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The Big Pink Elephant In The Room
May 9, 2010 5:52 AM   Subscribe

Actress Kristin Chenoweth responds to a Newsweek article which focuses on her Promises, Promises costar Sean Hayes (who recently came out) as evidence that gay actors can't convincingly play straight.
posted by hermitosis (133 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Data point: Rock Hudson
posted by wittgenstein at 5:59 AM on May 9, 2010 [6 favorites]


Good for her. I'm glad that she mentioned Neil Patrick Harris, as I think he is a more convincing womanizer on HIMYM than a lot of straight guys playing womanizers. Would have added Portia DeRossi as another really great switch-actor.

It seems like your links are a little borked, though. First and last one go to the same thing.
here is the original Newsweek piece.
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 5:59 AM on May 9, 2010 [6 favorites]


Traditionally, in Hollywood, gay (or bisexual) actors were hired to portray the paragon of the straight, he-man ideal. Cases in point: Rock Hudson, Tab Hunter, Cary Grant. In fact, the talent agent Henry Willson molded Hudson and Hunter to represent the stereotypical ideal of macho, beefcake straightness.

The movie and film industries have been indebted to gay performers, directors and talent agents for decades to shape our notions of hetero manliness and machoism. The Newsweek article gets it ass-backwards.
posted by Gordion Knott at 6:01 AM on May 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


I can't even convincingly post straight!
posted by hermitosis at 6:01 AM on May 9, 2010 [22 favorites]


Data Point: Raymond Burr
posted by The Whelk at 6:01 AM on May 9, 2010


Question, have anyone under the page of75 and not currently in a doctor's office ever willing read Newsweek?
posted by The Whelk at 6:06 AM on May 9, 2010 [9 favorites]


The Newsweek article mentions (and oddly dismisses) actors like Rock Rudson; however, referring to the ham sandwich platter of The Proposal as "realistic characters" makes the original article not-so-trustworthy.
posted by kittyprecious at 6:06 AM on May 9, 2010


Question, have anyone under the page of75 and not currently in a doctor's office ever willing read Newsweek?

This was quite a while ago, but in my high school politics/current events class, it was our textbook.
posted by hermitosis at 6:07 AM on May 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Clearly this is yet another example of the liberal media furthering the gay agenda, perhaps through some sort of ivory tower elitist "reverse psychology." Or perhaps the Newsweek article is just bullshit.
posted by TedW at 6:11 AM on May 9, 2010


More reason to ♥ KC.
posted by BrotherCaine at 6:16 AM on May 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I would have never even suspected Raymond Burr.

Canadian?!
posted by pracowity at 6:16 AM on May 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, uuuuuuuh since the vast majority of roles for actors are straight ones, wouldn't gay actors *have* to be able to play straight in order to ...get work? Isn't that why it's called acting?
posted by The Whelk at 6:17 AM on May 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


This was quite a while ago, but in my high school politics/current events class, it was our textbook.

Same.
posted by mollywas at 6:21 AM on May 9, 2010


Next thing you know, Newsweek will have an article claiming gay men can't convincingly play wizards.
posted by bwg at 6:21 AM on May 9, 2010 [36 favorites]


The Whelk: "Question, have anyone under the page of 75 and not currently in a doctor's office ever willing read Newsweek?"

That would probably explain why their owner is desperately trying to sell it. I had a subscription about five years ago because of some charity magazine sale thing that I got conned into and it was one of the worst wastes of paper that I've read. You could read the whole thing in about five minutes.
posted by octothorpe at 6:22 AM on May 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


i'm currently in a doctors office and even i wont read newsweek

this copy of hilights looks interesting but i'm afraid itll spook all the single moms so im just twiddling my thumbs instead
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:23 AM on May 9, 2010 [11 favorites]


Data point: Tyrone Power
posted by FelliniBlank at 6:25 AM on May 9, 2010


Data point: Tom Cruise
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 6:27 AM on May 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


The Newsweek article mentions (and oddly dismisses) actors like Rock Rudson

You are Scooby Doo and I claim my five pounds.
posted by No-sword at 6:32 AM on May 9, 2010 [15 favorites]


This was quite a while ago, but in my high school politics/current events class, it was our textbook.

Same.


