Nicholas Kania's picture

Wait, Why Are We Okay With Straight Actors Playing Gay Characters?

 

Seriously, why are we okay with straight actors playing gay characters? This is an aspect of the entertainment industry that truly baffles me, but if any of you can enlighten me as to why this practice is still so widespread in 2018, I'm more than happy to change my mind. Because as it stands, when I think about the fact that straight people have the guts to take on effeminate characteristics when playing gay, and that we applaud these actor for the accuracy of their cultivated gayness, I get a rage within that is so intense that I want to write a post about it instead of writing about K.J. Apa's nips. And that's an intensity I never wish to experience again.

Converse to our current White House administration, society has never been more woke than in 2018. We even have the word "woke." And everything about this wokeness feels as though the co-opting of gay culture would be frowned upon. An increasing number of people understand the importance of correct pronoun usage when addressing trans people. Through the #MeToo and Time's Up movements, we are overhauling the way women are treated in Hollywood, and across all industries. Black Panther's $1 billion international box office haul has ushered in the era of the bankable black superhero. Katy Perry has short hair. Katy Perry has short hair people!

In 2018 we are emphasizing the importance of diversity and addressing the injustices facing many marginalized groups. Representation is a key factor in equality, and projects such as Lady Bird - one of the few Best Picture Oscar nominees ever to be directed by a woman - only underscore the importance of diversity. But you know what's not diverse? A straight man playing a gay man.

 

 

Here's another way to break this down. One of everyone's favorite fun facts is that during Shakespeare's time, male actors played female roles exclusively. This practice evaporated once women proved capable of acting and society allowed them to do it. White actors used to appear in blackface to play racist caricatures of black people. This little acting gem obviously fell by the wayside, but existed in part up until the 2000's. You can see a very condensed history of blackface here. Before actors were able to come out as gay without the threat of being blacklisted, straight, or "straight," actors played gay roles.

But now we have gay actors. Capable of playing gay roles. What am I missing? It's 2018 and we're celebrating Timotheé Chamalet's bravery in licking Hammer's face in Call Me By Your Name? We're encouraging youths to watch straight actor Nick Robinson play a confused gay teen in Love, Simon, when really the message is that a gay teen is only worthy of our attention if he's portrayed by a straight actor? Hey Simon, I don't love you.

I've heard people defend the casting of straight actors in gay roles by pointing to the fact that their star power can help a project flourish in a way that a lesser known gay actor couldn't. I've also heard people say that we don't have the talent pool of openly gay actors yet necessary to fill all the roles. To which I say, sure. Never met a gay actor in my life. What would that even look like. A gay man in theater or cinema? Can't, compute. Systems, down. 

The past few years have brought some true bright spots - with homosexual hotties Wentworth Miller and Russell Tovey taking on a romantic storyline on the The Flash and fellow out actors Charlie Carver and Colton Haynes sharing a passionate moment on Teen Wolf. But for every success, there's a Dallas Buyers Club, and I just can't stand it anymore. I just can't. Straight actors leverage gay roles as Oscar bait, but it's the struggles of real gay people that have made these roles so compelling and so multifaceted, and to swoop in at the last minute and co-opt that is unfathomable. It's, dare I say, un-woke.


This post is the opinion of this contributing writer to Instinct Magazine.  Opinion pieces do not always reflect the stance of the magazine or the other contributing writers.

Comments

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"Converse to our current White House administration" ?? - What kind of phrase is that? Wow.  I don't think "converse" means what you think it means. How about, "As opposed to..." ?

Also, it's called "acting." Look it up.

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Ok, now that your childish hisseyfit is over, it is time to get over yourself. Gay storylines are increasing and gaining public acceptance  because casting directors are taking great pains to hire the BEST actors to tell the story. To say that only gay actors should play gay stories is like saying that only combat veterans can portray war stories, or that only cops can play cops. I  fact, those who have "lived" a life are often the absolute worst to "play" that life. 

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So does that mean that gay actors cannot play straight roles?  Where does all this end?

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I was thinking the same thing, Just this Neil Patrick Harris in "How I met your Mother!"... they literally couldnt have cast a better actor for that role gay or straight.

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The fact that movies like "Call Me By Your Name" and "Love, Simon" are getting the national attention that would never happen a couple of years ago should be brought up. As for the gay should play gay, who said that gay performers aren't auditioning. It's just the system where they think the best actor get the part. And how people don't want to go into a job interview and be asked about their sexual preference, the same can be said for the movie industry. 

