Did The BBC Defend Eastender‘s Gay Bed Scene Just To Placate Homophobes?

Two weeks ago, in its primetime soap EastEnders, the BBC showed resident gay couple Christian Clarke and Syed Masood in bed. On Thursday it was forced to release a public statement to defend it. This means two things: there are still viewers out there for whom homosexuality is of such concern a nod to its existence warrants complaint, and there were enough of them to require a broadcaster to feel it had to respond. It won’t have helped that one of the characters was a Pakistani-British Muslim…

It is, however, to remind ourselves that homophobia does not just come in the extremity of thugs throwing punches in the street but the gentility of a bigot writing an email from their living room. They are very clearly different but share an entrenched ignorance at the heart of the matter…

The “explicit” objection is easily solved (even by David Cameron): if it fits within the pre-watershed guidelines, you’re good to go. Yet here’s the rub: the explicitness of a romantic scene is too often dependent on which genders are in it. A man eating a woman’s face will go undetected, but if it happens to be another man, the BBC must brace itself. It’s like maths for homophobes. One heterosexual heavy petting equals one gay peck. Or is it a cuddle? A brisk handshake? The EastEnders characters in question were simply holding each other in bed, but for some an act otherwise seen as harmless, romantic even, was seen as harmful and perverse. It wasn’t, it was said, an appropriate image for children. In contrast to the naturalness of straight relationships, it was something it needed to protect the innocent from.

These are not their children’s thoughts of course but entirely their own. They, who deem noticing the existence of homosexuality as damaging, when it is in averting their child’s gaze that they cause harm. Some of their children will be straight and left (at best) battling the confused ignorance their parent’s special brand of “censorship come outrage” have bestowed them with. Others will be gay and, sunken within the tragedy of an unaccepting home, will be deprived the smallest escape of another world, of seeing a part of themselves on screen and knowing they are OK.

Guardian writer Frances Ryan discussing the BBC’s recent defense of an in-bed scene between two gay characters on the soap opera Eastenders. Much to the BBC’s credit they said, “We approach our portrayal of homosexual relationships in exactly the same way as we do heterosexual relationships”, and then added that UK gays got civil unions in 2005. They also mentioned that many viewers supported Eastender’s portrayal of gay relationships.