30/06/2017 9:20 PM AEST | Updated 30/06/2017 10:00 PM AEST

‘Neighbours’ Star Sparks Backlash Over Comments About Gay Men

‘Neighbours’ star Matt Wilson has sparked controversy over comments he made about gay people during an appearance on Channel 5′s ‘The Wright Stuff’.

The actor attracted criticism after saying his gay character in the Australian soap, Aaron Brennan “acted straight” and “normal”. 

His comments came after Suzi Perry asked if he ever received any flack for taking the part over a gay actor, given he is straight himself. 

He explained: “We’ve had this argument come up a couple of times.

“There are a lot of people who think you should have a gay actor playing a gay character, but that’s like saying you should get someone in a wheelchair to play a character in a wheelchair. 

“I think it’s important that we are expressing it. We specifically designed the character to act straight and act normal.

“When I say ‘normal’, I mean he’s not like the characters on ‘Modern Family’, where they are flamboyant and camp and they walk around tiptoeing.

“That creates separation – that’s us and them. It shouldn’t be like that. It should be all equal and no-one should have a problem with that. The way other characters act around my character is that there is never a problem at all.”

Many Twitter users called Matt out on his use of language on the social media site:

Matt has since apologised for causing offence, admitting his choice of words was not the best.

Tweeting one of the social media users who called him out, Matt wrote: “Choice of words wasn’t right and apologies if it comes across as offensive.

“The message I want to get across (and this is in support of one of my closest friends as he is having issues coming out) that he sick and tired of people assuming that because his sexuality is different to the guy next to him that they ‘expected him to act different’. This isn’t the case, and shouldn’t be preached on TV. 

“Once again - apologies for offending you, I trust you can see through this and see we are promoting the same message.”

RUComingOut.com and Stonewall Youth Programmes Manager, Wayne Dhesi, was just one of those who tweeted about Matt’s appearance on ‘The Wright Stuff’. 

Speaking to HuffPost UK, he explained why the actor’s comments caused offence. 

“Although Matt’s intention was clearly not to offend anyone, his comments about gay or bi people are clearly problematic,” he said. 

“It’s great when TV shows challenge stereotypes, but Matt saying that his character in ‘Neighbours’ was ‘designed to act straight and act normal’ suggests that anyone that doesn’t look or act like the character does is somehow ‘strange’.

“He goes on to explain that his character doesn’t face any problems due to his sexuality because he isn’t ‘flamboyant or camp’ and doesn’t ‘walk around tiptoeing’. The idea that gay people are accepted only when they fit some kind of ideal standard set by society is quite frankly offensive and potential very dangerous, especially for any young people who are already confused about their identity and feeling under pressure to fit in at school or in social groups.”

He continued: “Matt’s comments have once again highlighted the power of language and the importance of including communities in conversations where they are the topic.

“It’s important that we challenge problematic language when we hear it and it’s positive that Matt has acknowledged on Twitter that his choice of words could have come across as offensive.

“Of course actors don’t have to be gay to play a gay character but having an understanding of the challenges, obstacles and difficulties that still face the wider community can only be beneficial to everyone.”

‘Neighbours’ airs weekdays at 1.45pm and 5.30pm on Channel 5. 

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