Mediacorp clarifies character portrayal after being called out by LGBTQ-friendly brand

Mediacorp has apologised for its portrayal of a character in a recent episode of its Channel 8 TV show My Guardian Angels. The episode was released in April this year and portrayed the character as a predatory paedophile who also has STD. The character's storyline was allegedly expanded on in seven episodes.

Mediacorp was called out by Singapore-based LGBTQ friendly brand Heckin' Unicorn, which said in an Instagram post that the portrayal of the character is "extremely harmful to the LGBTQ+ community" as it perpetuates the stereotype that gay men are predatory paedophiles with STD. Since positive portrayals of LGBTQ+ characters appear to be prohibited, Mediacorp's negative stereotypes of the LGBTQ+ community will likely never be compensated with positive portrayals, Heckin' Unicorn added.

In a statement to Marketing, Mediacorp's spokesperson said there is no intention to disrespect or discriminate against the LGBTQ community in the drama. "We are sorry to have caused offence and distress. We have heard your feedback and will continue to exercise vigilance and be mindful of our portrayal of characters," it said. 

It also appealed to members of the public to refrain from making personal attacks on Kym Ng and Brandon Wong, the Mediacorp artistes who portrayed the characters of the parents. Both Ng and Wong have received many abusive messages and comments over their roles in this drama, the spokesperson said. "We would like to reiterate that they have played these roles in their professional capacities, and there was no intention on their part to cause any offence," the spokesperson added.

Mediacorp also clarified on the specific characters and subplots highlighted in the social media posts regarding this matter. It said that the first sub-plot involved parents who were concerned that their young son may be in a relationship with another boy. It depicted the overly protective mother spying on her son and eventually finding out that he was instead interested in a girl who lived nearby. When she expressed her disapproval with his choice, the father character responded that she should just be glad he was interested in a girl.

This scene reflected the parents’ attitudes and reactions. This storyline aims to depict the real life struggles some parents face in communicating with their children on topics such as relationships and sexual orientation.

The second sub-plot involved a paedophile who was a coach of a male basketball team. 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. Mediacorp has hitherto depicted paedophiles preying on young girls in other dramas. "In both scenarios, there was no intention to depict the LGBTQ community in a negative light," the spokesperson said.

Mediacorp had initially responded to Heckin' Unicorn's Instagram post with a brief statement, stating that it is sorry to have offended anyone or caused any distress, and that it will continue to exercise vigilance and be more mindful in its portrayal of characters. Thereafter, Heckin' Unicorn said: "In its official response, Mediacorp claimed that it had no intention to discriminate any community and went on to provide excuses for its negative stereotypes. To be clear, no apology was given."

In the same Instagram post, Heckin' Unicorn also called on Mediacorp and Channel 8 to issue a proper apology, stating that the "lack of intent" does not undo the harm that was already caused by Mediacorp's hurtful and discriminatory portrayal of LGBTQ+ characters in shows.

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It also called upon Mediacorp to stop creating negative portrayals of the LGBTQ+ community, adding the discrimination should not be condoned. "If Mediacorp struggles to achieve a non-discriminatory working habit, we can recommend professionals who can help them work towards this objective," Heckin' Unicorn added in its Instagram post. At the same time, netizens also called upon Mediacorp to issue a proper public apology instead of publishing one in the comments section, and recognise how its show promoted homophobia.

Prior to the apology, Mediacorp and Channel 8 came under fire online for the portrayal of negative gay stereotypes, which was evident on platforms such as Twitter and Instagram. Screenshots of the particular episode featuring the gay character were circulating online, with many netizens calling for Mediacorp to apologise.

Separately, actor Chase Tan who played the role apologised on Instagram, explaining that he is deeply saddened that the role he played has caused distress in the community. He also emphasised that it was never his intention. "I am an aspiring actor and every opportunity given to me is precious. I do not mean to disrespect anyone in the process. 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 apologise and I will continuously strive to do better," he added.

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