Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Here we go again. I checked my calendar and, yes, it’s 2010. Yet Newsweek publishes a piece by a purportedly gay writer who asserts that Straight for Pay does not work in the acting world. Tony-nominated Sean Hayes can’t play a straight man with a female love interest in Broadway’s “Promises, Promises”. Jonathan Groff can’t play one of Rachel’s love interests on “Glee”. And knowing Rock Hudson was gay reduces his credibility in playing a male romantic lead in his classic movies. (The author cites a single scene: Hudson taking a bubble bath by himself in “Pillow Talk”. Gee, do you think the writer had an agenda?)

Now I have not seen “Promises, Promises”. My rural abode is far from the lights of Broadway. But I would posit that, if there is any difficulty in seeing Hayes act the part of a straight character, it is because of his iconic role as the flamboyantly gay Jack on “Will & Grace”, not because Hayes is a gay man. Many actors struggle to be recognized in other roles when audiences continue to see them as a particular character viewed on their TV screens from week to week over a period of years. This is especially true with over the top, comic roles. For many, Michael Richards will always be Kramer. (In his case, that may be a good thing. Best to block out his infamous standup comic tirade.) Jason Alexander has also struggled with the supposed Seinfeld Curse. What can top the role of a lifetime as George Costanza? Candice Bergen has always remained Murphy Brown in my mind. Shelley Long, Delta Burke, Jackée, Julia Duffy,…their careers stalled after achieving notoriety as memorable TV characters.

Yes, there are many exceptions. That’s not the point. I am merely trying to get in the mind of a Newsweek writer who may be lacking analytical and self-reflective skills. I don’t mean to bash; all I’m saying is it seems too convenient to completely omit the Jack factor. For some, Sean Hayes will always be “just Jack”. (Add your own jazz hands.)

As for Jonathan Groff on “Glee”, what is there not to buy about him as Rachel’s love interest? I did not know the actor is gay, but I don’t dismiss him now that I know. I am a Gleek and I would suggest that any problem with Groff’s role comes from the fact it is underdeveloped. So far I’ve gleaned that he has a wonderful singing voice, but he hasn’t had much to do in wooing Rachel. He came on strong (and convincingly), but the Rachel-Jessie storyline has been diluted as other characters have been featured more prominently and as the show’s writers have continued to pit Rachel with both Finn and Puck.

I’m not sure that anything more needs to be said about the Rock Hudson point. Pillow Talk”, for crying out loud! I watched it years ago and the whole thing seemed like an innocuous piece of fluff. If John Wayne were in that bubble bath, it would still seem hokey and, in the Newsweek writer’s view, not very macho. Many young (or newly out) gay men like to see the entire world with rainbow-coloured glasses. I dissected George Michael’s songs and easily found all the gay references I wanted before he ever got sloppy with his bathroom habits. When I watched Barbra Streisand in “Yentl”, she was a gay man, not a woman disguised as a man. The gay factor sometimes is more overpowering from a gay person’s point of view than it is for the typical heterosexual male who is too busy ogling over Kristin Chenoweth or Julia Roberts anyway.

The writer also expressed doubt that an out gay actor could have convincingly played George Clooney’s role in “Up in the Air”. That is not the issue. What other actor, gay or straight, could have played that part? I loved that movie, but it was clear to me as I watched that it was the perfect George Clooney part. Once you make the A-list in Hollywood, certain parts are tailor made for you.

I’m done with nitpicking over the flaws in the article’s logic. The bigger concern is the underlying message, especially from my vantage point, living in a rural area where I do not know any other gay men. (Yes, my house is still for sale!) If you can’t be accepted and embraced as a gay man on Broadway, what does that say for rest of us? If your options are limited there, what does that mean for gays struggling to be seen beyond stereotype as sons, friends, teachers, athletes and car salesmen in Peoria, in Moose Jaw and in places rarely designated on provincial or state maps? And if gay men can’t see gay actors as being anything other than gay, how evolved have we become in openly accepting others and in seeing ourselves as human beings with so many other aspects to our identity?

I have to wonder what the editors at a reputable magazine like Newsweek were thinking when they decided to run the article. This will be controversial! This will steal some of Perez Hilton’s buzz!

This. Will. Sell. Copies.

Good for business. Sad for gays.

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