One of Japan's best known creators and comedians, Beat Takeshi, is catching heat for remarks he made about gay marriage.
When shown footage of people celebrating President Obama's recent gay marriage remarks, Takeshi quipped, "Obama supports gay marriage. You would support a marriage to an animal eventually, then." Um...
Takeshi is, first and foremost, a comedian, and this might have been a very poor attempt at humor—though, it's certainly not clear this was a joke. I don't think it was. Sure, he's not breaking any law, and he's clearly giving his off hand opinion, which he's entitled to. Some in Japan, however, found his remarks rather disappointing.
All this comes as Tokyo Disneyland finally began allowing same-sex marriage ceremonies at Disney hotels (before this, the park asked one member of a lesbian couple to dress like a groom in case other park visitors saw). While Japanese television is dotted with openly gay and transgender celebrities, the country itself remains somewhat conservative regarding gay rights. What's more, same-sex marriage is not legal in Japan, and the government does not recognize the Disney ceremonies.
"It is disappointing that such an influential figure made that kind of negative comment," Taiga Ishikawa, a gay activist and Tokyo assembly member, told AFP.
"As a movie director, he must be a person with a great sense of imagination. I wish he had been able to put himself in the position of gay and lesbian people in society."
I don't see Takeshi's remarks having much of an impact with the Japanese public, though. In Japan, things like getting caught with drugs can end one's career. Shooting one's mouth off generally does not. Heck, one former entertainer (and former Dimps board member), Shinsuke Shimada, only got a slap on the wrist after he beat up a female staffer. Later, he only had to leave the Japanese entertainment industry after admitting his yakuza ties.
What's more, insensitive comments are often par for the course on Japanese television—whether that's insulting other people or drawing pictures of "Uncle Hitler". There have been a few celebs reprimanded (like Kumi Koda's "rotten womb" remarks), but the Japanese public generally does not take what entertainers say seriously—unlike many Western countries. This could also be because many Japanese celebrities just don't comment much on social issues. They are often a blank slate.
Takeshi's fame is slightly different. In Japan, he's known for his outrageous humor as well as his biting social commentary. In the West (especially Europe), he's known as a serious filmmaker. Closed-minded comments like this might not go over with arty farty movie people. Then again, maybe they'll continue to judge him on the quality of his work, regardless of his position on social issues.
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(Top photo: Office Kitano)