Who Can Play It Straight?

May 10, 2010 Full story: www.womanist-musings.com 7

I ran across the Newsweek article entitled, " Straight Jacket " and what I learned is that though straight men can play gay, apparently the same is not true for gay men.

It's not just a problem for someone like Hayes, 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. (Just rewatch the scene where he's wading around in a bubble bath by himself.)
Today most of the movies are still largely aimed at a hetero audience, despite Hollywood supposedly being liberal. It is not “cool to be gay” when profitability is the most important factor. The media affirms stereotypes and biases far more than it ever challenges it -- and for the GLBT community, that means making them invisible or ridiculous. Even when Hollywood does decide to tell a gay cowboy love story (Brokeback Mountain), it must still follow a predictable script with at least one person being punished for daring to be gay and live. As much as I loved Annie Proulx’s short story, why is there always tragedy associated with a gay identity? If it is not the gay man pining over unrequited love, it is the asexual best friend -- and this is hardly the stuff that leading men are made of. Full Story
Frank Stanton

Saratoga Springs, NY

#1 May 10, 2010
I'm butch and I've been out for 30 years. I know that "Will & grace" was(is?) a popular show. But I have never been able to watch more than 5 minutes of it because the way they portray gay people is so damn stereotypical.

Why can't Hollywood portray gay people without resorting the usual stereotypes ? I'm definitely an Oscar Madison rather than a Felix Unger.

“What Goes Around, Comes Around”

Since: Mar 07

Kansas City, MO.

#2 May 10, 2010
BS. I believe Neil Patrick Harris plays a STR8 man very well.

Since: Mar 09

Location hidden

#3 May 10, 2010
Frank, we are still in the Bojangles, Step'n fetchit, Aunt Jemima and Rochester period of breaking the glass ceiling (and walls). We are, and will remain, a minority. While we are constrained by this, I would not favor the alternative approach as exemplified by some of the AfricanAmerican efforts of the 60s.
Short Left Index Finger

Georgetown, Canada

#4 May 10, 2010
Buy the book,Behind The Screen,how gays and lesbians helped shape Hollywood.

“Created Equal”

Since: Feb 08

USA

#5 May 10, 2010
Imprtnrd wrote:
BS. I believe Neil Patrick Harris plays a STR8 man very well.
I quite agree, and he's a perfect example, illustrating what the author is saying in this article: to suggest tht gay men can't portray heterosexual men effectively is ludicrous. Whether someone is effective in a role is a measure of acting ability, and not sexual orientation. On stage, I have (quite effectively) portrayed heterosexual romantic characters such as Cornelius in Hello Dolly, and Albert Peterson in Bye Bye Birdie.

When I auditioned for the role of the gay doctor in The Heidi Chronicles, however, the role instead went to a straight guy who did the role with a touch of camp--a way in which I refused to approach the role. Knowing the play, I believe that the author intended the character to be -incidentally- gay, in such a way that you would forget his sexuality until it comes into focus as a plot element.

I think we'll always have stereotypes with us, but it is not those which irrtitate me so much as the hackneyed character arc which is so often imposed upon the fictional homosexual. Either we are the colorful, flaming comic foil, or we are tortured and tragic, lonely and tormented, searching for some elusive meaning in an empty and unfulfilling "lifestyle."

While it seems to be a big trend these days to feature token gay characters and couples in lots of movies and TV shows, I have to echo the previous poster who observes that we are "still in the "Stepin Fetchit" phase of representation in fiction.

If there is a gay character in a film, the character is there specifically to represent gayness, not merely as another character with a real-world diversity characteristic. We are the token outcasts of fiction, and in order to be portrayed as such, we are painted as being fundamentally and irrevocably outside what is socially acceptable.

Frankly, I could not stand Will & Grace, because every character (not just the gay ones) on that show was a hand-carved stereotype, and bore as little resemblance to a 3-dimensional human being as Garfield bears to a real housecat.

Since: Apr 07

Morrison, IL

#6 May 10, 2010
To me, it's not so much that gay men can't play straight characters, but that straight audiences can't suspend disbelief enough for it. If NPH had come out before playing the sex-crazed womanizer, no one would have bought it. And somehow, the fact that he can play a straight guy convincingly is a testament to how amazing his acting skills are, as if it's SO MUCH harder to play a different sexuality. When a straight actor plays gay (Heth Ledger, Jake Gyllenhall, Tom Hanks) they get critical accolades for playing such a distasteful and therefor difficult role. It's the same when an actress plays an ugly role (Charlize Theron had a double header with Monster). The assumption is that a sexuality different from your own (especially gay) will be more difficult to bring yourself to play and therefor more difficult to pull off, as will being ugly on camera. It's apparently just more difficult an act to physically kiss a man than a woman. I mean, who aside from gays really commends NPH for his acting in a straight role? Straights assume it should be easy to play straight, because it's the norm. They're just shocked when we can keep our wrists from dangling long enough to pull it off. And if the actor is closeted (Mr Brady, Rock Hudson, etc) they feel betrayed and fooled and mock the roles in hindsight.
Leftatalbuquerqu e

Toronto, Canada

#7 May 10, 2010
Yet, how many actors would jump at the chance to portray Hitler or Stalin or Henry Kissinger ;-p

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