Another Queer Milestone: Two Jewish Guys Just Wed on Israeli Reality TV

Matan and Guy, two grooms, stood under the chuppah and broke the glasses together in an unprecedented episode of the Israeli version of 'Married at First Sight'

Itay Stern
Itay Stern
Matan and Guy in 'Married at First Sight."
Matan and Guy in 'Married at First Sight."Credit: Screenshot from MAKO
Itay Stern
Itay Stern

After five seasons, the Channel 12 reality show “Married at First Sight” has now broken the paradigm of a groom, a bride – a wedding. An unusual and unprecedented episode was aired this weekend, in which Matan and Guy, two grooms, stood under the chuppah and broke the glasses together. The families arrived in full force. The parents on both sides embraced their sons, and demonstrated solidarity and love that even in 2022 is not something to be taken for granted.

The show's producers, who invested considerable effort in casting, did everything possible to paint the happening as a regular television pairing. The discussion is the same discussion, the boring mainstream vibe is the same boring mainstream vibe. Just one more couple on the way to wedding canopy on “Hatunami,” as the show is nicknamed.

This TV event occurred within a concrete reality: Gay weddings have been taking place in Israel for many years, with their hundreds of guests and cloyingly sweet moments, and the obligatory refrigerator magnets and rosemary plants as souvenirs. But actually, gay weddings here are celebrations of love that lack any legal status.

Israel is still the country in which the pillars of its television networks dub representatives of the gay community “a gang of deviants” (regards to journalist Shimon Riklin!), MKs compare them to animals and the law discriminates against them, solely because of their sexual preferences.

The gay wedding presented on “Hatunami,” the most widely viewed TV show in the country today, constitutes a radical act. Not only for the gay community but for all Israelis. During the week when the Israel Police cancels the pride parade in the southern city of Netivot after its organizers received death threats, a gay wedding in prime time is equivalent to giving the finger to homophobes.

But because the producers didn't want to ruffle too many viewers' feathers, and perhaps because their program is generally a beacon of hetero-normalcy, the main protagonists of the episode in question were far less radical. Proof arrived already during the stage when the couple is introduced. Guy, 39, is a kind of alpha male who oozes testosterone as though he were the last of the action-movie heroes: a volleyball player, coach of a running group, a high-techie who was a combat soldier and “dreams of starting a family in Israel.”

The fact that he works at NSO, the espionage giant that is responsible for persecuting gays and dissidents in many different places, is a depressing reflection of the present situation of Israel’s gay community: On the one hand, it insists on calling for totally justified equal opportunities. On the other, it blatantly ignores the problems that it itself experiences.

Matan, as opposed to Guy, is a dentist-in-uniform, who works at Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv and fixes the smiles of male and female soldiers on the base. As opposed to Guy’s macho demeanor, he is presented in the initial scenes as someone in need of regular cosmetic treatments, in light of the tears that he sheds due to all the excitement and the pressure brought to bear on him.

The contrast offered by the shows' producers is clear. We’ve brought you two men. In one, you can find your pal from reserve duty; in the other, the sensitive guy who may help you better understand your own partners. This dichotomy, of the ostensibly masculine gay man and the feminine gay man, is outdated. We have long since exhausted it, and we can and should move on.

It was actually during a commercial break in the show that one could see a gay couple who don’t meet a single homosexual dictate, while advertising a cosmetic brand. The couple in the commercial weren’t exceptionally muscular, their hair was not carefully combed, and it was evident that their relationship was happy and free of any external and heteronormative dictates.

To a great extent, that was also the moment when it became clear that the advertising market is far more liberated than the world of broadcasting companies. Presumably both have a lot to lose should a consumer boycott erupt due to threats by homophobic groups, but it is the advertisers that have succeeded in providing far more advanced representations of gay people.

Almost 25 years have passed since Tomer and Iggy, protagonists of the Israeli series “Florentin,” kissed on the screen of Channel 2. Eytan Fox, the creator of that series, had to be insistent when dealing with Telad production company CEO Uzi Peled, so they would allow him to show the kiss between the two characters – a TV event that became a historic milestone. Since then loads of LGBTQs have been seen on our small screens, and a kiss between two boys even flickered during the youth series “Mekif Milano,” on Educational TV.

In light of the variety of representations of LGBTQ individuals on our screens in the past two decades, both on reality TV shows and elsewhere, the producers of “Hatunami” would do well to be a bit more daring when choosing the men they placed beneath the marriage canopy. On the other hand, a program that sanctifies monogamous couples with a traditionalist chuppah and rituals is apparently not the place in which to foment a revolution.

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