People stop it you are making me sad.
posted by The Whelk at 6:34 AM on May 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


I read Newsweek. I enjoy the pseudo-Economist style it's partly adopted (I can't afford the real Economist), and it's not a bad news magazine.
posted by Atreides at 6:34 AM on May 9, 2010


OK, having read the effin article, what the Newsweek author is trying to say is that "audiences" have trouble accepting gay actors as straight people once they've come out of the closet, at least in serious roles (he excuses DiRossi and NPH as caricatures). In fact, he is possibly right about this--there are plenty of dummies out there who are incapable of distinguishing between the actor and the role and who might just be like hurrr hurrr check out da homo the whole time.

KC has overreacted here, probably because the article starts with a brutal sideswipe at the production she's currently in. The article isn't offensive. It's just wrong. Good acting suspends your disbelief, and all it will take is a few hundred occasions of gay actors playing straight people for the snickering to stop and the invisible pink elephant to dissipate until it's no more jarring than Mel Gibson playing a Scotsman.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:36 AM on May 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Newsweek is last months Highlights with everything colored in but only half the dots connected.
posted by hal9k at 6:37 AM on May 9, 2010 [12 favorites]


I actually didn't think that Newsweek was still around.
posted by R. Mutt at 6:37 AM on May 9, 2010


The article isn't offensive. It's just wrong.

Being that wrong is offensive.
posted by hermitosis at 6:39 AM on May 9, 2010 [8 favorites]


Wait wait wait... Someone is comparing Newsweek to The Economist? WTF?
posted by Artw at 6:44 AM on May 9, 2010 [6 favorites]


Unfortunately he's right about one important thing: Rupert Murdoch and a lot of other scummy Network/Studio execs agree with the premise that America can't handle an out person playing straight so the roles just don't appear and young actors have to remain closeted and so on and on and on.

It's like some baseball commentator in 1949 talking about how blacks are not particularly good at baseball. Jackie Robinson? Well sure he's good but where are the rest of them? No I ADMIT they're good at NEGRO LEAGUE baseball but that's not what we're talking about. No I will not shut up. Yes I would like some crackerjack thank you.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:45 AM on May 9, 2010 [10 favorites]


It's a painfully stupid article, and I was happy when I saw Chenoweth's response.
posted by rtha at 6:46 AM on May 9, 2010


She's not much of a writer but I still wanted to stand up and clap at the end of her response. Good for her.
posted by not that girl at 6:50 AM on May 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


So Mr. Schuester isn't gay in real life?
posted by Houyhnhnm at 6:52 AM on May 9, 2010


Data point: Tom Cruise

Wait... You're saying that Tom Cruise can convincingly play straight?
posted by cerebus19 at 6:54 AM on May 9, 2010 [7 favorites]


Another good example is Dan Butler, who played Bulldog on Frasier. Like Neil Patrick Harris on HIMYM, he was very convincing as a raging heterosexual man.
posted by cerebus19 at 6:56 AM on May 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


If he ever came out Top Gun would retroactively become really gay.
posted by Artw at 6:58 AM on May 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Next thing you know, Newsweek will have an article claiming gay men can't convincingly play wizards.

"YOU SHALL NOT PASS!!! At least, not wearing those shoes, honey..."
posted by spoobnooble at 7:00 AM on May 9, 2010 [6 favorites]


Data point: Tom Cruise

Wait... You're saying that Tom Cruise can convincingly play straight?


He has enough trouble playing a human being convincingly, let's not even talk about whether said human is straight.
posted by tommasz at 7:07 AM on May 9, 2010 [12 favorites]


Are you tellin' me Raymond Burr was gay? I thought he was crippled!
posted by Mister_A at 7:09 AM on May 9, 2010


But frankly, it's weird seeing Hayes play straight . . . When he smiles or giggles, he seems more like your average theater queen, a better romantic match for Kurt than Rachel . . . The fact is, an actor's background does affect how we see his or her performance—which is why the Tom Hankses and Denzels of the world guard their privacy carefully . . . would we still accept [an openly gay George Clooney] as a heterosexual leading man?

