What a week to be Tooji! Yesterday he released his new single “Father” and he came out as gay. A day later his steamy music video, which features an intimate scene between two men in front of the church altar, already has more than 120,000 views on YouTube.
The same-sex throwdown in front of the nave has created quite a stir, especially with religious leaders at the Church of Norway, who lent out Frogner Church for the filming. The Church of Norway now claims that some scenes — presumably the fleshy ones of Tooji riding a religious leader — do not fully correspond to those in the project description.
In a statement realeased on the Norwegian Church’s web site, Norway’s bishop is quick to point his outrage stems from the portrayal of the nave, not the fact the scene involves same-sex relations. “The nave should never be used as a visual backdrop for sexual scenes in a commercial production,” he writes. “A similar scene between a man and a woman would be equally unacceptable.”
NRK axes Tooji as host of MGP JR
At the same time, NRK has let Tooji go from his role hosting the junior version of Norway’s Melodi Grand Prix. Tooji claims he was fired whereas NRK frames it more gently: The explicit scenes of “The Father Project” seem somewhat incompatible with hosting a singing contest for children and teens. #obviously.
Tooji on coming out
And in the middle of this brouhaha, Tooji has released a passionate speech on his YouTube channel called “Human Rights Above Religion”. Tooji gets very personal, detailing both the situation in developed countries (i.e. Norway) and the state of affairs in his place of birth, Iran.
Tooji explains the reasoning behind his coming out, saying that he wants to help support young people who do not feel a lot of support, and also articulates what he is trying to say in “Father.”
“You are a part of God”, he proclaims. He does not bash religion, but criticizes it as a body integrated into the state and given the power to determine what is right and wrong in society based on questionable interpretations of scripture.
The fact is that whether we are referring to the Abrahamic god of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism or to polytheistic faiths, religion is meant to console others and provide meaning for personal struggle. To pick and choose small phrases to justify mass persecution is both an insult to the entire meaning of any religion as well as what the scripture truly represents. This is the power of Tooji’s message and his video for “Father”. He seeks self-acceptance within religion, but will not tolerate how a few people misconstrue it for their own sociopathy.
Reactions have been strong — everything from support to complete disgust to apathy to others claiming “we already knew it”. This is a tremendous moment for Tooji and shows how the power of music and art can generate real discussion and debate.
What do you think of the reaction to Tooji’s music video?