The president of Fuji Television Network Inc. (Fuji TV), Masaki Miyauchi apologized on Sept. 29 for broadcasting a program that featured an offensive stereotype of a gay man called "Homoo Homooda."
The character, which was originally created in the 1980s by the comedy double act "Tunnels," returned to Japanese TV screens on Sept. 28 -- following a long period of absence -- as part of a one-off show marking 30 years of a program featuring the comedy duo.
In response to the broadcast, 104 groups and individuals protested against Fuji TV's decision to bring back the character, with a letter of complaint saying the move "fuels discrimination and bias."
In the one-off program, Takaaki Ishibashi, who plays the character, dressed up once again with the trademark blue stubble and pink cheeks, and was teased during the show by other performers with phrases such as, "You're a homo, right?"
It had earlier been announced that the character would make a return, prompting people to react online with comments such as, "This news has made my heart ache. I guess this is what they refer to as trauma."
In his apology, Miyauchi said, "This is a character that Tunnels created and worked on during their 30 years (with this program). If there are any aspects that have caused discomfort then it is necessary for me to apologize." Apparently, the TV company was sent about 100 messages regarding the program, with conflicting comments such as, "This has brought back memories," as well as, "I'm not sure that showing this character now is a good idea."
The letter of protest was sent to both Fuji TV and its sponsors. In some other countries, it is not uncommon for people to boycott products that are sold by a particular company if the firm shows a lack of consideration toward LGBT people. Although such boycotts are rare in Japan, the level of understanding regarding LGBT people appears to be deepening.
Gon Matsunaka, 41, who is openly gay and who oversees the nonprofit organization "good aging yells," expressed his surprise at the program, stating, "I can't believe they're still showing this sort of thing."
Matsunaka added, "When the character first appeared (in the 1980s), it was common for children to use the word 'homo' as an insult to boys who were quiet and gentle. I remember feeling uncomfortable at the time, especially as I was of a susceptible age. I wonder how children who are unsure about their gender or sexual orientation felt when they saw this one-off program."