Who's "we"? This guy is just projecting his own bigotry onto "the audience" and reading it back as fact so he can write a shitty fauxtreversial article and get a few more page views. what dreck
posted by r_nebblesworthII at 7:11 AM on May 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


Bah. Even if you accept the premise "Sean Hayes is unbelievable playing a straight dude", the reason could be "He's unbelievable because we all know he sleeps with dudes" or (and this is probably waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay more likely) "He's unbelievable because he's been typecast as Jack, the over-the-top gay character from Will and Grace".
posted by 23skidoo at 7:11 AM on May 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


No mention or question about what it means to 'play straight' or 'be gay'? Both the article and the her response are very one-dimensional readings of gender.

And where is this mythical audience Setoodeh is writing about that cares if someone on Broadway is gay? Especially in a "musical-romantic-comedy." Everyone on Broadway is gay, whether they're straight or not - both in the 'Broadway is really gay' way and in that theater is a queering no matter the gender performance involved.

My bigger problem with the Newsweek article is the flippant assertion that it's OK for straight actors to play gay. Sometimes, maybe, but I've always read Will & Grace as a big gay minstrel show, where a straight guy models the more 'well behaved' gay and constantly chastises the actually gay actor's character for being too nelly. From blackface to 'gayface' and archetypes of racism to archetypes of heteronormativity. Seems like it's way more complex than the article or the response make it out to be.
posted by jardinier at 7:18 AM on May 9, 2010 [18 favorites]


Looking at the ...other articles. I propose we some how harness Ramin Setoodeh's ability to create objects that seemingly exist and yet have no mass or other detectable properties. He could bring quantum phenomenon into the macro world! Cast off the shackles of thermodynamics! Frictionless, gravity-less, inertia-less substances, my god, it could be beautiful.
posted by The Whelk at 7:19 AM on May 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


MetaFilter: acceptance, love, unity and singing and dancing for all!
posted by jimmythefish at 7:30 AM on May 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


george clooney could be extra-terrestialist and I'd still watch anything with hin.

I feel like this guy dregded up some college rhetoric paper where he had to defend the side he was against.
posted by sio42 at 7:35 AM on May 9, 2010


If he ever came out Top Gun would retroactively become really gay.

It's already really, really gay. I can't help but wonder if it wasn't some sort of intentional act of subversion, railing against the super-straight image of the military.
posted by jimmythefish at 7:36 AM on May 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Also: the world needs more Christians like Kristin. Can I get an "Amen"?
posted by kittyprecious at 7:41 AM on May 9, 2010 [8 favorites]


If he ever came out Top Gun would retroactively become really gay.

Wait ..... you're saying that "Top Gun" wasn't already really gay the minute it was released?
posted by blucevalo at 7:42 AM on May 9, 2010


Ian McKellen. Theory disproven.
posted by spamguy at 7:44 AM on May 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yes. Because if there's one thing GAY people in HOLLYWOOD are incapable of doing convincingly, it's ACTING STRAIGHT.
posted by jnaps at 7:48 AM on May 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


i thought he waws openly gay back during will and grace. I never watched the show, but i took a film class while it was on and we covered "New Queer Cinema" and she mentioned how shows like will and grace were deemed "okay" ny straight audiences because the main actor was a straight man playing gay, and the real gay actor was just a kooky gay stereotype. I just always kind of saw Jack as the gay equivalent of black-face from the few moments of the show i saw, and I was surprised that gay people weren't offended. My former roommate (who is the most heterosexual gay guy you will ever meet) loved the show.
posted by djduckie at 7:54 AM on May 9, 2010


could I just be offended cause it was a terrible show?
posted by The Whelk at 7:57 AM on May 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Sean Hayes is much better is Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss. I assumed he was out then, and that was 12 years go.

Plenty of gay actors can play straight -- they do it so convincingly that even right now, at this moment, you have no idea they are gay.

I'm not sure Sean Hayes is one of them, though. He has a singular talent, and it's not very butch.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:59 AM on May 9, 2010


I get Newsweek, and my subscription comes up in the next couple of weeks. Last week's issue included a racist, false-vividness defense of Arizona's racist new law by arguing, and I quote:

It's terrifying to live next door to homes filled with human traffickers, drug smugglers, AK-47s, pit bulls, and desperate laborers stuffed 30 to a room, shoes removed to hinder escape. During a month's reporting with police and other law-enforcement agents in Arizona last year, I met many scared people. One man who lived next to a "drop house" for Mexican workers slept with two guns under his bed, his children not allowed to play in the backyard. The sound of gunshots was not uncommon. "Four years ago this neighborhood was poodles and old ladies," he said, too frightened to give his name. "Now it's absolutely insane." That morning, authorities had raided the drop house. When the neighbor told me how his kids had been evacuated behind riot shields, he began to cry. Others, too, were unhappy: the undocumented workers taken from the house were exhausted, sweaty, and dead quiet as they sat on a curb with their hands cuffed, waiting to be taken away.


