October 12, 2017
Revival of a Gay Character Stokes Controversy
During the telecast of the 30th anniversary show of Tunnels no Minasan no Okagedeshita (とんねるずのみなさんのおかでげした) aired on September 28th, 2017, Takaaki Ishibashi played the gay character by the name of “Homoo Homooda” for the first time in the last 28 years. “Tunnels” is a comedy team that consists of Takaaki Ishibashi (55) and Noritake Kinashi (55). Tunnels no Minasan no Okagedeshita is their comedy show where they perform many skits with various characters. Homoo Homooda is one of the characters portrayed by Ishibashi in the show. Homoo is a gay man who is the son of a wealthy family, and he lives in a mansion with his older sister played by actress Kyoko Kishida, who works at a municipal office. Homoo is his first name and Homooda is his family name, and it is written, 保毛尾田 保毛男 in Japanese. “Homo” was a common way to refer to gay people at that time, but today it is regarded as a discriminatory word.
His hair is combed over and he has facial stubble; he uses a black lace fan, and says, “I’m not gay. It’s just a rumor.” In the telecast on the 28th, a construction worker named Gonzo Onigawara (鬼瓦権蔵）, played by Takeshi Kitano, said to Homooda, “there was a middle aged man like you who often waited for us at the park when I was a child, and once I threw a stone to the man and ran away.” And then, Noriko（ノリ子）, an ugly female high school student with blazed hair and connected eyebrows, played by Noritake Kinashi, said to Homooda, “you are gay, right?” To which Homooda replied, “I’m not gay. It’s just a rumor,” fanning himself.
28 years ago the skits of Homooda were seen as funny in Japan, becoming popular among the public, and many children did reenactments of him at school. However, a lot of viewers expressed their criticism on SNS (Twitter and blogs) and a lot of media outlets posted articles criticising the portrayal of Homooda.
The controversy grew so big that the CEO of the broadcasting company, Fuji TV (Channel 8), that aired the show, officially apologized during his regular press conference the following day. From the start of the show until noon the next day, approximately 100 opinions were submitted both by phone and through Fuji TV’s website to the broadcasters. The 100 opinions included voices saying that the revival of the character was nostalgic, but many of them were critical. The CEO, Masayoshi Miyauchi, sincerely apologized about the show stating that the show was the 30th anniversary and various characters that were played in the past had been featured. It’s very regrettable that viewers felt uncomfortable due to the change of perception towards the character over time.
On the same day, some LGBT organizations submitted letters to Fuji TV stating that the portrayal of the character encourages discrimination and prejudice against sexual minorities and such portrayal poses the potential for children to be bullied at school.
The photo of Homooda Homoo, Noriko and Gozo Onigawara can be seen in the link below.
Below is the Youtube video title of the skit of Homooda Homoo.
Sports Hochi http://www.hochi.co.jp/entertainment/20170929-OHT1T50315.html
NHK News http://www3.nhk.or.jp/news/html/20170929/k10011161751000.html