A judge in Rio de Janeiro has ordered that Netflix remove Christmas comedy special “The First Temptation of Christ,” in which Jesus is depicted as a gay man, from the service, saying that, “The right to freedom of expression… is not absolute.”
The series has been the focus of extreme criticism in Brazil, including a Molotov cocktail attack on the offices of the special’s production company and creators Porta dos Fundos in the early hours of Dec. 24.
Last November, Porta dos Fundos won an Intl. Emmy for its prior Jesus-themed 2018 Christmas Special, “The Last Hangover,” in which his disciples wake up after a Last Supper blow-out, where Thomas contributes hard drugs and prostitutes, to discover Jesus is nowhere to be seen.
In 2017, Viacom International Media Networks (VIMN) – Americas acquired a majority stake in Porta de Fundos, a global top 10 most-subscribed entertainment YouTube channel at the time. Last year, Viacom launched a highly successful Mexican version of the service, Backdoor, which ran up a million subscribers in four months.
Judge Benedicto Abicair’s ruling comes after a petition from a Brazilian Catholic organization which claims the special is an attack on the “honor of millions of Catholics.”
In his ruling, Abicair said the injunction “is beneficial not only to the Christian community, but to Brazilian society, which is mostly Christian.”
“Exhibiting the ‘artistic production’… may cause graver and more irreparable damage than its suspension,” he wrote.
Netflix and Porta dos Fundos both declined comment on the situation when approached by the Associated Press.
For the time being, the ban is binding, unless another court rules otherwise, and is seen by many as part of a trend set in motion by President Jair Bolsonaro and Brazil’s Christian far-right who has been outspoken about what kind of content may be deemed fit for public backing and exhibition.
In August, Bolsonaro lashed out at public funding going to LGBTQI series in an outburst during a scheduled state of the union-style address posted by his son Carlos Bolsonaro on his YouTube channel.
Days later, Minister of Citizenship Omar Terra suspended an open call for applications for government TV funding while new criteria were established for the process. Producers applying for state-backed funding in Brazil are required to state whether their projects have political/religious themes; references to crimes, drugs, prostitution and pedophilia; or nudity and/or explicit sex.
Terra’s ordinance was viewed by many in Brazil as an act of censorship targeted at the LGBTQI community, sparking immediate and energetic criticisms from Brazil’s production sector.
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