Ryan Shea's picture

Why are Gay Actors Still in the Closet in 2017?

I was perusing Netflix this morning, and stumbled upon a documentary called Tab Hunter: Confidential, as the streaming service thought I would like it based on my previous viewing of Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work.  You know me too well, Netflix.

The documentary followed the career of 50's heartthrob Tab Hunter, whose All-American and machismo good looks propelled him to superstardom and was on the same pedestal as Marlon Brando and James Dean at one point.  The problem was that he was deeply in the closet, and did everything he could to keep himself there, specifically about how a tabloid publication called Confidential reported that he was arrested prior to his career getting big for attending a "limp-wristed" party.

Keep in mind, this was in the 1950's where being gay ultimately was illegal and considered a mental disease.  Tab talked in the movie about how his mother had mental illness and how he had to check her into an institution, and even did a PSA on it.  He knew how detrimental it would have been on his career back then and the legal issues it could've caused him if anyone knew.

He discussed dating men including fellow actor Anthony Perkins and champion figure skater Ronnie Robertson, but did everything he could to keep those relationships under wraps.  Once again, this was sixty years ago.  And even sixty years later, this is still a problem that is in Hollywood as several actors and actresses are in the closet for several different reasons.

We live in a world today where being open about your sexuality is starting to become a (great) norm and it isn't considered too much of a big deal in certain parts of our world.  In the entertainment business, if you come out of the closet, chances are you are then relegated to playing strictly gay characters because the audience would have a hard time believing you are playing a heterosexual as it doesn't resonate with your personal life.

Sure, there are exceptions here.  Neil Patrick Harris playing an expert womanizer for several seasons of How I Met Your Mother and even Matt Bomer for his roles on television and movies, most notably being a hunky stripper in Magic Mike, but for the most part, many other out and proud gay actors are playing gay roles on hit tv shows and movies.  Others, who have been questioned for years and years about their sexualities, don't discuss or it make subtle "jokes" about it as a way to stay mum and continue playing an assortment of roles where sexuality doesn't come into play.

Here's where the double standard comes in.  Straight men are applauded for being "brave" and "courageous" for playing LGBT related roles.  Heck, they even win major awards in doing so.  That's all in good, but why can't it be the opposite?  Why does someone like Jake Gyllenhaal get praise for playing gay in Brokeback Mountain yet a gay actor can't get the same praise for playing a heterosexual in any sort of capacity?  For a business that prides itself on being accepting of all types, there are still some massive issues with who gets what role based on who they really are in their real lives.

If what these guys are doing is "acting", then why aren't there more roles for several out gay men to play anything other than gay?  What has to change in order to make this happen?

Comments

+1
0
-1
[-]

You conflate too many issues:

- Movies that become award contenders get the spotlight and praise.
- Heath Ledger got praise for playing repressed gay. Gyllenhaal got ridicule and attacks (often justified as for getting "paid & nominated") including his subsequent roles. 
- Coming out is a personal decision. "Hollywood" isn't all, but complicates each circumstance and issues.
Asking nonstop and counting "jokes" depersonalize that decision. It also targets someone for not being straight, thus their jobs and castability are always below the default respect given to the straight and passing.
- Harris and Bomer's straight roles in all their nuances could've been this entire post. Be the change you want to see.
- If 2017 is your premise, Call Me By Your Name should be emergency for being an awards contender, stars 2 straight actors being lavished by praise not given to their straight roles, made by a gay director who got less praise for his straight stories, etc.

+1
0
-1
[-]

There has to be a paying audience. It's that simple.

Add new comment