Newsweek won't be getting my subscription fees anymore.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:04 AM on May 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Kristin Chenoweth lived in my building.

That's all.
posted by HotPatatta at 8:22 AM on May 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Another good example is Dan Butler, who played Bulldog on Frasier. Like Neil Patrick Harris on HIMYM, he was very convincing as a raging heterosexual man.

Actually, he laid it on a bit thick IMHO, but the larger point stands.
posted by jonmc at 8:23 AM on May 9, 2010


Newsweek won't be getting my subscription fees anymore.

I think that Newsweek will be sad, but unsurprised, to hear that.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:26 AM on May 9, 2010


Yeah, well, when you criminalize people you give other people free reign to terrorize and exploit them without recourse.

Look at this article: these immigrants--victims of a week-long nightmare kidnapping and assault--are sitting on the street, cuffed, and will be arrested and deported.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:29 AM on May 9, 2010


Gays have been playing straight all along. I cannot tell you how crushed I was when I discovered "Cary Grant" was a public character played by Archibald Leach (It was bad enough he was already dead, but gay and not real? Sounds like my "boyfriends" in high school!) The only time I've noticed that an openly gay actor/ress is less believable in a straight role, it's because media idiots like Setoodeh stirred up enough Hurf Durf about it that I then see the actor instead of the character.

I don't watch a lot of television, so I've missed out on Glee. But I have caught a few things in the past few years. On W&G, Jack never did seem like a kooky gay stereotype to me... I've got two friends JUST like that, one we've taken to calling "Jack". Will, however, was totally stereotype in my eyes. NPH in NO WAY has trouble playing a straight in Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle or HIMYM.

It's acting - it'll either be good acting or bad acting. But it's not gay acting or straight acting.

Remember the controversy when minorities started getting roles in Shakespeare plays? You know, because only white people can play a Moor.
posted by _paegan_ at 8:32 AM on May 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Remember the controversy when minorities women started getting roles in Shakespeare plays?
posted by The Whelk at 8:34 AM on May 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


If he ever came out Top Gun would retroactively become really gay.

Swordfight!!! (youtube, NSFW)
posted by Ufez Jones at 8:35 AM on May 9, 2010


Of course gays can't play straight people.

Because there are so few gay men in the acting profession and yet so many out-of-the-closet actors.
posted by MuffinMan at 8:50 AM on May 9, 2010


Pope Guilty, you selectively quoted that article in way that made it look like the author was arguing in favor of the new Arizona law, which she isn't. She is arguing that there is a prevailing fear in Arizona that led to that law.

For a fuller context, here is how she ends the article:

None of this means the new law is a good idea. In addition to Arizona, I've also lived in Russia, which requires its citizens to carry documents at all times. Police usually carry out spot checks on darker-skinned people from the Caucasus or the "stans"—people who often go to Russia as illegal migrant workers. These workers are also the targets of racially motivated attacks and killings. Average Russians don't bat an eye.

We don't want to head in that direction. The overwhelming majority of Mexicans who come here are not criminals. Most are just desperate for honest work. But clearly something needs to be done about the traffickers who bring them to the U.S. Last year the U.S. marshal for Arizona, David Gonzales, told me he had some 200 active warrants for Mexicans in and around Phoenix engaged in organized crime. Last week he told me he had 324, and even more in Tucson. So what's the solution? Gonzales favors an approach backed by many other law-enforcement and immigration specialists: the federal government, he says, must step in to make the border more secure and to amend the system so more Mexicans can enter the country legally—without the "help" of criminal cartels.


