The First Temptation of Christ star Fábio Porchat called the backlash surrounding the Netflix Christmas special "homophobic." The Porta Dos Fundos co-founder's comments come after Christians in Brazil and internationally began a petition — which already garnered 1.8 million signatures — calling for Netflix to pull the special, or for the government to prohibit the program. The Christmas special hints at Jesus being a gay man, and features a weed-smoking Mary.
The actor and co-founder told Variety on Monday that Netflix and Viacom, which took majority stake in Porta Dos Fundos in 2017, stood by the show.
"It doesn't incite violence, we're not saying people shouldn't believe in God," he said in a statement. "They [Netflix] haven't said anything to us like, 'Maybe we should stop making the special available.' They support freedom of speech.
The program begins with Jesus returning home after 40 days in the desert with a friend named Orlando (Porchat), who is gay, just in time for the celebration of Jesus' 30th birthday. The program shows a very human God who is clearly interested in Mary. One of the Wise Men also brings a prostitute to the event.
Porchat told Variety that the main source of backlash is the implication that Jesus might be gay, which is not confirmed on the show.
"We play at insinuating that Jesus has a new friend, and probably this new friend is gay, but they have just been having fun and a very good time in the desert for 40 days," he told the outlet.
"If anybody should be angry with us, it should be the gay community because a gay character turns out to be the Devil. But the gay community loves us!" He added.
The special does not claim to be historically accurate, and features the iconic religious figure in a positive light, Porchat said.
"A lot of people, when they see the show, say: 'Oh that's what they were talking about? O.K., that's O.K., they're just having fun, no problem at all," he said.
Porchat added: "For some Catholics here in Brazil, it's OK if Jesus is a bad guy, uses drugs: That's no problem. The problem is he's gay. 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."
The First Temptation of Christ is currently available on Netflix.