Saturday, December 05, 2009

My View

I am not a regular watcher of "The View." Jonah watches it, however, and because he watches it, I have watched it on occasion, especially since it's one of the things that's on as I'm getting ready to go to work. My main reason for not watching "The View" is that I often feel like it's just a bunch of woman gossiping about stuff; at least that's how it comes across. But once in a while it's interesting to hear their discussions during the "Hot Topics," especially if the subjects are political in nature (although Elizabeth Hasselbeck's opinions generally make me want to put my head in a vice, and Sherri Shepherd often comes across (to me at least) as not the brightest bulb in the universe). Joy is just loud, and Barbara is pretentious. Whoopi Goldberg is the only one that even remotely shares my wavelength.

Anyway, it happened to be on Friday as I was preparing my lunch for the day, and a subject came up that I found interesting. Actress Meredith Baxter recently came out, and actor Rupert Everett had commented that when he came out, it ruined his career.

Joy made the comment that in America there is this mentality where audiences cannot watch an actor who they know to be gay in a romantic leading role. If they see him in a role that Brad Pitt or George Clooney might play where he's kissing and love-making with an actress, according to Joy the audience will subconsciously not buy what he's doing because they know he's gay. Sherri added that when she watches a male actor in such a role, she needs to believe that he would be romantic with her.

Whoopi disagreed, saying that if you've got really good actors, they should be capable of making you believe whatever they need you to believe, regardless of sexuality.

I'm with Whoopi on this. As an actor myself (and whom most people, I think, would regard as "straight-acting"), I've played many, many heterosexual roles (most of my roles have been) as well as acted with many gay people who can pull of heterosexual roles very well. True, I know some gay people that just can't pull off straight, but many of us can be seen in straight roles with no problem. So why is it when people suddenly know a person is gay that it makes a difference? Nobody has a problem with straight actors playing gay roles (in fact, they're often lauded for it as if acting gay is the ultimate acting challenge for a straight person (believe me, acting straight is no challenge for me (probably because I had years of practice ;-) ))).

And there are examples of gay actors doing just fine. Neil Patrick Harris plays a womanizer on "How I Met Your Mother," and does it well. I never thought of Ian McKellan's Gandalf as "the gay wizard" in Lord of the Rings. Portia de Rossi plays a "ball-busting" heterosexual woman on "Better Off Ted" with no problem. Dan Butler played a very convincing chauvinistic, macho sports-talk radio host for years on "Frasier." Richard Chamberlain, Tab Hunter, and Rock Hudson played romantic leads very well (granted, they did so before it was known they were gay, but what difference should that make?). Cherry Jones played a heterosexual president on "24." I never watched "Star Trek" or "M*A*S*H," respectively, thinking, "I'll bet Sulu and Major Winchester are gay." Never crossed my mind. Yet the actors who played them are. Oh, and I guarantee you, people, there are plenty of actors still in the closet doing an excellent job of convincing the paying audience that they are as straight as an arrow.

So I just think it's just B.S. that audiences can't accept a gay person playing a straight person. That's just my View.


A Gay Mormon Boy said...

You bring up a lot of good examples. Thanks for showing me the other side of the argument.

MoHoHawaii said...

I think things have changed recently, but the conventional wisdom is still that coming out damages a (male) actor's career. Why else would prominent actors (and CNN anchors) pretty much known to be gay not come out? It's all about business.

One of the most interesting things about this is the huge difference in perception between generations. If you look at people in the twenties and younger versus the 30 to 55 group versus the 55+ folks, you see three distinct ways of viewing gay actors.

Gay LDS Actor said...

I agree that the stigma seems to be more damaging to a male actor's career. Most people don't seem as put off by the idea of a lesbian playing a straight role. I still think it's an odd double standard.

And, yeah, it's true that age does matter in puplic perception.

I do find it interesting that one sees people who have come out talking candididly and comfortably about their sexuality in public forums (such as talk shows, for example), something you never would have seen 50 or even 30 years ago, so we are making progress, I think.