- As of Tuesday, a petition to remove a Brazilian Netflix Christmas special depicting a gay version of Jesus Christ and a weed-smoking Mary has attracted nearly 2 million signatures.
- An actor in the movie said Netflix has a right to air the film and said the streaming service is standing by it, making it unlikely to be removed.
- While originally drawing the ire of Brazilian politicians and pastors, the movie has since attracted international attention and criticism for its satirical adaption of Biblical figures.
Gay Jesus Netflix Christmas Special
A Portuguese-language Netflix Christmas show is drawing heavy criticism for its depiction of a gay Jesus and weed-smoking Mary.
“The First Temptation of Christ,” the 46-minute special released on Dec. 3 by the Brazilian sketch-comedy group Porta dos Fundos, also portrays Mary having an affair with God, the three wise men trying to pass off ham as “free-range soy,” and one of those wise men bringing a prostitute to a party.
Much of the criticism, however, has been centered around Jesus’ implied sexuality. In the film, Jesus comes home to Nazareth after walking the desert for 40 days; however, he also brings home a stereotypically effeminate man who is heavily implied to be his boyfriend.
While the movie stops short of any direct references, it includes several tongue-in-cheek moments such as this exchange:
“I was bathing in an oasis, and I was naked—” Jesus’ boyfriend says.
Jesus then cuts him off and says, “And then I asked for directions. I asked, and he gave it to me.”
His boyfriend then replies, “You bet I did. I sure gave it to him.”
Brazilian Pastors and Politicians Outraged
For its part, the filmmakers have described the movie as highly satirical, but unsurprisingly, it has nonetheless upset many people, including several Brazilian politicians and religious leaders.
On Twitter, Eduardo Bolsonaro—son of President Jair Bolsonaro—derided the movie as garbage and said it refuses to “preach the word of God.”
“We support freedom of expression, but is it worth attacking the faith of 86% of the population?” he asked.
Nearly two-thirds of Brazil’s population is Catholic, with protestants being the next-biggest religious group in the country.
Among a series of religious leaders speaking out against the film, Marco Feliciano, the head of the Brazilian legislature’s commission on minorities and human rights, said he wants the film removed from Netflix.
“Christians and non-Christians have asked me to take action against the irresponsible members of Porta dos Fundos,” Feliciano, also a conservative evangelical pastor, said. “It’s time we took a collective action, churches and all good people, to put an end to this.”
In fact, many have taken to signing a Change.org petition asking Netflix to remove the movie. That petition, which was posted a couple of weeks ago, hit one million signatures on Saturday. As of Tuesday morning, it has skyrocketed to just under 2 million.
Backlash Spreads Internationally
Part of the reason the petition has so rapidly taken off may be, in part, because the film has gained a significant amount of international attention over the last few days.
“I have cancelled my Netflix subscription after they decided to show a film about Jesus being homosexual,” British politician David Kurten said. “They can blaspheme Christ, offend Christians and insult Christianity if they want, but I sure as hell am not going to pay for it.”
Also on Twitter, a message directed at Netflix has attracted nearly 50,000 retweets since being posted on Saturday.
“BREAKING: @netflix released a show depicting Jesus as GAY?!” the message reads. “Let’s make this CLEAR! Jesus isn’t some “woke” culture experiment for you to convince young people that biblical teachings are “debatable”?! Jesus is the SON OF GOD and died for our sins! Show some RESPECT! RT!”
Others, however, noted that while they believe Christians have the right to be upset about the movie depictions of religious figures, Netflix also has a right to air the content.
“Netflix is within their rights releasing a movie about gay Jesus,” one Twitter user said. “Christians are within their rights protesting it. If Netflix removes the movie in response to protests, that’s within their rights. If they keep it up, that’s within their rights too. Isn’t free speech great?”
Others have criticized those who are largely focusing on Jesus’ sexuality rather than other depictions in the film, such as Mary and God’s affair.
Reactions from the Filmmakers and Cast
In spite of the backlash, the cast and filmmakers have defended the film, with the co-founder of Porta dos Fundos, Fábio Porchat, saying Netflix has a right to stream the film and that it supports free speech. He also said the film never incites violence or tells people not to believe in God.
