Playboy in Portugal shut down for its ‘blasphemous’ Jesus photoshoot

A TRIBUTE in the Portuguese edition of Playboy to the late Nobel Prize-winning author Jose Saramago – a “militant atheist” – has gone horribly wrong, and the magazine has been shut down for “blasphemy”.

The 'blasphemous' cover of Playboy Portugal

Playboy‘s “crime” was to re-imagine Saramago’s novel The Gospel According to Jesus Christ as soft-core porno. Curiously, it wasn’t the Portuguese authorities who took action, but the parent company, Playboy Enterprises in the US.

An outraged Theresa Hennessy, Playboy Enterprises’ Vice President of Public Relations, said:

We did not see or approve the cover and pictorial in the July issue of Playboy Portugal. It is a shocking breach of our standards, and we would not have allowed it to be published if we had seen it in advance. As a result of this and other issues with the Portuguese publisher, we are in the process of terminating our agreement.

Hennessy explained Playboy Enterprises’ relationship with Playboy Portugal:

All international publications of Playboy magazine are licensed editions (we currently have 26, including Portugal) and our international publishers sign detailed licensing agreements. While using the format of the US edition, our partners publish local editions of Playboy magazine that reflect both the standards and culture of their own country, as well as our own standards and practices.

Writing on Gawker, Maureen O’Connor  commented:

This is disappointing because it was among the few Playboy photo features I’ve found interesting … Smut in honor of a controversial novel by a militant atheist Nobel laureate—why not? Fashion photography has long monopolized the world of thoughtful magazine imagery. I say, give serious smut (gimmicky smut, silly smut, even mindlessly provocative smut!) a chance. At its core, Playboy is designed to shock. Top-selling copies frequently trade on the shock value of mainstream starlets and other incongruous public figures shedding their garments and getting dirty …

The pictures show an airbrushed, idealised Jesus with familiar centre-parting, long hair, beard and robes radiating an unearthly glow as he watches various topless models. Two women enjoy a lesbian clinch, another reads a book, a fourth seems to be a prostitute touting for business while the last woman appears to have died in Christ’s arms.

Jesus perving over a pair of snogging lesbians

According to this report, Jose Saramago’s 1991 novel The Gospel According to Jesus Christ is a fictional retelling of the life of Christ, seen from his perspective. Its publication caused outrage because it depicts a human, passionate Christ who ends up firmly opposed to God’s plan to create a new religion through him.

In one particularly criticised scene, a shepherd tries, unsuccessfully, to persuade Christ to have sex with a sheep. The book caused such controversy in Portugal – then a good deal more Catholic than it is now – that Saramago moved to the Canary Islands to escape, dying there on June 18 this year.