Wednesday, May 12, 2010

acting straight 2

I have been tossing and turning in bed I'm so angry at Newsweeks' Ramin Setoodeh (of whose existence I was blissfully unaware until yesterday - thanks a lot, information age!) and the unbelievable homophobic rant he wrote (if you can call it writing) in Newsweek (see below). And part of me feels guilty: shouldn't I be upset about more important things? The Times Square bombing attempt? The Oil Spill? Gays being executed in Uganda?

But I think I'm upset because I AM an actor, and I am an openly gay actor. To be told by someone - another gay man, no less! - that I can't do my job as well as a straight person really, really bothers me.

Something that occurred to me this morning concerned Setoodeh's example of Jonathan Groff as an out actor apparently too "queeny", (according, of course, to Setoodeh) to play a straight high school student on the TV show "Glee".

Now, I will admit that I haven't seen Sean Hayes in "Promises, Promises". But I HAVE seen Jonathan Groff in "Glee". Not only that, both Tommy and I had NO idea that he was gay (we missed that memo, what can I say?) and the notion that he was some queen playing at being straight NEVER occurred to us. Really, I had no idea about his (Groff's) sexuality outside of the character he was playing. In other words, Ramin Setoodeh is a shit-house rat crazy self-hating homophobe.

Satoodeh tries to make the case that straight actors are better at playing gay characters than gay actors, using Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhall, of "Brokeback Mountain", as an example. Again, this is a PROJECTION of homophobia, only in reverse: Setoodeh knows, on some level, that these actors are straight, that Eric McCormack on "Will and Grace" is straight, that Sean Penn in "Milk" is straight, and somehow that is OK, because they are just PRETENDING to be gay, they aren't REALLY filthy disgusting fags in real life. So it's OK.

Was Sean Penn brilliant in "Milk"? Of course he was. Great actors TRANSFORM, as Sean Penn does, again and again. His sexual preference doesn't make him a better actor. What openly gay actors need to deal with, over and over, is the negative stereotypes that are projected onto them by a homophobic culture. Do not tell me that Ian McKellan is not a great actor. Or Cherry Jones. Or any number of openly gay actors.

That said, are there gay actors (or, really, ANY actors) that do not have the ability to transform? Of course there are. But bad straight actors (ie, Keanu) do not have to deal with the rampant homophobia on top of everything else as another obstacle to thwart their careers.

Everyone makes fun of how Tom Cruise is gay but won't admit it. We all "know" he is, somehow, on some level. We joke about it, again and again. Maybe he is. Or not. I really have no idea. What is interesting about Tom Cruise is that he will famously sue ANYONE who claims that he is gay. And he wins. And the sad reason he wins is that a gay actor, an openly gay actor, does not make the same amount of money to pay the lawyers to sue someone when they say they are gay (of course, if they were out, they wouldn't need lawyers, but they also couldn't afford them, because they would not be making the same money as Tom Cruise. Because they wouldn't be hired. Because they are openly gay. Which, of course, is wrong.) Part of the reason he is so successful, one could argue, (and Cruise does) is because he is PERCEIVED as straight. Even with all the gossip, as long as he never says he's gay, he is straight. Period. And perhaps, that is the way it should be. People come out of the closet only if they want to. And perhaps it's unimportant. And perhaps it's no one's business.

But I would say: come out, closeted actors. Please. We need to start dealing with this head on, and this is no time to hide. Really.

See, this is NOT about gay actors not being able to transform into straight characters. It is about the CRAZY INSANE HOMOPHOBIA that exists in our culture and still does. This is the PERFECT example of it: Satoodeh only has trouble believing actors who are OPENLY gay, ie, he CAN'T GET PAST HIS OWN OBSESSION WITH THEIR GAYNESS TO SEE ANYTHING ELSE. That he is a gay man himself only makes it more offensive and sad. You do NOT have to be straight to be a homophobe, clearly, and Setoodeh, in my opinion, needs a lot of therapy.

Likewise, it shouldn't take a gay person to see that Setoodeh's article is clearly HOMOPHOBIC BULLSHIT. But somehow this flew over the heads of the editors of Newsweek. Perhaps they figured that calling an openly gay writer's article homophobic wouldn't be kosher. My guess is that all these editors were straight and a bit cowed by Satoodeh. After all, questioning/critiquing a gay writer's stance on gayness: isn't that bigotry? No, it's not. Not in this case, anyway. And thus Setoodeh's article went verbatim to press.

The irony is that the target of Setoodeh's poisonous rage is Sean Hayes, the television actor best known for playing Jack on "Will and Grace", who famously expressed reluctance at coming out of the closet for fear of the very thing that is happening to him right now. I am so sorry that this thoughtless rant confirms his previous fears, I really thought that such things were past us.

But they are clearly not.

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