One of Netflix’s most controversial originals is leaving the streaming service, a move that many feel comes two years too late.
The First Temptation of Christ arrived on Netflix in early December of 2019 and was immediately blasted. The 47-minute “special” comes from the Brazilian comedy group Porta dos Fundos and tells the story of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ returning home to celebrate his 30th birthday. Uh oh, the dirty 30.
The skit (in long-form) begins almost innocently enough as we find the three wise men following the North Star to Mary and Joseph’s humble abode. They constantly get lost and while traipsing the desert, they toss in a few off-color jokes concerning bringing ham rolls to a Jewish potluck before deciding to pass them off as “free-range soy” rolls. Yes, that’s the type of humor we are looking at here.
When the wise men finally arrive in this Netflix Original, Mary and Joseph are preparing a surprise party for the Son of God. As you soon find out, Jesus has no idea he is the son of God. The gift Mary and Joseph are going to give is to tell Jesus who his real father is.
Speaking of God, he arrives and he’s not the all-knowing maker of men entity we were taught back in Catholic school. Here, he is an egotistical seducer of virgins. He does, though, deliver one of the funnier lines in the bit, bragging, “I wiped out the dinosaurs with a fart.”
But the real controversy for Netflix–the issue that sent most Catholics over the edge–happens when Jesus finally arrives after his 40 days and nights away. See, Jesus arrives with Orlando, and Orlando’s “flame” burns bright. He makes stereotypical gay men look positively straight. We are now led to believe that Jesus is gay, a conclusion that isn’t hard to come by.
Jesus has also arrived with an announcement of his own and he is just about to inform his family that he is turning his back on the family carpentry business to follow his heart and go into the worthy juggling-arts trade when Mary, Joseph, and God lambast him with the truth. Jesus is shocked and reluctant to follow his non-chosen path. While being able to perform miracles and such, his heart is set on becoming the best juggler he can be.
Where to start with this Netflix original? Well, perhaps it all depends on one’s comedic taste. There have been plenty of instances over the past number of decades where the life of Jesus was depicted on screen, many with controversy following it. There was The Last Temptation of Christ, which showed Jesus (played by Willem Dafoe) having sex with his new wife, Mary Magdalene.
Then there was the other highly controversial film, Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. This film showed Jesus’ (Jim Caviezel) last day in a gruesome fashion. The extreme violence surrounding the film caused an uproar with its finger pointed directly at Gibson.
But never has Jesus been shown in this manner and Catholics in Brazil, which make up more than two-thirds of their population, weren’t having it. A petition was immediately started that quickly nabbed over 2 million signatures, demanding Netflix get rid of the movie.
The Petition reads: “This is far from funny but downright disrespectful and a highly offensive degradation of Jesus Christ. This mockery of Jesus should not be deemed as satire but an intentional attempt to attack the fundamental beliefs that uphold the Christian faith. It is anti-Christ in every sense of the word and a direct demonstration of hatred against all who profess to be Bible-believing Christians.”
Fábio Porchat, co-founder of Porta dos Fundos and who plays the role of Jesus’ special friend Orlando, spoke out about the petition and what it all boils down to: “The show is almost a Christian fairy tale: Jesus faces off bravely with the Devil and then chooses to follow God, accepting to be his son, Jesus Christ,” Porchat notes via Cinemablend. “A lot of people, when they see the show, say: ‘Oh that’s what they were talking about? Ok, that’s O.K., they’re just having fun, no problem at all.’ For some Catholics here in Brazil, it’s O.K. 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.”
If the petition and its 2 million signatures weren’t enough proof that Brazil was less than enamored with Porta dos Fundos, then the actions that followed provided the exclamation point.
On Christmas Eve in 2019, shortly after the short film premiered on Netflix in Brazil, the office of Porta dos Fundos was the target of a Molotov cocktail firebombing. One suspected was later identified as Eduardo Fauzi Richard Cerquise and Rio police said at the time that the 41-year-old businessman has a “violent profile”. He was also still at large, investigators say, reportedly in Russia. Thankfully, no one was harmed in the firebombing.
The petition, though, must have had some clout because barely a month after The First Temptation of Christ premiered on Netflix, a Brazilian judge ordered the controversial film to be removed. In his ruling, Judge Benedicto Abicair stated via The Hollywood Reporter, “The right to freedom of expression… is not absolute”. Netflix took the film down.
The following day, though, Brazil’s Supreme Court president Dias Toffoli overturned the ban, stating via the BBC, “One cannot suppose that a humorous satire has the ability to weaken the values of the Christian faith, whose existence is traced back more than two thousand years, and which is the belief of the majority of Brazilian citizens.” Porta dos Fundos and Netflix were thrilled with the decision.
Porta dos Fundos, which literally translates to “back door” in English, is a Brazilian YouTube channel that is no stranger to Netflix. Before First Temptation, the comedy group aired their first special on Netflix titled, The Last Hangover. And it’s not that the group isn’t funny. For their first special, Porta dos Fundos took home a Best Comedy Emmy at the 47th International Emmy Awards.
Much like Todd Phillips‘s comedy classic, The Hangover, The Last Hangover told the “story” of the apostles at the Last Supper who, after a night of drunkenness, wake up to find Jesus Christ missing. They now must unravel the events of the previous night to find Jesus.
While The First Temptation of Christ has enjoyed a nearly two years (albeit controversial) stay on Netflix, it appears its time is now short. According to What’s On Netflix, The First Temptation is set to leave the streamer on August 31, 2021. No firm reason has been given for its departure, though typically it’s one of two reasons why titles go away on Netflix.
One, there could be legal obligations, though that doesn’t appear to be the case as all legal issues were squashed in early 2020. Secondly, the title license has expired. Netflix usually gives licenses in yearly intervals but again, in this case, that doesn’t appear to be the issue, given the timing. Nevertheless, The First Temptation of Christ has another week or so before it takes its final bow. So, act quickly if you don’t find the notion of a gay Jesus offensive.