Poor Newsweek. Last week it was announced that the magazine was being put up for sale, and this week, they’re getting loads of bad press due to one of their writers messing with the wrong people: the gays. Writer Ramin Setoodeh wrote that he felt gay actors can’t convincingly play straight, saying “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.” The first person to criticize him was actress and friend of the gays, Kristin Chenoweth, who is currently starring on Broadway with one of Setoodeh’s targets, Sean Hayes. Chenoweth called the article “bigoted” and “factually inaccurate”, and now Glee creator Ryan Murphy is calling for a boycott of the struggling magazine until Setoodeh offers an apology to the actors he singled out in his article.
Setoodeh ended his article by saying “If an actor of the stature of George Clooney came out of the closet today, would we still accept him as a heterosexual leading man?” Okay, we’ll bite too. While we won’t go so far as to boycott the magazine (not that we read it regularly anyway), we do think that if Setoodeh really believes what he wrote, he hasn’t been watching the right movies – and he also hasn’t watched movies where hetero actors really suck at playing gay. Paul Rudd in The Object Of My Affection, anyone? Patrick Swayze in Too Wong Foo? Robin Williams in The Birdcage? (And we realize that a lot of straight-playing-gay roles are caricatures of gay, which is depressing in itself that it’s so easy to paint homosexuality in broad strokes for laughs.) Also, it has been speculated widely that Kevin Spacey is gay, too bad he won an Oscar for American Beauty, where he played a married man. But if Spacey came out to the world, should he just give that award back because his performance will retroactively worsen after that reveal? Jodie Foster did come out, so do we need to reevaluate her roles? And how about Mr. Brady on The Brady Bunch? No one knew Robert Reed‘s sexuality and he was the quintessential husband and father.
We do think straight people can and should play gay roles, that’s why it’s called acting. We loved Philip Seymour Hoffman and Sean Penn as Truman Capote and Harvey Milk and wouldn’t have cast those roles any differently. But we do think that Setoodeh did himself and his magazine a disservice by generalizing and typecasting a talented, passionate group of people. Their job is to pretend they are someone else – by writing his article he managed to crap on a lot of careers and after the fallout from it, that may include his own.
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