Netflix reportedly cancels Turkish show rather than write-out gay character

The drama ‘If Only’ was pulled a day before filming began.

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ANKARA, TURKEY - JULY 13: In this photo illustration, the logo of Netflix is displayed on a laptop screen and the application is displayed on a smart phone screen in Ankara, Turkey on July 13, 2020. (Photo by Esra Hacioglu/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Netflix has opted to stop filming a series set in Turkey, a day before shooting was to begin, over a row that it featured a gay character. The Financial Times, quoting Turkish website Altyazi Fasikül, says that officials refused a filming permit for If Only after learning about the depiction. This has sparked a political row, with critics of the Erdoğan government saying that it is an abuse of power.

An Amnesty International report says that Turkey is homophobic as a matter of public policy, treating LGBT people as diseased. Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans people in the country face discrimination, violence, and harassment on a regular basis, which it says is encouraged by politicians. The FT’s sources say that Netflix, when faced with the censorship, opted not to write-out the character, and instead axed the show. 

This is not the first time Netflix and Turkey have battled over the content of shows, with the country up in arms about an episode of Designated Survivor depicting a Turkish conflict. Netflix said in a statement to the FT that it remained committed to producing Turkish-language content, with several more shows currently in production. We have contacted Netflix for comment and will update this if it has anything additional to add. 

Incidents like this are relatively rare but Netflix has found itself in several rows around censorship in various countries. Most notoriously, an episode of Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj that was critical of Saudi Arabia was pulled in the country after the government issued a takedown request. Netflix did, however, put the episode on YouTube for free in the country, should anyone wish to watch it. The company has also had to deal with takedowns in Singapore and Germany, as well as Brazil and New Zealand. 

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