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Monday, 7 March 2011

On Gay actors

Now this drama has been dragging along for something of a while now, and it's beginning to stink like those left overs you keep putting off dong something with because you're incapable of cooking for less than16 people *ahem*

So it seems there is some debate about gay actors playing straight roles. Because it's just not realistic enough. Audiences just can't see gay actors in a romantic lead (and, as an aside, can I give a big side eye to the fact “romantic lead” always means man/woman sexing?) It completely breaks their suspension of disbelief and they cannot believe the role.

I hate to break this to you guys. But… Orlando Bloom is not an elf pirate (alas, for the sexy combination would be incredible). Johnny Depp is not a pirate who is also investigating the Jack the Ripper murders. Daniel Radcliff is not a wizard. Alexander Skarsgarde is not a Viking vampire (but, yes he is made of sexy).

That would be because they are what we call actors. This means they *gasp* ACT. I know, complicated advanced terms aren’t they? This means that they actually play parts of people who are NOT THEM.

Because, y’know what? I find it disturbing that you are quite happy and capable to suspend disbelief enough to see Orlando Bloom as an elf, or just about anyone with some rough face make up can be an alien or can even see Taylor Laughtner as a competent actor, yet cannot possibly suspend disbelief enough to forget that an actor is gay. I find it troublesome that the fact an actor is gay overwhelms all other considerations to a degree that an audience can merrily accept elves, wizards, big blue cat aliens and even sparkling vampires in purity rings – but a gay actor being anything but gay through and through? No, that is a leap too far.

Frankly? It’s homophobic, pure and simple.

And on that note – it is clear that, depressingly, being openly gay, especially for a leading-man style actor, is a career killer. And while it is wonderful and amazing when such a person does come out – we cannot demand that of them because the cost is too high so can we stop with the heckling, the hounding and the pointless speculation. If they come out, let us celebrate, but unless they are an arsehole attacking the rest of us, don’t drag them out of the closet before they are ready to come out.

Relatedly, however, I have to say that the fact we should not heckle actors to come out, doesn’t mean the presence of out actors – or an actor’s sexuality – is irrelevant – especially when it comes to actors who play gay characters.

Many people have said that the sexuality of the actors doesn’t matter. And I raise my eyebrow and become most sarcastic I do.

Because gay actors have repeatedly said that coming out is often a career killer.

Because when John Barrowman applied for the position of Will in Will & Grace he was turned down for a straight guy because he “wasn’t gay enough.” Gay actors not only have trouble securing straight roles, but they even face barriers securing gay roles

Because far too many portrayals of us rely eternally on gross stereotyping.

Because the same people telling us that the sexuality of the actors playing gay characters doesn’t matter are also turning round and being (rightly) outraged at the white cast of Avatar: the Last Airbender film and don’t seem to see any conflict in this.

Because I think under-represented minorities really should have the chance to tell their own stories and represent themselves rather than have straight people fill the role. And I think that’s doubly, trebly the case when we’re considered unsuitable to represent most roles

So yes, it does matter. Yes an actor’s sexuality is relevant and I dislike the amount of straight handwaving we’re having over the issue. Yes you don’t have a right to Out an actor or demand an actor outs themselves – but that does not make the existence of out actors irrelevant.

And finally – if an actor identifies as straight or declines to answer that question but plays the roles of gay characters - that does not make them gay. And it’s homophobic to assume a straight actor playing gay roles is closeted. Because to say that you are saying that only gay people would ever want to play our role.

You are saying that playing a GBLT person is just too abhorrent for straight people. You are saying there’s nothing in a gay role that would appeal to straight people. Because gay characters can’t be deep and interesting and worthy of straight people’s attentions and be a professional challenge to portray? It’s insulting and, again, homophobic

Just as Orlando Bloom doesn’t have to be an elf to play Legolas, nor does him playing Legolas mean he is secretly an elf. Just because an actor plays a gay role doesn’t make them gay. It’s called acting.

There, did I miss anything? Probably, but it was a good ramble. And there’s such a trainwreck of fail to address here