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I think the problem here is that we are all missing the point.  The reason many of us a tired of seeing excellent gay roles going to straight actors is because openly gay actors have been (un)officially banned from playing romantic leads, heroic leads, superhero/comic book leads, leads in epic or blockbuster movies.  If the powers-that-be in Hollywood will not even consider openly gay actors in these types of roles (please see this article from the Advocate:  https://www.advocate.com/arts-entertainment/2016/5/19/are-closeted-actors-selfish), then they should at least let openly gay actors play gay roles.  Another example is Dan Amboyer.  Shortly after he came out, Dan Amboyer said in another Advocate interview that casting directors already told him that he will never be cast in a comic book movie.  Still, it would seem that Hollywood producers would rather let straight actors get all the attention instead of at least taking a chance on an openly gay actor.

Now, I know what's coming:  "But what about Zachary Quinto, Matt Bomer, Neil Patrick Harris, Colton Haynes, etc?  They've played straight characters so Hollywood can't be discriminatory!"  Please remember, that these are the exceptions and not the rule.  Furthermore, many of these actors were already established in playing these characters before they came out and many of them were on TV.  TV executives are willing to take chances that movie producers are not and are less likely to fire someone already established on a successful show.  Plus, I still remember that shortly after Zachary Quinto came out, there was a news report on the radio discussing how Zachary Quinto might not be back as Spock due to "contract negotiations."  That may have been true, but looking back, seems a little too convenient.  Also, has anyone else noticed how The Flash movie keeps getting pushed back and is still in pre-production?  Guess who plays the Flash-openly queer actor Ezra Miller.

If we had more of a balance of openly gay actors playing straight roles, then this issue wouldn't bother me so much.  But, since we don't (and let's face it going forward it doesn't seem to likely it will happen any time soon), I think we need more articles describing this imbalance in casting and the need for openly gay actors to play gay roles.

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     A similar but reverse, situation in a new TV series, "Rise", based on a book by Michael Sokolove.  It tells the TRUE story of a brilliant Drama/theater teacher in a blue collar Pa. public school and how this man's daring approach to theater transforms the school and the community.  The Man, in real life, realized, after marriage and fatherhood, that he was gay.  He and his wife stayed together till son was out of HS and, then,  separated amicably.  MOST of his theater career was done openly as a truly well-respected TEACHER, who also was a gay man.  Hollywood bought the rights to the book and decided that the theater Director, LOU, should be married with 3 kids, and STRAIGHT, and, of course, played by a straight actor.  The developer of the show went so far as to criticize that if anyone wanted a gay character in that role,  they should go out and make their own TV show.  So we have a true story about a truly brilliant and valuable educator, who changed and influenced students' live positively, NOT told in truth but, in fiction, distorted and , I feel , betrayed

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How can we be accepted as equal when you get meaningless drivel like this? If an actor can act what difference is it if he/she is gay or straight in a gay/straight roll? This is obviously someone who still believes being gay is different. Go back inside the closet, where you belong.

m

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Don't you SAY nothin bad about Mr. Timothée Chamalet!

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Idiot. Its called ACTING for a reason.  I weep for today's LGBT community

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Victor Garber is married to a man in real life. Married to a woman in Legends of Tomorrow (currently still filming).

Darren Criss - engaged to long time girlfriend IRL. Blaine Anderson on Glee, Andrew Cunanan on American Crime Story(currently still filming), both gay roles.

Plenty others to name, but are we really going to limit the actors based on their sexuality? They’re not superheroes, but we still have Henry Cavill bust through cement and buildings by crashing through them.  No one is a cartoon, yet Peter Cullen has been Optimus Prime for multiple games and movies for years.

You’re not the director, producer, casting director, writer, so what? You’re not the actor they hired either. Let someone who can perform the job do what they’re paid.

