A recent Newsweek article called “Straight Jacket,” about how gay actors can’t pull off straight roles, is causing mega-nega-buzz on the interwebs. Kristin Chenowith was the first to blast the piece, defending her “Promises, Promises” co-star Sean Hayes, who the article refers to as “the big pink elephant in the room.” Now producer Ryan Murphy and the entire cast of “Glee” are calling for a Newsweek boycott until the publication apologizes for the piece. In it, the writer calls Jonathan Groff (who plays Lea Michele’s new love interest on the show) “your average theater queen.”
This all got me wondering—is Ramin Setoodeh’s article really that offensive or are people just being overly sensitive? Sometimes quotes can be taken out of context. So I sat down for a careful read of “Straight Jacket” and wanted so badly to be able to say that people were getting their panties in a wad about nothing. But seriously, this article is so freaking out of line.The main thing that bothers me is the writer’s ignorance … not so much about sexual orientation, but about acting in general. He is taking two performances he doesn’t really care for, Sean Hayes in “Promises, Promises” and Jonathan Groff from “Glee,” and makes a broad, sweeping generalization about gay actors playing straight roles. What he doesn’t know is that many of the great, heterosexual performances from male and female actors he sees regularly in film, television, and theater are actually executed by gay actors. Many gay actors are not out publicly, not just because Hollywood is keeping them in the closet, but because they don’t feel that their sexuality is the world’s business. Hello … Jodie Foster?
The writer goes on to idiotically say that knowing an actor is gay playing straight ruins the credibility of their performance. He uses Rock Hudson’s performance in “Pillow Talk” as an example, claiming it becomes a “farce when you know the likes of his true bedmates.” Why? Because Setoodeh is out of touch with his own sexuality? Also, he proposes that if George Clooney came out as gay, that he might not be the same leading man A-lister that he is today.
Even more offensive, he tears down what I find to be outstanding performances by gay actors in straight roles. He says that Neil Patrick Harris of “How I Met Your Mother” and Portia di Rossi of “Arrested Development” manage to “pull off the trick in reverse,” but only by inhabiting “broad caricatures, not realistic characters.” What? How is Neil Patrick Harris a caricature in “How I Met Your Mother”? He also speculates that lesbians like Anne Heche, Cynthia Nixon, and Kelly McGillis were “straight” when they turned out great performances in “Men In Trees,” “Sex In The City,” and “Top Gun.” Oh come on, dude.
An actor’s job is to make us believe that they are a character, even if the character is way different than who they are in real life. Gay and straight actors play murderers, convicts, prostitutes, nuns, drug addicts, and people of different races, religions, creeds, ages, and time periods. It’s endless. Every once in a while, they don’t pull off the trick. But acting skills have nothing to do with sexual orientation. Maybe Sean Hayes wasn’t the right guy for the part in “Promises, Promises,” but one “off” performance from a gay actor should not be an invitation to slander gay actors in general. If I had a nickel for every bad performance by a straight actor or actress, I’d be rich.
So what do you think about the Newsweek article? Utterly reprehensible or no big deal?