Ramin Setoodeh has written an article in Newsweek that questions whether gay actors can possibly play straight. Good question! Sometimes I wonder if straight people can play gay, but then I realize that they're brave, open-minded allies if they do and I put my brain on hold.
This isn't the first time Newsweek's Setoodeh has been called a homophobe. He wrote a longer piece on Larry King, the junior high school student who was shot in school by another student because he was gay and gender nonconforming, and blamed the murder on those nasty, PC state functionaries who told him he had a First Amendment right to present his gender as he wanted in school.
Patricia Nell Warren also responded to one of his more bizarre columns where he criticized Adam Lambert getting too much attention and praised his Christian Idol competitors' religious creds.
He also wrote a column last year arguing that femmy gay men are hurting the movement, exalting those who "think of themselves as 'post-gay,' meaning their sexual orientation is only part of who they are." Meaning they're masculine and pass for straight better and are so... normal. That he implicitly included me in that group, since he was talking about "younger men and women," was just icing.
Notice a pattern? I'm by no means a regular Newsweek reader. The info-tainment journal is something I read when I'm waiting for an appointment, maybe, but otherwise it's just not that seriously, steeped in lazy conventional wisdom, and has a general right-leaning bias (not inherently bad) that it refuses to acknowledge. So I'm assuming there are other offending articles Setoodeh has written for Newsweek that have just passed me by.
This column, Setoodeh's getting more attention. His column starts by saying that Sean Hayes of Will & Grace fame is too queeny to play straight and that he appears to be "trying to hide something" in his performance of Promises, Promises. Hayes's Broadway co-star Kristin Chenoweth responded saying that no one's noticed anything about Hayes's performance and that she was personally offended that someone would be so obsessed with an actor's sexuality that he'd start reading things into the performance.
Setoodeh, bizarrely, held Rock Hudson up as an ideal for his "beefy bravado," even though he really was a gay man hiding his sexuality, unlike Hayes, who's out. It makes it seem even more like this is going on in Setoodeh's head, that he's projecting his own knowledge of the actors' personal lives onto their performances instead of their sexuality shining through.
Which is basically Setoodeh's defense. He wrote another column for Newsweek this week, a third I was just talking about "society"'s feelings, a third I'm gay so that makes it all better, and a third boo hoo for me. It doesn't make much sense - his original column clearly attributed his thoughts on gay actors to himself except for four sentences at the end. He even goes so far to accuse the New York Times of doing the same thing, even though they focus on the performance, not Hayes's sexuality. Perhaps he knows something more about what the writer there was thinking than the rest of us do, but....
He's right, though, that gay actors have trouble coming out, and that Hollywood (more so than Broadway) is still very homophobic. But the problem is exactly what Setoodeh did himself - impose our knowledge of an actor's real life on to their performance. It's something that happens a lot to gay actors, even though most people can ignore their knowledge of an actor's life when going to see a movie. (Take anything from Tom Cruise after his conversion to Scientology, for example.)
So that was all a great conversation people had going, which means that publicity vulture's like GLEE's creator, Ryan Murphy, have to swoop down, dance like clowns and direct attention to themselves:
I extend an open invitation to Mr. Setoodeh to come to the writers room of our show, and perhaps pay a set visit. Hopefully then he can see how we take care to do a show about inclusiveness...a show that encourages all viewers no matter what their sexual orientation to go after their hopes and dreams and not be pigeonholed by dated and harmful rhetoric...rhetoric he sadly spews and believes in. Hopefully, some of the love we attempt to spread will rub off on Mr. Setoodeh -- a gay man deeply in need of some education -- and he not only apologizes to those he has deeply offended but pauses before he picks up his poison pen again to work through the issues of his own self loathing. Give me a call, Ramin...I'd love to hear from you. I'll even give you a free copy of our Madonna CD, on which we cover "Open Your Heart," a song you should play in your house and car on repeat.
Ba-zing? That's a pretty awkward set up for a joke/CD promo, considering this guy writes for network TV.
He also called for a boycott of Newsweek, which is a pretty silly idea as well. Not only is no one reading it anymore as it is, boycotting media outlets for their political and cultural stances - or those of their writers - only encourages media to become blander and blander. If editors worry about boycott calls for everything they publish anything, they'll just publish fewer and fewer pieces that actually challenge readers. And, well, we have few enough as it is without us boycotting for oatmeal.
When it comes to Setoodeh, all I can say is that he's probably carving out a contrarian niche so that he doesn't seem beholden to the homosexual agenda, something many folks wear like a badge of honor. He's probably learned his lesson - he went too far this time - and will more finely tune his opinions for future columns.
But I've seen plenty of gay actors playing straight on stage - we get free tickets around here to lots of shows in Paris. And their performance really just depends on the actor. And I've seen straight actors play roles very different from how they are in real life, and it's no big deal. Audiences understand the difference between fiction and reality.