A Catholic bishop has criticised the Irish TV station RTÉ for showing a marathon nude sex scene in its drama series, Normal People. However, several A List celebrities have spoken out in its defence.
The show is a TV adaptation of Sally Rooney’s popular novel Normal People and follows the complex relationship of Marianne and Connell through their time at secondary school in County Sligo on Ireland’s Atlantic coast and later as undergraduates at Trinity College in Dublin.
It’s very popular in Ireland and across the world since it began showing on stations like the BBC in the UK and Hula in the United States. It’s also had its fair share of controversy due to its racy sex scenes in which Connell, played by Paul Mescal, and Marianne, played by Daisy Edgar Jones, appeared nearly nude.
That alone was enough to spark complaints to RTÉ, with several angry callers phone radio talk shows to express their anger. However, the episode that has really got people talking is the one tonight featuring Mescal full frontal naked with nothing left to the imagination. It’s said to be the longest sex scene ever shown on Irish television.
One of the production team insiders told the Irish Sun: “If the earlier sex scenes caused ripples of complaints, this will bring a tsunami on RTE. Full frontal nudity would have been too much in the earlier episodes of Normal People. But now viewers are used to the sexual nature of the drama, they will have been prepared for this.”
The decision to go ahead with the explicit scenes has outraged Bishop Michael Cox, a member of the ultra-conservative Tridentine wing of the Catholic Church. He said: “Morally it is wrong. Showing a grown man fully naked on TV? It would offend any right-minded human being. Young teenagers will be watching this, even married couples in their own homes. It is outrageous and it should be stopped.”
Bishop Cox, who’s 75 and retired lives in Co Offaly, accused RTÉ of using licence fee money to lower the morals of the country: “This is improper. This is blasphemous to almighty God. I’m not surprised we have Covid-19 with this sort of stuff on TV. Do I think that these outrages are responsible for the Coronavirus? I think people should read the Bible and find out.”
The director of Normal People Lenny Abrahamson defended the sex scenes saying they had been done very sensitively. “Generally speaking, there has been a very strong positive response to the way sex scenes are shown and the way consent is dealt with.”
Paul Mescal said he is “incredibly proud” of the love scenes. “But the last thing I want to do is sit and judge people for that, because they’re entitled to their opinion. My own perspective of it is we worked hard to make it feel like it was a real, accurate and truthful representation of sex among young people. It’s something I’m incredibly proud of and incredibly proud to see on Irish screens, personally.”
The show has had huge support from celebrities across the world including Ireland, the UK and the US.
James Corden tweeted: “Underplaying the impact of Normal People on @hulu has had on me for just a moment. I honestly think it may have changed my life. It’s the best show I’ve watched in so long.”
Singer Niall Horan said: “If you ever want to know what it was like growing up in rural Ireland, the first two episodes of ‘Normal people’ is a fair assessment. Think I also might love Marianne.”
A spokesman for RTÉ said: “There were no formal complaints made to RTE in relation to Normal People. We received 42 pieces of feedback from the public — via email and phone — to date expressing unhappiness and disappointment with the content of the show. There were five positive pieces of feedback. It is worth noting that there has been a hugely positive response from our viewers on social media.”