Thursday, May 20, 2010

Of Newsweek and Gay Actors


A recent article in Newsweek has some [professional] gay activists and gay actors upset, and I can't blame them.

The article claims that straight actors can play gay but gay actors have a problem playing it straight.

According to the author, a Ramin Setoodeh, this is even a problem when the actor is non-stereotypical. He thinks that because the audience knows the actor is gay, they won't or can't accept him in straight, especially romantic, roles.

The latter point may have some validity to it, but it seems to me that if an actor is really good in his or her role, the audience will forget that they're acting and accept them in the part.

Another point the Newsweek author misses, incredibly, is that actors act. It may be impossible for some stereotypical gay guys to act butch on stage or on camera, but I have seen cases where even a "queen" can act very masculine when called for. I have met actors off-stage who were very butch in a play but rather femme in real life as well as vice versa. I remember even Harvey Fierstein played a straight gangster in a movie and was marvelous and completely convincing. That's why it's called acting.

Rock Hudson certainly had no trouble loving up the ladies in his movies and while he may not have been a great actor, he came off as convincingly "hetero." In fact, it annoys the hell out of me whenever someone -- gay or straight -- suggests that there's no chemistry between a leading man and a lady [or the other way around] because one of them is gay. Often you have two straight actors playing lovers and there's still no chemistry. Some people think the two actors have to be screwing off-screen before they can be believable as a couple. The truth is that a lot has to depend on such factors as basic acting ability, how realistic a couple they make in the first place [65-year-old guy and babe of 20?), and an intangible rapport between the two actors that may or may not show up on camera.

I don't know anything about Ramin Setoodeh. Don't know if he's straight or gay, or if he's gay whether he's Out and Proud or some self-hating homo, all I know is that with his ill-advised Newsweek column he's taken a giant step backward.

With its shrinking readership, let's hope Newsweek doesn't influence producers who were thinking of hiring a gay actor for an important straight role -- including a romantic lead -- and now may think twice about it.

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