Thursday, June 4, 2009

Playing Gay

A while ago I wrote about the gay characters on the CBS soap As The World Turns. While there are lesbian couples on two other soap operas, this was the only show to have a gay male couple, although there are rumors that The Young and the Restless, the highest-rated CBS soap, is planning to introduce same.

It's interesting how different actors react to learning that their characters are going to be -- or turn out to be -- gay.

Yani Gellman, who plays Hispanic -- and openly gay -- lawyer Rafe Torres on the show, just seemed pleased to have an interesting part that might be beefed up in the future.

On the other hand, Chris Engen (pictured), who plays Adam on the same show, threw a hissy fit when he found out what was in his character's future and walked off the set.

And the show.

What makes it really crazy is that it has been suggested that Adam isn't really going to turn out to be gay or bi, but that he comes on to and/or smooches Rafe Torres as a way of manipulating him.

Now this creates problems already, but before we get to that, one has to ask, did Engen, a 29-year-old actor on a popular show, throw away a gig like that (when, let's face it, most "actors" are waiting on tables) just because he didn't want to kiss a guy on camera for an acting job?

Maybe it was more than that. Maybe the rather sociopathic Adam would go so far as to sleep with the guy. [Which would suggest he was at least bi and in denial, if not gay].

I'm not crazy with the idea of Adam, who has turned out to be a very nasty, almost psychotic character -- I mean, trying to "gas light" [drive crazy] a pregnant woman who has been nothing but kind to him -- turning out to be gay. But at least Rafe seems like a decent fellow, although again I'm not crazy about him being treated like an easily manipulated weakling. The rumor mill has it that Rafe will actually be caught between evil Adam and a more likable and rational gay male character.


But as for Chris Engen. Some fans have come to his defense, saying perhaps he just didn't want to play a "stereotypically evil bisexual," but that does not appear to be the case. Engen made a statement on his MySpace page, which makes it clear -- reading between the lines or not -- that it is his distaste with the whole gay thing -- kissing a guy and all -- that had him stupidly ripping up his contract. Many straight fans left messages of support, lauding him for his bravery and convictions [i.e. homophobic attitudes].

As expected, Engen denies that he is homophobic, stating that he has "homosexual friends."

"Homosexual" friends instead of "gay friends." Isn't that sort of like saying he has "colored friends" instead of "black friends." When straight [or at least straight-identified] people use homosexual in that way, it usually doesn't mean that they're very gay-friendly.

Engen also mentions that his leaving the show has a lot to do with the fact that he is the single father of a young son.

What? Does he think the boy will somehow be corrupted if his father plays a gay (or ersatz-gay) role?

Not homophobic, sure.

Of course Engen claims he hadn't liked the direction the character was going in for quite some time, even though -- as others have noted -- most actors chomp at the bit for a chance to play an evil, attention-getting role on a popular show. He only walked off the soap when he found out Adam would be kissing Rafe.

Engen was not bad as Adam, but it was not hard to replace him, either. Two hours after he walked off the show the producers had signed another actor for the role.

I can understand how some straight actors might be a bit uncomfortable playing a gay role, and can understand they'd rather do love scenes with women. And all the inevitable questions about their sexuality might get tiresome. And they don't want to be thought of as closet cases and so on and so on. But for Pete's sake it's still just a role. It's not as if they're working in a gay bar.

It will be interesting to see how this all plays out, but one thing's for sure.

When you go out to dinner in a few months Chris Engen may be your waiter.

Or he might wind up a bartender.

In a gay bar. [You know how straight guys always think gay men are great tippers.]
UPDATE [6/18/09]: Last week the show had Adam dressing up in drag a la Psycho and trying to scare the shit out of the pregnant Ashley, who fell down the stairs and had a miscarriage. I'm so hoping they don't make this character gay.

No comments: