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.