Beat Takeshi Compares Gay Marriage To Bestiality

Illustration for article titled Beat Takeshi Compares Gay Marriage To Bestiality
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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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For those curious, I thought I'd post a rough impression of the full exchange he had on this topic.

On the talk show "Information 7 Days Newscaster", where they often ask questions on recent events and have a light-hearted time with a panel of guests from pop culture and entertainment, Takeshi was asked on as a guest. In-between many less controversial topics, the host mentioned the fact that US President Obama had come out in favor of same-sex marriage, showing a clip of people celebrating his statements, and Takeshi and the young actress Eri Watanabe responded to it.

Takeshi seemed amused and said, "Mr. Obama seems to support same-sex marriage. This means he will support marriage with an animal eventually, doesn't it?"

Eri Watanabe replied, "What are you saying? Why do you say that? I hope that same-sex marriage will be legal as well in Japan some day. Same-sex couples might be able to adopt and raise children. If such nice couples increase, I think it's a good thing."

Takeshi replied with a laugh, "In Egypt, even blood brothers and sisters can get married."

Eri, taken aback, stammered, "Brothers and sisters!? That... that is..."

Takeshi, pushing the topic further, "But let's think about a gay couple who adopts a child. If two married men raise a child, how will the child be raised? What do you think about it?"

The anchorwoman, Ms. Mikumo, chimed in, "If they cherish the child, then..."

Eri finished, "The child can be properly raised. Decently."

Takeshi replied, "However, the child will be bullied by people saying, 'Your mother is a father.'"

Eri retorted sincerely, "To avoid such a thing, we should continue to make efforts, don't we? If the couple loves the child, what makes a difference between a gay couple and a hetero couple?"

Takeshi laughed, getting more raucous than before, "If both hetero-sex marriage and same-sex marriage are okay, then you can marry an animal, can't you?"

Eri, with a confused look, "Why are you talking like that? Am I stupid because I am taking you seriously? Don't I have to be serious? Are you kidding around, Takeshi?"

And they moved on, with Takeshi appearing to be rather amused by the rise he got out of his comments.

[Sorry for any possible errors in it, I just laid it out as best that I could, and various other news sources helped piece together a better translation.]

Personally, I don't agree with him, but I also don't believe he was comparing gay marriage to bestiality. He seemed to be trying to say some absurd things to get a response, particularly from this young actress there with him, and while his comments seem to derive from an old fashioned way of looking at things(not exactly surprising for someone in their 60s), they didn't appear to be abusive in the way that it has been portrayed by some.

He seemed a bit genuine in some of his concerns, but there was a lot more amusement and farce to the whole thing than seriousness. For those familiar with his brand of silliness, I think context adds a lot to what he said. It doesn't necessarily make it right, but I can at least better understand what he was saying so that I can have a more accurate frame of reference for responding to him.