I'm puzzled by your selective quoting, and thinking of canceling my subscription to your newsletter.
posted by found missing at 9:11 AM on May 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Kristen Chenoweth, I love ya. All 4'11" of ya.
posted by WolfDaddy at 9:20 AM on May 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


I cannot tell you how crushed I was when I discovered "Cary Grant" was a public character played by Archibald Leach

Yes, but Leach was also a terrific barrister.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 9:24 AM on May 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I need to stop trying to mefi from my iPhone :(
posted by Senor Cardgage at 9:25 AM on May 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


I would have never even suspected Raymond Burr.
His "secret" was carefully protected by none other than Hedda Hopper. Her son was in a long-time relationship with Burr, and the acid-tongued gossip queen didn't want it known that her son was gay. So she peppered her columns with hints and allegations about other male stars and kept Burr out of the spotlight.

I thought John Mahoney (Frasier's dad) played a straight man convincingly. Although as James Coco once said, the public never really thinks about old men or old, balding, overweight men as either gay or straight. They are asexual.
posted by Oriole Adams at 9:44 AM on May 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


I thought the guy that played frasier's brother was a convincing straight guy. I am sure people would retroactively read the snobbish attitude of the character as gay, but those people are people that kind of care about that stuff anyway.

Shit the amazing randy seemed super straight, what with the beautiful female assistance and I was convinced.
posted by djduckie at 9:58 AM on May 9, 2010


I would have never even suspected Raymond Burr.
His "secret" was carefully protected by none other than Hedda Hopper. Her son was in a long-time relationship with Burr, and the acid-tongued gossip queen didn't want it known that her son was gay. So she peppered her columns with hints and allegations about other male stars and kept Burr out of the spotlight.


I've never seen that before. Where was that published?

Paul Drake was played by Hopper's son. If it's true, it adds an interesting layer to many, many of the episodes.

Re: Cary Grant: I don't think we know whether he was bi or not. There's lots of circumstantial "evidence", but I don't think anyone has actually said they had sex with him.
posted by gjc at 9:59 AM on May 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


The notion that you have to pander to a the audience's perceived lowest expectations is fucking moronic. Movies are rife with awful examples, including Mickey Rooney's hateful, lustful Japanese photographer in Breakfast at Tiffany's. More often than not - it's the writer's, director's, or in Newsweek's case, the commentator's stupidity at play.
posted by helmutdog at 10:00 AM on May 9, 2010


Ah, Newspeak Magazine. Why is anyone surprised to read such things in that bastardization of all things journalistic? It's not like this is anything new. When my father was in the Peace Corps in Nigeria in 1968, he and his colleagues several times found themselves buying up the entire imported edition of Newsweek and Time magazines in order to burn them, so that they could prevent the locals from seeing what blatant and offensive misreporting us Americans were doing on the Nigerian situation. Somehow we never learned this lesson – that these so-called "news magazines" have been doing us the disservice of propping up our worst prejudices and bigotry in the interest of their corporate sponsors for generations. This seems to be one of our distinctive American traditions: we love and revere shit journalism, so long as our shit journalism is old shit journalism that comes from an old shit journalism source.

Here's hoping the WaPo fails to sell the mediocre crapheap that is Newspeak Magazine and is forced to let it die a painful death.
posted by koeselitz at 10:07 AM on May 9, 2010


What is with the Newsweek hate? They seem to do a pretty good job of making the news understandable and doing so accurately and without bias.
posted by gjc at 10:24 AM on May 9, 2010


Hey, let's ask Matt to buy it!!
posted by hermitosis at 10:33 AM on May 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Who's "we"?

You know what kind of person uses "we" as the first-person singular pronoun?




Queens.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 10:37 AM on May 9, 2010


evidence that gay actors can't convincingly play straight.

If this had been put forth as "Sean Hayes can't convincingly play straight," it might have been something I'd nod at (since I don't think he can)--but then, that's not enough for a paid article, so apparently Sean Hayes==all gay actors.

Some gay actors who play(ed) straight just fine (I'm excluding women, because that is 100% an entirely different discussion, no matter that the article name-checks Portia di Rossi):
Tom Cruise
Cary Grant
Rock Hudson
Raymond Burr
Neil Patrick Harris
Ian McKellen
Alec Guinness
James Dean
Matt Bomer
Lee Pace
Zachary Quinto
Hugh Jackman
Victor Garber (watch him in Alias; if we're going to go with easy stereotypes, he's the straightest straight man that ever straighted straight.)
Richard Chamberlain
Kevin Spacey
John Travolta
ad infinitum

Unfortunately, that is a separate issue from the problem of actors getting to portray straight people once they've come out. That has nothing to do with their talent, and everything to do with how screwed up straight people's reactions are to the idea that someone they fantasize about does not have the potential to be attracted to them in real life. (I still don't get how people can't differentiate between their own fantasies and whatever the object of their fantasies is actually like.)

