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EastEnders sparks uproar with gay bedroom scene before the watershed

By Paul Revoir

Last updated at 12:02 AM on 14th June 2011

An EastEnders episode that showed a gay couple apparently naked in bed has sparked an  audience backlash. 

At least 125 viewers complained that a scene featuring the characters  Christian Clarke and Syed Masood was inappropriate for the show’s  pre-watershed slot.

The pair were lying in bed together, with no tops on, and bedclothes pulled up to their chests. The two characters, who are trying to adopt and are planning a civil ceremony, also shared a brief kiss.

Inappropriate: This scene involving EastEnders characters Christian Clarke and Syed Masood has drawn 125 complaints from viewers

Inappropriate: This scene involving EastEnders characters Christian Clarke and Syed Masood has drawn 125 complaints from viewers

They were seen joking about getting matching rings and not changing their names when they tie the knot. Syed was seen with his arm draped around his partner as they cuddled up in bed in the short scene.

Some viewers said the broadcast made for ‘uncomfortable’ viewing and was guilty of ‘confusing their kids’.

But the BBC revealed yesterday it had received 77 messages from members of the public praising it for showing the scene.

In a statement, the corporation said it approached the portrayal of gay relationships in ‘exactly the same way’ as it did heterosexual scenes and the scenes were suitable for pre-watershed viewing.

It said it could not ‘discriminate’ by treating gay characters differently to other people shown in  the programme.

On-screen kiss: Viewers said that the scene made for 'uncomfortable' viewing and was guilty of 'confusing their kids'

On-screen kiss: Viewers said that the scene made for 'uncomfortable' viewing and was guilty of 'confusing their kids'

The mixed response from viewers to the scenes confirms the findings of a BBC survey last year, which showed that gay relationships are still a divisive issue.

Although 49 per cent of people were comfortable with homosexual scenes, 18 per cent were unhappy with them and a further 32 per cent were ambivalent.

One viewer, writing on the BBC’s message board, said of the EastEnders episode, which aired two weeks ago: ‘I’m not a homophobe but really do not want to see gay men in bed naked and kissing, especially whilst my ten-year-old daughter is sitting with me, before the watershed. Might be socially acceptable to some but there is a time and place and definitely not before nine o’clock, confusing my kids. There was no warning.’

Praise: The scene involving Syed and Christian has also received messages of support for its portrayal by some fans of the show

Praise: The scene involving Syed and Christian has also received messages of support for its portrayal by some fans of the show

Another viewer said: ‘If I had a ten-year-old I don’t think I’d be happy with them seeing that particular scene whether it was a gay couple or a straight couple.’ 

A third wrote on the message board: ‘Last night’s scene was too much at that time of the evening. I felt quite uncomfortable watching it and we don’t even have kids.’ 

But others praised the BBC, with one writing of ‘the fabulous portrait of the relationship between Syed and Christian’. The viewer said the gay bed scene was a ‘big step towards equality’. 

Another said: ‘It makes a refreshing change to see a positive portrayal of a gay couple on primetime TV and I applaud everyone involved for making this storyline such a powerful, moving and compelling one.’
One even joked of seeing two men in bed together: ‘Morecambe and Wise did it all the time.’ 

The BBC’s statement said: ‘EastEnders aims to reflect real life, and this means including and telling stories about characters from many different backgrounds, faiths, religions and sexualities.

In 1987, EastEnders showed the first ever gay kiss on primetime television when Barry Clark kissed his partner Colin Russell.

The corporation’s coverage of the Canadian Grand Prix also annoyed viewers by wreaking havoc with Sunday night’s schedules. 

The event ran to almost six hours because of weather delays and a BBC1 broadcast of the Antiques Roadshow was cancelled.

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Here's what readers have had to say so far. Why not add your thoughts below, or debate this issue live on our message boards.

The comments below have been moderated in advance.

I'm gay and to be honest I DID NOT CHOOSE IT! If I had a choice I wouldn't have chose this! How would you feel if this was you? Would you like all the abuse, even when you do nothing wrong to hurt anyone?! And to all you christians who say it's wrong and against nature just grow the hell up! "GOD" wouldn't have put us here if he didn't like it! I hope one day the tables turn on the believers of god! Then you will see how much pain you cause through your false beliefs. You say god hates gays, then why did he put us here? Either it's some sick joke of the almighty or GOD isn't real & what you have been told through the bible was a few drunks who saw some gays kissing and decided to put it down as very wrong. I'm exactly like everybody else except I like men, that's not my fault or anybody elses. I was created in GODS image so it says a lot for him doesn't it ;)

- Ryan, Yarmouth, 14/6/2011 12:33

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So Eastenders can show people being buried alive...swapping a dead baby...murdering people...prostituting themselves and taking drugs but can't show two men completely covered up lying in bed having chat and sharing a quick this for real!!! I'd be happier to show my children that scene a thousand times over than any of the other storylines that Eastenders has!! It's 2011 people...get a grip!! Oh and I have to add...what a fine looking couple Syed and Christian make!! :)

- tink20, NI, 14/6/2011 12:31

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- Stephanie, East Coast, UK, 14/6/2011 12:30

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do gooders ! get over yourselves !!! Its the 21st century !!

- charlotte, leeds, 14/6/2011 12:29

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It is NOT normal. Adam and Eve not Adam and Adam.

- Kelly, London, 14/6/2011 12:29

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Why do people still bother to watch or listen to anything BBC? - Keith, Portsmouth, 14/6/2011 10:29 - - - Because it is head and shoulders above anything produced by commercial television that appeals consistently only to the lowest common denominator (and does Sky actually produce any significant programmes of its own, or does it still repeat everybody elses). Just what is so bad about seeing a gay couple talking in bed? I bet there would only be a fraction of the complaints if it was a straight couple. Sheer hypocrisy from Middle England.

- Tony, Kent, 14/6/2011 12:28

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