working alongside very talented and professional LGBTQ individuals. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feedback. I sincerely apologize and I will continuously strive to do better.”
But LGTBQ viewers are not letting the situation go with simple apologies. Artist Teo Yu Sheng later asked Mediacorp to pledge that it will stop creating negative portrayals of the LGBTQ community. But in a country where most movies that depict queer character or romance earn an M18 or R21 rating, there’s a long journey ahead for LGBTQ viewers looking for proper representation.