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Are You being serious right now???? Dude people become actors to play a role, someone that isn’t them, play a role that’s different from their reality that enlightens them and also enlightens and entertains the audience. They’re not hurting anyone by acting you’re either one of those annoying  “WOKE” gays which is something you need to save for Twitter or are you one of those butt-hurt gays that’s sad that your gay crush on screen is really a straight guy with a family so you feel lied to. Instead of nitpicking you should be applauding that these talented people are out here letting our stories and lives be known showing people our struggles and how we aren’t so different from them, and I love my people but let’s keep it all the way real there's only a hand full of gay stars that can actually act well, and you sir are doing our community no favors by wanting to shelter us and keep us type casted as the same thing over and over again, before you had even let your fingers do the talking on your keyboard you should have gotten out of your feelings and put yourself inside a gay actors shoes. No one wants to be type casted. In that case let’s stop casting light skin black people who are fully black from playing mixed roles or how about let’s stop black people who aren’t African from playing so, hell while we’re at grab your beloved Jennifer Lawrence because In her film Red Sparrow she’s Russian which she isn’t. I’m not trying to be a dick but your narrow minded, you can’t sit with us, everyone should stay in there own box type of thinking needs to go, as a lgbtq man you need to check yourself because you’re sending us backwards not forwards, as a(n) 17 year old gay guy I’m glad films like Love, Simon are out to help parents and teens understand each other my parents were fine but some people aren’t that lucky to have parents or friends that already understand and films like this one and many others are out here broadening people’s minds, so instead of paying attention to the actor you need to pay attention to the message, leave the acting to the actors and agents & stay in your lane. 

Ziggy's picture
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Woah dude lol, A little more aggressive than I would have been but i agree with this 100% and i for one don’t mind Straight actors playing gay or gay actors playing straight because it’s all apart of the craft why be an actor if you’re going to be limited to certain roles because of who you are or what you look like And While i obviously believe as People we are entitled to our opinions and with Freedom Of Speech we can Voice said opinions but with that we need to be careful with them because while some can just reflect badly on a person, others like this one can reflect badly on an entire community. Just sayin

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There would be more big gay stars if Hollywood didn't force them in the closet.  Maybe if they'd open those doors, they could reward the ones standing out and proud with the roles.

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I agree.  And that goes for gay4pay porn also -even more!

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The truth is that we don't have alot of good gay actors out there to play the roles that make these movies such box office hits. Yes there are really good gay actors but are they capable of being nominated for an Oscar. Some gay actors abilities are pretty limited and one dimentional that they don't end up being well rounded characters. I have no problem having straights play gay as long as it's done tastefully. When we finally get an amazing gay role for an amazing gay actor. We'll all take notice. 

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Rock Hudson? Montgomery Clift?

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"But you know what's not diverse? A straight man playing a gay man."  Actually, it is. Just as Russell Tovey playing a straight werewolf is; or Colton Haynes playing the Arrow's sidekick and his sister's love interest is; or Zachary Quinto playing Spock is; or Ellen de Generes playing Dory is; or even Kevin Spacey (yeah, he's a sexual predator, I get that) in any one of his roles; or  ....  I have an idea: if you can't stand seeing straight men play gay, then give up most of your porn and also don't go see the films. But leave the rest of us out of it.

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Wow this a extremely narrow minded.  An actor by definition is someone who has the ability to step into a role and make it believable.  This is a slippery slope to climb.  Are you prepared to say that gay actors can’t play straight roles?  Why do you think so many actors have remained closed.  There is a clear difference between someone playing a gay character versus a black, Hispanic, or Asian role.  It is unlikely you will convince an audience that a white person is black but you surely can convince them that a gay actor is straight or vice versa.  Give me great acting and a great story that moves me.  Don’t pigeonhole a person based on sexual orientation.  

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Shut the fuck up with this whiny bullshit.

I've seen plenty of independent gay films with gay casts and you know what? They suck.

Just cause some boy is gay doesn't mean he can act although he dreams it's in his blood. Sorry kid. You can't seem to break out of that 2 dimensional caricature of yourself in front of a camera.

Of a straight actor can give depth and nuance to a gay characters better than an actual gay man? All power to him. May the Best Actor get the part to best convey the role. I'm not about to discriminate against the actor because of who he screws in his own time. Isn't this the kind of stupid discrimination we've been fighting against for so long? Why are we the ones Doing it now.

Again...shut the fuck up and may the best actor Act...no matter what they are.

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STUPID STUPID STUPID STUPID!

Gives permission to anyone who says that gay actors shouldn't Play Straight

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F**k off...they are ACTORS. Are you doing to require real superheroes to play those in the movies too? This is the most asinine thing you've ever posted...unfollowing and UNSUBSCRIBING. I hope you have to print a retractions for this one.

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