THE LACK of tolerance in Cypriot society reared its ugly head this week. Viewers of the Sigma TV series Efta Ourani ke Synnefa Alites, complained to the station because the show featured a gay couple.
Apparently, “strong complaints” were received by the station over the story-line which had the couple agonising over ‘coming out’ to their parents.
That there was a reaction and complaints by homophobes was to be expected. Our society has never approached homosexuality with an open mind and the old prejudices still exist. Until a few years ago sex between men was a criminal offence and when the legislature voted for its decriminalisation, after the Republic had been taken to the ECHR, there were quite a few deputies that voted against.
The homophobic reaction could not have come as a big surprise. The big surprise was the incredible way in which the screenwriter, Demetris Tokaris handled the complaints – he publicly apologised for “offending some people,” and promised to remove references to the couple’s relationship and sexuality in future episodes. He said he would write the offending gays out of the show, sending them to Spain .
How is that for artistic integrity and defence of the right to freedom of expression? It beggars belief that because some ultra-conservative and intolerant individuals complained to the station, Tokaris decided to re-write the script of his show! In an interview with a web-site, he said: “I cannot change the mentality of the average Cypriot. I wish I could, but I can’t.”
The mentality of the average Cypriot though will never change when people like Tokaris show such moral cowardice as soon as they come under attack by social reactionaries. He could have defended his script, as it dealt with the concerns and fears of real people, and stuck with it instead of giving in to the intimidation and bullying of the anti-gay campaigners and writing the gay couple out of the show.
This type of intimidation does not only target homosexuality. It also targets freedom of expression. What the bigots were effectively arguing was that Tokaris did not have the freedom to decide the content of his TV script. It was very disappointing that the only people to take a stand on this issue was the ACCEPT-LGBT group which represents the interests of the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender community.
Nobody else deemed the issue important enough to take a public stand, even though high-sounding declarations are regularly issued about the most trivial issues because it seems that nobody has the guts to stand up to the bullying bigots.