It's not that gay actors can't play straight; it's that straight audiences put a big GAY lens between their ability to watch a performance, and the performance itself, if they know the actor is gay. This is a whole book to be written, I'm sure.
posted by tzikeh at 10:42 AM on May 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think Oriole Adams got the Raymond Burr / William-Hopper-son-of-Hedda-Hopper thing conflated. Robert Benevides wasBurr's partner of ~30 years. He lived on Burr's estate until Burr's death, and the two of them co-owned a vineyard. I believe Hopper agreed to cover for Burr because her son asked her to (and probably because her son's livelihood depended upon it).
posted by tzikeh at 10:51 AM on May 9, 2010


it's that straight audiences put a big GAY lens between their ability to watch a performance, and the performance itself, if they know the actor is gay.

Kristin Chenoweth said that the author of the article is gay:

I am told on good authority that Mr. Setoodeh is a gay man himself and I would hope, as the author of this article, he would at least understand that. I encourage Newsweek to embrace stories which promote acceptance, love, unity and singing and dancing for all!

So it seems like gay Newsweek writers can't seem to be convinced that gay men can play straight, rather than audiences as a whole?
posted by anniecat at 10:57 AM on May 9, 2010


Some gay actors who play(ed) straight just fine

You know, I find it annoying/ironic that in a thread discussing the professional treatment of people regarding their sexuality you toss in the usual suspect list of people in Hollywood "everyone" just "knows" is gay despite the handful on the list who are not out and in some cases flat-out denied those rumors.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 11:01 AM on May 9, 2010 [10 favorites]


Victor Garber (watch him in Alias; if we're going to go with easy stereotypes, he's the straightest straight man that ever straighted straight.)

Not if you watched his bit part in Jeffrey long long long before Alias came along.
posted by WolfDaddy at 11:03 AM on May 9, 2010


Don't make me tell my Travolta story again...
posted by hermitosis at 11:07 AM on May 9, 2010


Don't make me tell my Travolta story again...


Uhhhhhh...yes please
posted by Senor Cardgage at 11:11 AM on May 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hugh Jackman

Wishful thinking does not make it so, sadly.
posted by The Whelk at 11:11 AM on May 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


(rests chin in hands) GO ON
posted by The Whelk at 11:12 AM on May 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


George Takai could play any sexuality he would like and i would believe it.
posted by djduckie at 11:21 AM on May 9, 2010


I think that the pink elephant is that Sean Hayes is just not a particularly great actor.
posted by desuetude at 11:23 AM on May 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


^ I find it annoying/ironic that in a thread discussing the professional treatment of people regarding their sexuality you toss in the usual suspect list of people in Hollywood "everyone" just "knows" is gay despite the handful on the list who are not out and in some cases flat-out denied those rumors.

I know this is going to sound like the worst mix of "I'm in with the in-crowd" and "lurkers support me in e-mail," but there's nothing for it. I'm occasionally in the show-biz business. Many of my friends (we went to Northwestern University's Theater program together) are smack-dab in the middle of the business, some at ludicrous levels (Schwimmer, Berlanti, Logan, others). There is no one on that list who hasn't come out himself, or been "outed" posthumously to the larger public when the small circle of friends finally told their stories, or who I don't have direct knowledge about re: sexual orientation. Denying rumors that you're gay doesn't automagically make you straight (and the stuff I know generally isn't the stuff that's rumored anyway). I can't make you believe me, and if you don't, you don't, since I can't prove it here.

^ Not if you watched his bit part in Jeffrey long long long before Alias came along.

Yes, I adored him in Jeffrey! But I figured I'd have more of a shot of folks recognizing him from Alias than from a small movie from 15 years ago (which everyone should go see, by the way - Patrick Stewart steals the whole thing).

