Gay Actors Can’t Play Straight

So says Newsweek.

While it’s OK for straight actors to play gay (as Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger did in Brokeback Mountain), it’s rare for someone to pull off the trick in reverse.

Really? But also

Most actors would tell you that the biographical details of their lives are beside the point. Except when they’re not. As viewers, we are molded by a society obsessed with dissecting sexuality, starting with the locker-room torture in junior high school.


For gay actors, why should sexual orientation limit a gay actor’s choice of roles? The fact is, an actor’s background does affect how we see his or her performance—which is why the Tom Hankses and Denzels of the world guard their privacy carefully.

It’s not just a problem for someone like Hayes [‘Jack’ in Will & Grace; currently playing the straight lead in Promises, Promises on Broadway], who even tips off your grandmother’s gaydar. For all the beefy bravado that Rock Hudson projects on-screen, Pillow Talk dissolves into a farce when you know the likes of his true bedmates.

See, if we know you’re gay, we have trouble pretending you’re something that you’re not. Because, you know, we’re not used to pretending actors are things they aren’t. That’s just weird and we can’t handle it.

Kristin Chenoweth (Annabeth Schott in The West Wing & Hayes’s costar in Promises, Promises) has posted comments in reply to the article, which can be read in their entirety here.

(Thanks, Jono)

10 thoughts on “Gay Actors Can’t Play Straight

  1. Wait. What’s this you’re saying about actors pretending? I thought they just had really complicated lives and lots of extra names.

  2. I think that similar things happen when people become famous for a particular role (although, it’s a totally different situation when it’s ridiculously tied to sexuality). For example, it’s hard for someone to see Jennifer Aniston as anyone but “Rachel Green,” or Michael J. Fox as other than “Marty McFly” or “Alex P. Keaton.” The interesting thing is that this “role-affiliation” tends to run over into personal lives. Have you ever seen someone who is in a bad situation try to make their lives better? Even though people will openly say “I want x to be happy,” when x is working to be happy, they tend to work against this…I think it has to do with the way we look at change…

  3. one thing to point out is that i hear tell the author of this little gem of wisdom is himself out gay. i suspect that’s why newsweek thought it alright to publish such bigotted nonsense. personally, i think that simply adds a dimension of sad to the whole affair. but clearly someone (an editor, at the least) thinks his being so puts him in a privileged position, knowledge-wise, or say-so-wise…or something…

  4. Isn’t this the same sort of argument as: women can’t be doctors/lawyers/college professors because they won’t be taken seriously?

    I think this is another fallacy that might need a name. The fallacy of mis-placed responsibility? This one may be especially hard to spot in a capitalistic society, where the ‘market forces’ can support majority bigotry.

    elp, do you think we should add ‘fallacy’ and/or ‘critical reasoning’ into the categories??

  5. yes, one of the reasons i wanted to put it up is that it would be excellent material (i think) for a critical thinking class. and there have been many posts put up for that reason. so maybe we should have a category. (this is when we’re informed that we already have such a category, if only we would have a look for it…)

  6. Yes, it’s actually a great thing to discuss.
    Actually, we have two – ct and fallacy.
    Maybe there’s another one: Since P is X, P can’t be anti-X.

Comments are closed.