Netflix Removing Antigay Film Isn’t “Free Speech,” it’s Free Market

As Remezcla reports, sometime in the past month, Netflix Mexico yanked Paco del Toro’s 2016 film, Pink, from its lineup. The controversial film told the story of a gay couple (comprised, of course, of a flamboyant, effeminate partner paired with his straight-laced, macho boyfriend-turned-husband) who adopt a child. “Over the course of 100 minutes, [the film] attempts to pin the family’s unhappiness on the couple’s queerness,” writes Remezcla‘s Adriana Cataño. “It even goes as far as suggesting that the men have indoctrinated the young boy.”

After many took to social media to call out the many ways the film ran counter to the generally LGBT-friendly (if occasionally campy) offerings on the platform, Netflix eventually pulled the film after “reviewing its content.” Cue the cries of “censorship” and silenced “free speech,” two of the most widely misused concepts in the culture wars. Yes this is, strictly speaking, censorship. But so what? The only “censorship” that has any legal ramifications is the governmental kind. But that’s an entirely different animal. Ditto “free speech.” Constitutionally protected free speech concerns, once again, the government, not the right to express any view without consequence.

And no one (and certainly no government entity) stopped del Toro from making his film, distributing it to theaters, and eventually licensing it to Netflix. Quite the opposite, in fact. Once audiences were able to see the film for themselves, they decided it was inappropriate. Netflix’s subscribers—aka consumers—determined the film ran contrary to the kind of content they want to see on the platform they pay to access. That’s not censorship—that’s the vaunted free market economy at work. Isn’t that what so many conservatives are always preaching about?

The backlash to the film wasn’t unexpected—or at least, it shouldn’t have been. When Pink hit Mexican theaters in March 2016, it was broadly panned, and local activists launched a petition asking the country’s human rights commission to investigate whether the film was homophobic. Calls to boycott the theatre chain showing the film proliferated, and U.S.-based LGBT media watchdog GLAAD condemned the offensive, false stereotypes the film advanced. Pink wasn’t much of an artistic departure for del Toro, who has previously made conservative films through his production company, “Armageddon.” Remezcla notes that del Toro doesn’t believe being gay is a choice, but he does believe gays “need to be saved by God.”

Indeed, one character in the film “overcomes” his homosexual tendencies “through the Bible” after his partner is diagnosed with AIDS. Meanwhile, one of the actors in the film told Mexican newspaper El Universal that he’s definitely not homophobic, but doesn’t think gays should be allowed to adopt children. “I have doubts when it comes to the child’s happiness,” Robert Palazuelos told the paper in March 2015. “I don’t know if the kid will be happier in an orphanage or a gay home.”

While the film’s central premise feels outdated, the battle over same-sex couples’ fitness to adopt and raise children is anything but. Mexico’s national patchwork of marriage equality laws leaves many would-be parents in limbo, and LGBT couples in the U.S. don’t fare much better. It was just last year that the final state law outright banning LGBT people from adopting was struck down in federal court. Less than 10 months later, South Dakota enacted a law allowing “faith-based” adoption agencies to refuse to place children in homes headed by LGBT people, while lawmakers in Alabama and Georgia filed similar bills.