Singapore’s Mediacorp defends drama series “Silent Walls” against accusations of harmful gay stereotypes

Singapore’s Mediacorp defends drama series “Silent Walls” against accusations of harmful gay stereotypes

SINGAPORE — Mediacorp, the national broadcaster, has defended its drama series “Silent Walls” against accusations of perpetuating harmful gay stereotypes.

The TV drama, which premiered on Channel 8 on 15 March and is also available on the streaming platform MeWatch, was criticized by some members of the LGBTQ community for its portrayal of a gay couple.

In response to the criticism, Mediacorp released a statement on Wednesday (5 Apr), stating that the storyline in “Silent Walls” “aims to depict the struggles some families may face and seeks to encourage more understanding and acceptance”.

“We would like to assure that we did not set out to depict the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) community in a negative light or perpetuate any stereotypes,” Mediacorp said.

“Mediacorp appreciates the feedback regarding the drama Silent Walls and will continue to exercise vigilance and mindfulness in our content.”

Article on ‘Dear Straight People’ criticised show for harmful stereotype

The criticism was primarily driven by an article from online LGBTQ+ publication Dear Straight People, which called out the relationship between Kai De (played by Alfred Sun) and Nigel (played by Adam Chen), citing their “problematic” large age gap as well as reinforcing the harmful stereotype that gay men are predators and groomers.

The article criticised that LGBT+ media representation is practically non-existent in Singapore’s mainstream media, and the only time people see gay characters on TV is when they have AIDs.

“The elderly population typically already have distorted views about the gay community. By showcasing these outdated stereotypes on national TV, it only strengthens their antiquated convictions. This makes it even more difficult for parents to reconcile with their queer children.”

“If it’s too much to request for positive LGBT depictions in popular media, then I prefer no representation of LGBTQ+ in mainstream media. No media representation is better than harmful media representation, ” the post wrote.

The storyline of “Silent Walls” was also criticized for implying that gay men are all diseased and promiscuous, suggesting that gay couples will always meet a tragic fate.

The author of the artcle, @mrseanfoo noted that this is not the first time that Mediacorp has come under fire for its portrayal of the LGBTQ+ community.

In 2020, the broadcaster faced criticism for its depiction of a gay paedophile with AIDS in “My Guardian Angels.”

Mediacorp condemned for long stigmatization of gay community

Many netizens have voiced their support for the author’s criticism of the drama’s depiction of the gay community.

One netizen condemned the national TV channel, noting that Mediacorp has long stigmatized the gay community and associated them with specific illnesses.

“Gay characters are either portrayed as harassing people or having AIDS. It’s really unbelievable!”

One netizen commented on Dear Straight People‘s Facebook post, mentioning a previous story set in the 60s that featured a lesbian servant in love with her employer, and both of their lives ended tragically.

A netizen has proposed that politicians should be challenged, and there is no longer any justification for restricting positive portrayals of LGBTQ+ people in the media.

Otto Fong, author of Sir Fong’s Adventures In Science comic series, expressed his disappointment that despite the repeal of Section 377A of the Penal Code,  Mediacorp still portrays gay people negatively:

One netizen argued that the drama’s setting was in the 80s era, which might imply that society still had strong stigmatization towards the LGBTQ+ community. However, Mr. Fong pointed out that Mediacorp has zero positive portrayals of LGBTQ+ people, regardless of the era or setting of their shows.

A netizen has joined the discussion, pointing out that the negative portrayal of LGBTQ+ characters is not limited to just one drama. The netizen noted that a lesbian couple also met a tragic end in another drama, and one of the gay men killed himself.

Under the content code of the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), all positive and even neutral portrayals of LGBTQ characters are censored on free-to-air TV, and movies are also given a stricter rating if they feature any LGBTQ characters.

Under the Films Act, content which will not be allowed include those with “the promotion of homosexuality” and “excessive depiction of sexual activity between individuals of the same gender”.

This is despite the passing of two Bills by the Singapore Parliament to repeal Section 377A of the Penal Code.

s377A was a law in Singapore that criminalized sex between men. It was inherited from British rule and was preserved by Singapore’s government for decades.

Singapore authorities have always been reluctant to repeal the law.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong once claimed that the legislation had not prevented individuals to whom the legislation might apply from “living”, and does not mean Singapore is hostile towards the LGBTQ community, as s377A “has not stopped Pink Dot from having a gathering every year”.

The Court of Appeal, in 2022, rejected the applications by three individuals on the grounds that the three lacked standing to pursue their constitutional challenges against s377A since they were not actually facing a genuine and plausible risk of prosecution under the law as described by PM Lee.

Although the applications were ultimately dismissed, the judgement by the Court of Appeal increased the likelihood of section 377A being invalidated in Singapore.

This legal risk, which was not due to any shift in the court’s stance on s377A, was a factor that led the People’s Action Party government to repeal the law.

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