With Christmas over and the New Year upon us, Netflix looks set for another year of streaming domination. With a widely successful year of new material for Netflix, the Christmas period and the months that preceded it saw the releases of critically acclaimed films like Marriage Story, Klause and Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman as well as the release of everyone’s new favourite show The Witcher. Yet, despite all these impressive releases, Netflix found itself in the middle of a controversy with the release of Brazilian film The First Temptation of Christ.
Set after the first temptation of Jesus, the film takes place on his return from the desert to discover a gathering of his friends and family to celebrate his 30th birthday – a set up where all sorts of things seemingly go wrong. With “creative liberties” such as interpreting Jesus as gay; lines from the omnipotent God, like ‘I blew the dinosaurs away with a fart’; the three wise men turning up with a plate full of pork treats; or even the chain-smoking Virgin Mary, it’s not hard to see why Netflix has received so much backlash. Dubbed as ‘blasphemous’ and ‘grotesque’ by viewers, it sets out with the intent to make people laugh with a brand of “meta-humour” that offends anyone possible. Released on December 3rd by YouTube group Porta dos Fundos, a petition has reached a staggering two-million signatures to have it removed from Netflix, although at present it remains in Netflix’s library. While Netflix has refused to comment on the subject so far, Jesus actor, Gregorio Duvivier has claimed that the film was an example of ‘the freedom of speech’ while his YouTube group stated that they value ‘artistic freedom and humour through satire’ which is an ‘essential construction of a democratic country’. The same group released another Netflix movie called The Last Hangover, which also received a strong backlash, but not as much as their recent outing.
However, it seems that Netflix is no stranger to controversy, having released many shows which have conjured a stir in audiences. A recent one was the January 1st 2020 release of the new series, Messiah, which again used religious events and characters as a premise for a plot and received hammering reviews in the process. Likewise, back in 2017, 13 Reasons Why, was brought into the limelight under its graphic depiction of suicide and self-harm, which coincided with a sudden spike in teen suicides across America. While not as severe as the events that followed 13 Reasons Why, The First Temptation of Christ has one of the most significant petitions against it that Netflix has ever received from a show.
While at current it seems that the streaming giant is untouchable, demonstrating a capability to release anything without repercussions, one wonders if Netflix can continue its domination if they continue to publish divisive original content that offends more people than it pleases.
The First Temptation of Christ is available for streaming now on Netflix.