“For some Catholics here in Brazil, it’s O.K. if Jesus is a bad guy, uses drugs: That’s no problem. The problem is he’s gay,” Porchat, who also plays Jesus’ boyfriend in the movie, told Variety in an interview posted on Monday. “No, he can’t be gay. And that’s interesting because Jesus is everything. God is black and white and gay and straight. God is everything. It’s more homophobic to be insulted by a gay Jesus than to make Jesus special.”
Porchat then went on to say that if any group should be angry, it should be the LGBTQ+ community because at the end of the film, Jesus’ boyfriend is revealed to be the Devil in disguise.
The actor who played God, Antonio Tabet, has seemingly taken a jab at people like Eduardo Bolsonaro who want the film removed from Netflix.
“It’s predictable that vain, opportunistic men who think they speak in the name of God, even without proxy, will want to mobilize the less enlightened around boycott or censorship campaigns. There’s always the option of not watching it, for those who dislike this content.”
On Twitter, Porta dos Fundos also joked about the situation by posting a link to a less-shared Change.org petition.
“As the petition against us picks up steam,” the group said, “We celebrate the success of yet another one of God’s creations: our Christmas special. ‘The First Temptation of Christ’ remains ever more powerful.”
See what others are saying: (Variety) (The Washington Post) (NBC News)
Netflix Passes 200M Subscribers as Other Streamers Struggle With Retention
- In a letter to shareholders, Netflix said it has hit over 200 million subscribers following a successful year of growth.
- The pandemic gave Netflix a significant subscriber boost in March and April. The company continued to perform well even in its final quarter, gaining 8.5 million subscribers when it was only projected to add 6 million.
- The data also highlights how relatively unaffected Netflix has been by new streaming services entering the market. While companies like Disney+, HBO Max, and Peacock continue to grow, they also struggle to retain the subscribers that sign up.
Netflix Passes 200 Million Subscribers
Netflix has topped 200 million subscribers following a year of strong growth in 2020.
In its Tuesday letter to shareholders, Netflix announced that it added 8.5 million subscribers in its fourth quarter. This exceeds projections, which estimated the streaming giant would only add around 6 million. In total, Netflix gained 37 million new memberships throughout 2020, bringing the company to 203.6 million subscribers.
Pandemic lockdowns gave Netflix a substantial boost in March in April. In the company’s first two quarters, it added a combined 25.7 million subscribers. According to data from the letter, Netflix had added over 10 million more subscribers by May of 2020 than it had by May of 2019.
When it comes to the success of their fourth quarter, Netflix pointed to shows like “Bridgerton” and “The Crown.” The fourth season of “The Crown” hit the platform in November, prompting many to return to older seasons of the show. Netflix claims the series has been viewed by 100 million households since it first aired in 2016.
Success Amid Growth of Competition
The year 2020 could have been a difficult one for Netflix as new streaming services entered the market. Disney+, Apple TV+, HBO Max, Peacock and more have all made waves with their original programming or by taking some of their brand’s content from Netflix to host on their own site. User-based content on YouTube and TikTok also became increasingly popular throughout the pandemic, further posing as a threat to Netflix.
Still, it reached a massive milestone.
“Our strategy is simple: if we can continue to improve Netflix every day to better delight our members, we can be their first choice for streaming entertainment,” Netflix said in the letter. “This past year is a testament to this approach.”
Netflix potentially sees Disney+ as the biggest competitor among new platforms. In its letter, the company noted that the streamer added 87 million subscribers in its first year. In a Q&A, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings seemed enthusiastic about this competition.
“It’s super impressive what Disney’s done,” he said. “It’s going to be great for the world that Disney and Netflix are competing show-by-show, movie-by-movie. We’re very fired up about catching them in family animation, maybe eventually passing them, we’ll see. It’s a long way to go just to catch them, and maintaining our lead in general entertainment that’s so stimulating like ‘Bridgerton,’ which I don’t think you’re going to see on Disney anytime soon.”
Streamers Struggle with Retaining Subscribers
Even as new streamers have had impressive years, there is one hurdle that many are still struggling to jump over: retaining the subscribers who sign up. The Los Angeles Times named Disney+, HBO Max, Peacock, and Apple TV+ in particular, writing that people create accounts with these services, watch the TV shows or movies they are interested in, and cancel once they are done.
An October survey from Deloitte said that 46% of respondents canceled at least one streaming service in the last 6 months, which is up 20% from January of last year. Most who had canceled said they did so because they had finished watching whatever programming it was that brought them to that service.
