I Accept Matt Damon’s Excuses
Matt Damon appeared on “Ellen” yesterday to talk about his new movie, “The Martian,” and to clear up some ignorant things he told a Guardian reporter last week. The quote goes:
“I think you’re a better actor the less people know about you period. And sexuality is a huge part of that. Whether you’re straight or gay, people shouldn’t know anything about your sexuality because that’s one of the mysteries that you should be able to play.”
He explained to Ellen DeGeneres: “I was just trying to say actors are more effective when they’re a mystery. Right? And somebody picked it up and said I said gay actors should get back in the closet. Which is like I mean it’s stupid, but it is painful when things get said that you don’t believe.”
Like, Matt, we know. We know what you were saying, It was just poorly thought-out. You could be like, “I stand by my opinion that actors can improve their craft by not letting the public in too much on what they’re like as a person, but I’m sorry for not thinking about what it’s like to be in the closet before saying it about gay people specifically. My bad.” It’s that easy. You don’t even have to go back on what you said!
However, I accept his terrible excuses because he also said this: “In the blogosphere there’s no real penalty for just taking the ball and running with it. You know what I mean? You’re just trying to click on your thing. So.” Because honestly, that hits the real problem here on the head, even if it’s not the most eloquent way of putting it. Reading the original quote, I have to look a little cock-eyed at it, but I don’t think a reasonable person would immediately think that Matt Damon is telling queers to get back in the closet. But let’s look at the headlines:
- Salon: “Matt Damon says gay actors should stay in the closet”
- The Daily Beast: “Shut Up, Matt Damon: The Actor Argues Gay Actors Should Stay In The Closet”
- Hollywood Life: “Matt Damon Urges Gay Actors To Stay In The Closet”
- The Week: “Matt Damon thinks gay actors should stay in the closet”
- Hollywood Reporter: “Matt Damon Suggests Gay Actors Should Stay In The Closet”
- RawStory: “Matt Damon urges gay actors to stay in the closet to further their careers”
- LGBTQNation: “Matt Damon warns gay actors to stay in the closet”
ORLY? Did Matt Damon suggest that? Did he urge that? Did he argue that? Did he warn that? No. He had an idea that both straight and gay actors could be more believable on stage and on screen if the public knows as little as possible about their personal lives. We even did it here at The Frisky, although, as ever, I appreciate Megan’s even tone about the whole thing. The point is, this is precisely the kind of tiny flame that even bloggers with good intentions can fan into a blaze, but for what purpose?
This is all the worse because the way that this story has been presented in the last 36 hours, the message is that these bloggers are defending the LGBTQ community or down with us. But it’s like we don’t remember what being in the closet is actually like: It’s a condition of secrecy you live under because you’re afraid of retaliation from a homophobic culture. Matt Damon didn’t say that gay actors should go into the closet, i.e., hide who they are because of who they are. That’s what the phrase “in the closet” implies – that you should conceal your identity and act straight because being gay is considered bad. Damon made no value judgments on homosexuality whatsoever, he just articulated an idea he has about his profession – poorly. For whatever it’s worth, Ellen DeGeneres, the actor whose coming-out was the most public and memorable of my childhood, even defended him as being “not that guy.”
But hey, man, a whole bunch of bloggers generated enough needless outrage to generate enough clicks to make their advertisers happy by using a loaded and really very important term (“in the closet”) in order to mislead the public about some dumb but mostly not-newsworthy idea a celebrity had. Is this what it looks like when online media tries to do the LGBTQ community a solid? Because if so, personally, I’ll pass on those favors in the future, thanks.