One of the things I thought was nicely subversive about the film Milk is that, while they had straight actors playing the roles of gay men, they also cast out or "open-secret" out actors in necessarily straight roles (Victor as Mayor Moscone, Denis O'Hare [another Northwestern alum] as homophobe Senator Briggs, others).
posted by tzikeh at 11:28 AM on May 9, 2010


I'm typing on my phone, sorry. But it should come up in a search of my comments.
posted by hermitosis at 11:28 AM on May 9, 2010


gjc: “What is with the Newsweek hate? They seem to do a pretty good job of making the news understandable and doing so accurately and without bias.”

Look, the example adduced by Pope Guilty above ought to be enough, I think, to show what kind of 'reporting' Newsweek does. The article he quoted is a perfect example of the bluster and blather they typically produce: appeasement to all segments of the Newsweek market share, no journalistic courage to say the tough things that may be true but have to be said, and lots of posturing to be certain that anyone, no matter how racist or bigoted they may be, can read the article and still feel gratified by the end of it.

Above, found missing pointed out that the article carefully avoids endorsing what it calls Arizona's "draconian new law:"

“Pope Guilty, you selectively quoted that article in way that made it look like the author was arguing in favor of the new Arizona law, which she isn't. She is arguing that there is a prevailing fear in Arizona that led to that law.”

...and I agree that the author, Eve Conant, was very crafty in insisting that she is not personally in favor of the fascistic law. But you have to completely ignore the tenor and direction the article is taking to miss what's really going on: Eve Conant's article essentially says something like: 'look, I know you're all pissed off at Arizona for apparently trying to become the first Stalinist state of the union, but look, stuff in Arizona right now is really, really scary. So, you see? Even though they're wrong to do so, it's perfectly understandable that many Arizonans are descending into virulent hatred and endorsing blatant violations of the American system, because those poor Arizonans are really scared about what's happening there.'

As it always is with Newsweek, this message is right there in the byline: "Don't blame Arizonans—or immigrants—for the state's draconian new law." Well, then, who precisely should we blame? Oh, but wait! They've added a little "—or immigrants—" in the middle, so it's okay!

Look, I've been to Arizona a lot. My brother's wife is from Tucson. I grew up here in Colorado, and we went through Arizona all the time on family camping trips and such. I have friends and family in that state. No matter what Eve Conant would like to tell you in the interest of making it seem as though it's a frightening death zone that requires some sort of martial law to save the life of anyone unlucky to live there, it's not true: Arizona is a perfectly safe, sane, normal, average place to live. Really. Seriously, I get the impression that she drove in, watched a few raids, and then left, assuming she'd seen all of what Arizona had to offer.

This is not a defense of Arizona. It's me pointing out the truth, which doesn't help Newsweek sell subscriptions but which nonetheless remains the truth: all of this death zone rhetoric which tries to make Arizona sound like Bosnia circa 1994 is bullshit, and she likely knows it. It's bullshit spread about by right-wing nutters who want to boil the blood of "average citizens" and convince them that something must be done. I lived in New Mexico for seven years, spending a lot of that time closer to the US-Mexico border than Phoenix is, and you know what? I never watched a frightening death raid, I never saw "human traffickers, drug smugglers, AK-47s, pit bulls, and desperate laborers stuffed 30 to a room, shoes removed to hinder escape." Never. I don't deny that such things may happen somewhere, but to indicate that they are so widespread that they cause any impact whatsoever on Arizona society, that they are so common as to strike perpetual fear into the hearts of residents of that state, is either a flat lie or a completely foolish misunderstanding of the situation. We've been dealing with the unfortunate side effects of immigration for hundreds of years now; nothing noteworthy has changed on this front. There are frightening things happening in Arizona, really frightening things, but they have nothing to do with immigration or with organized crime, unless by "organized crime" you mean certain factions of the Arizona state government.

But reporting on those things would be "messy" for Newsweek: someone would be offended. News magazines in the US have learned over the decades during which they've gained power that the very best way to stay on top is to consistently churn out "clean," careful, guarded articles that avoid saying anything tough or difficult to square with the several common views of any situations. This article about Arizona is a prime example: anyone within the mainstream political spectrum, from a die-hard left-leaning Democrat to a die-hard right-leaning Republican, can read it and feel satisfied at the end, sensing that they've read non-biased reporting because it felt non-biased. The Democrat feels ingratiated to the article because it pointedly wagged a finger at anyone who might blame immigrants for all of this, because, after all, it's not their fault. The Republican feels ingratiated to the article because it went out of its way to point out that something must be done, and that a terrible immigration-related situation must be averted.