Places like Disney+ and HBO Max are really vulnerable to this because they have banked on drawing people in with exclusive marquis titles like “Hamilton” or “Wonder Woman 1984.” However, since they are newer, they are still building their original programming catalog, meaning that people can quickly burn through highlight titles.
See what others are saying: (Los Angeles Times) (Wall Street Journal) (The Hollywood Reporter)
Paramount+ To Launch March 4
- ViacomCBS is launching Paramount+ in the United States and Latin America on March 4 before rolling out to other markets internationally later this year.
- The streaming service will be a relaunch and expansion of CBS All Access. It will include content from Nickelodeon, MTV, and more on top of the CBS-focused selection.
Paramount+ Gets Launch Date
ViacomCBS will be launching its streaming service Paramount+ in the U.S. and Latin America on March 4 before rolling out in more countries throughout the year.
It will be an expansion and rebrand of CBS All Access, the service the company currently offers that is used by nearly 8 million subscribers. Paramount+ will go beyond the CBS-centric content promoted there, including works from brands like Nickelodeon, MTV, BET, Comedy Central, and the Smithsonian Channel.
More details about their streaming strategy will be released during an investor event on February 24. Right now, ViacomCBS is boasting that the service will have over 30,000 episodes and movies in their catalog, which will also include live sports and breaking news.
“The Paramount brand is known and loved all around the world, and is synonymous with great entertainment. It’s always brought people together, which makes it a perfect fit for a streaming service that’s uniquely positioned to do the same,” Josh Line the chief brand officer of ViacomCBS said during a brand announcement in September. “The Paramount+ streaming service will elevate ViacomCBS’ iconic family of brands.”
State of the Streaming Wars
Paramount+ has already announced a slew of original projects including a revival of “iCarly” and a series about the making of “The Godfather” titled “The Offer.”
The service is entering an already crowded battlefield as the streaming wars wages on. It will have plenty of uphill battles to fight since brand recognition for Paramount is not nearly as strong as it is for studios like Disney or NBCUniversal. It will also have to compete with Netflix, which leads the pack in subscribers and unveils new content regularly; HBO Max, which will be home to Warner Media’s new theatrical releases; and Hulu, which hosts original content as well as shows currently airing on cable and network television.
ViacomCBS has not released information on pricing, but that will likely come during or before the February investor event.
Olivia Rodrigo Smashes Records with “drivers license”
- Olivia Rodrigo’s debut single “drivers license” has set multiple records on Spotify, becoming both the most streamed song in one day for non-holiday music and the most streamed song in a week.
- It also has become the most globally requested song on Alexa in one day on Amazon Music.
- After its Jan. 8 release, the song became a trending audio on TikTok. Since TikTok’s rise to popularity, the app has helped many songs reach viral success at lightning speed.
“driver’s license” Breaks Records
At just 17-year-old, Olivia Rodrigo is smashing records with her new single “drivers license” after debuting the tune on Jan. 8.
On Friday, Spotify announced the single set the record for most streams in a week. Prior to this, it set the record for most streams on the platform in one day for a non-holiday song.
As of Monday morning, the song has over 125 million plays on Spotify. According to Pop Crave, it was also the fastest song to reach 100 million streams on the popular music service.
Over on Amazon Music, “drivers license” became the most globally requested song on Alexa in a single day. It also became the biggest global streaming debut on the site.
Song Goes Viral on TikTok
Rodrigo is best known for her role as Nini on “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series.” She has also appeared in a variety of other Disney projects where she showcased her singing and songwriting capabilities. In “drivers license,” she croons about using the newly minted independence her license affords her to mourn a recent breakup.
The pop ballad has become a popular audio on TikTok. Many use it for dances, to discuss the possibility that Rodrigo wrote it about her co-star Joshua Bassett, or to just wallow in its lyrics. It has been used by some of the app’s most popular creators, including Charli D’Amelio.
Its success on the platform has likely contributed to its success on streaming platforms and charts. The app has had an immeasurable impact on the music industry by helping songs and artists reach the mainstream at lightning speed. Hits like “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X first found a home on TikTok before breaking records on the billboard charts.
Rodrigo has been happy and surprised to see her song perform so well and be so positively received.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I expect this,” she wrote on Instagram after learning that “drivers license” was the number one song on global iTunes charts. “thank u guys so much for listening. I can’t believe this is real life.”