At a time when digital media platforms are showcasing an array of LGBTQ characters, Netflix has canceled a Turkish drama titled If Only on the eve of filming. The show’s writer claimed that the government blocked it because it included a gay character. Screenwriter Ece Yorenc further reiterated that the government refused to grant If Only a license.” Due to a gay character, permission to film the series was not granted and this is very frightening for the future,” she told Turkish film website Altyazi Fasikul, as reported by the Financial Times.
For the unversed, If Only followed the story of Reyhan, an unhappily married mother of twins, who is suddenly transported back 30 years to the night her husband proposed. While Ece pointed out that there were no sex scenes or physical contact between the gay man and other characters on the show, Netflix reportedly decided to call off the show. It happened after their discussion with Turkey’s audiovisual authority RTUK. “Due to a gay character, permission to film the series was not granted and this is very frightening for the future,” said Ece.
Meanwhile, Netflix too confirmed the development of the show, which starred the likes of Birkan Sokullu and Özge Özpirinçci.
Netflix has stated that it remained “deeply committed” to its Turkish subscribers and those in the country’s creative community. Its official statement read as, “We currently have several Turkish originals in production – with more to come – and look forward to sharing these stories with our members all around the world”.
Status of LGBTQ representation in Turkey
This comes at a time when LGBTQ rights in Turkey have faced criticism, specially under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party AKP. In fact, the deputy chairman of Turkey’s ruling party, Mahir Unal, tweeted recently that he believed Netflix would “show greater sensitivity to Turkish culture and art with deeper co-operation” in the future.
Although Turkey is more liberal than some of its neighboring countries, the status of LGBTQ representation is getting more conservative. Several months ago, the teen drama ‘Ask 101’, another Netflix Turkey show, was mired with controversy for its gay lead character.