Uproar over Ch8 drama's portrayals of LGBTQ community: Kym Ng and Brandon Wong receive abuse, Mediacorp responds

Kym Ng, Zoe Tay, and Hong Ling star in the Channel 8 drama My Guardian Angels
PHOTO: Mediacorp

A recently concluded family drama starring some of Mediacorp's biggest names has stirred up a huge storm, prompting the broadcaster to issue a statement and an apology.

Channel 8 drama My Guardian Angels starred actresses Zoe Tay, Kym Ng, and Hong Ling as mothers struggling to raise their children on their own. Two particular subplots have, however, raised ire among sections of the public here, including the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community.

In the first subplot, Kym's character and her on-screen husband, played by actor Brandon Wong, were worried as they thought their son was dating a boy. When they found out that he, in fact, liked a girl, she expressed her disapproval with his choice. The husband then commented: "You should be happy that our son is interested in women."

The second objectionable subplot saw actor and former national basketball player Chase Tan play a paedophile basketball coach with sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), who was later jailed for molesting teenage boys.

Action For Aids ⁠— a non-governmental organisation dedicated to fighting Aids and HIV infection ⁠— condemned the portrayal.

In a statement dated July 8, it said: "To our knowledge, there is no evidence that homosexual males have a greater propensity to offend against children than heterosexual males. The portrayal of gay men as paedophiles further perpetuates falsehoods that create further suffering among an already marginalised and stigmatised population."

It added STDs can affect anyone and is “not confined to any gender identity, sexual orientation or behaviour”.

In their statement issued yesterday (July 14), Mediacorp said it has received feedback from the public and would like to "assure everyone that there is no intention to disrespect or discriminate against the LGBTQ community in the drama".

It also provided clarifications on the characters and subplots.

"(The first subplot) reflected the parents' attitudes and reactions. This storyline aims to depict the real-life struggles some parents face in communicating with their children on topics such as relationships and sexual orientation.

"The second subplot involved a paedophile who was a coach of a male basketball team. The intention and overall message of this subplot is to encourage young people to be aware of potential dangers, and not be afraid to speak up and protect themselves. Mediacorp has hitherto depicted paedophiles preying on young girls in other dramas.

"In both scenarios, there was no intention to depict the LGBTQ community in a negative light.

"We are sorry to have caused offence and distress. We have heard your feedback and will continue to exercise vigilance and be mindful of our portrayal of characters."

A spokesperson also explained that the sexual orientation of the paedophile character was not mentioned in the drama.

Kym Ng (centre) with Chase Tan in a behind-the-scenes photo. PHOTO: Instagram/ kym_ng

Mediacorp added that some people have directed their anger at Kym and Brandon, and the broadcaster appeals to the public to "refrain from making personal attacks" on the actors.

"Both Kym and Brandon have received many abusive messages and comments over their roles in this drama. We would like to reiterate that they have played these roles in their professional capacities, and there was no intention on their part to cause any offence."

Chase, who played the paedophile character in the drama, published an apology on his Instagram on July 3.

He said: "I’m deeply saddened that the role I played has caused distress in the community and I’d like to emphasise that it was never my intention. I'm an aspiring actor and every opportunity given to me is precious. I do not mean to disrespect anyone in the process.

"Over the years, I have had the pleasure of working alongside very talented and professional LGBTQ individuals. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feedback. I sincerely apologise and I will continuously strive to do better.

"I'm sorry."

kwokkarpeng@asiaone.com