Netflix cancels new series after Turkish government demands gay character be erased

Netflix has pulled the plug on the series

Netflix has reportedly pulled the plug on planned Turkish series If Only due to government objections to a gay character.

According to Turkish screenwriter Ece Yorenc, the streaming giant has scrapped her series If Only just days before filming was due to begin.

The screenwriter said the show was cancelled after the government refused to grant a production license, citing objections to the inclusion of a gay character.

She told local film news website Altyazi Fasikul: “Due to a gay character, permission to film the series was not granted and this is very frightening for the future.”

The concept for the scrapped show revolves around an unhappily-married mother being sent back in time 30 years, to the night her husband proposed.

There were no gay sex scenes or indeed any physical contact involving the show’s gay character, Yorenc said — but the show faced objections regardless.

Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development party has admitted to taking issue with Netflix productions in the country.

Netflix faced censorship from the Turkish government

Netflix faced censorship from the Turkish government (Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty)

Party spokesperson Mahir Unal told the Financial Times: “Must we collectively apologise to Netflix? What do they want from us? Do we have to bless everything Netflix makes, find it proper and sanctify it? Is there no subject where we have a right to raise reservations?”

Rather than revise the show and write out the gay character, Netflix reportedly opted to scrap the show entirely.

A Netflix spokesperson said: “Netflix remains deeply committed to our Turkish members and the creative community in Turkey. We are proud of the incredible talent we work with.

“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.”

Netflix has previously denied ‘editing out’ gay character to appease Turkish government.

It is not the first time Netflix’s attempts to grow its Turkish production arm have faced controversy over LGBT+ issues — with a media frenzy in April after reports that a separate Turkish Netflix original series, Love 101, was to feature a gay character.

When Love 101 debuted on Netflix, however, it included no visible gay content.

Turkey’s media censorship bureau, the Radio and Television Supreme Council, claimed credit for the omission. An official told BBC Turkey: “With bilateral talks, the problem about that character has been removed.”

However, Netflix remains adamant it did not make any cuts to Love 101, suggesting that the show was never intended to include a gay character.

A spokesperson said: “We did not edit Love 101 to remove an LGBTQ character from the show – there never was one in the first place.”

Netflix originals from outside Turkey that include LGBT+ content, such as Orange is the New Black, continue to be available to subscribers in the country, which is a key emerging market for the company.