In the end, no reporting at all got done. All that happened was that Newsweek printed a story which is likely to increase their market share. The magazine is filled with articles like this which "make the news understandable" by watering it down and making it palatable to as many people as possible. The simple truth – in this case, that the Arizona state government is in a sorry state, and that this law is indeed what it seems to be, scandalously wrong – is to difficult for Newsweek to print, so they print a convenient legend.
posted by koeselitz at 11:30 AM on May 9, 2010 [8 favorites]


– and: when Newsweek's reportage of larger, more important events is watery shit, how is it we expect them to manage something like entertainment news with decency and respect?
posted by koeselitz at 11:32 AM on May 9, 2010


^ So it seems like gay Newsweek writers can't seem to be convinced that gay men can play straight, rather than audiences as a whole?

You're right to point that out--especially as I had just been talking about all vs. some myself. I spoke (typed) too soon and too quickly.

Lots and lots, but not nearly all, straight people have a hard time separating an actor's sexual orientation from the role they're playing. And yeah, it's more complex than that. It still makes me nuts if a young woman hears that a particular heartthrob is gay, and her response is "Oh NO!!" (Or, even more grar-inducing, "What a waste!") I want to start punching them in their brains in the futile hope that the "think logically" part is just offline, and a few well-placed acts of random violence can knock it back on.
posted by tzikeh at 11:34 AM on May 9, 2010


I don't understand why this is so surprising to middle America. Seemingly half the Republican party has been doing this for years.
posted by bonehead at 11:39 AM on May 9, 2010


George Takai could play any sexuality he would like and i would believe it.


That's because Takei's acting style isnt so much Androgynous as it is Android, I think.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 11:42 AM on May 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I know this is going to sound like the worst mix of "I'm in with the in-crowd" and "lurkers support me in e-mail," but there's nothing for it. I'm occasionally in the show-biz business. Many of my friends (we went to Northwestern University's Theater program together) are smack-dab in the middle of the business, some at ludicrous levels (Schwimmer, Berlanti, Logan, others). There is no one on that list who hasn't come out himself, or been "outed" posthumously to the larger public when the small circle of friends finally told their stories, or who I don't have direct knowledge about re: sexual orientation. Denying rumors that you're gay doesn't automagically make you straight (and the stuff I know generally isn't the stuff that's rumored anyway). I can't make you believe me, and if you don't, you don't, since I can't prove it here.

No offense, but you sort of indefensibly established yourself as a member of the "in crowd" the moment you decided to take advantage of what you are claiming as "information" from "small circles of friends" to name names about other people's personal lives on a website read by thousands of people.

Previously I was just irritated that you were part of the usual rumors about certain people's personal lives. If you're actually spouting out private information, then I'm actually offended, and so should the people who trusted you into their "circle."
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 11:45 AM on May 9, 2010 [6 favorites]


Seeing as I know the pain of telephone typing all too well, here's hermitosis' Travolta story.
posted by heeeraldo at 11:58 AM on May 9, 2010


Data point: Robert Reed

Not only convincingly played straight, played it so well that the character is fondly remembered as a great portrayal of an American dad.

Heck, IIRC, the Brady Bunch was the first TV sit-com to show married parents sharing the same bed.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:02 PM on May 9, 2010


If you're actually spouting out private information, then I'm actually offended, and so should the people who trusted you into their "circle."

I wasn't referring to my friends w/r/t being in some kind of exclusive club where sensitive information is communicated to members only via carrier pigeon. Direct knowledge!=private knowledge.

Hypothetical: at a *packed* public bar, a celeb hit on, was accepted by, and walked away with my friend's date for the evening. If someone says "I heard $CELEB is gay, is that true?" and I say, "Yes, he picked up $FRIEND'S (now-ex-) boyfriend *right in front of him what an asshole*," I'm pretty sure that isn't me blowing some huge covert operation. What someone does in front of scores of other people in a public place is not "private information."
posted by tzikeh at 12:15 PM on May 9, 2010


^ Heck, IIRC, the Brady Bunch was the first TV sit-com to show married parents sharing the same bed.

The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet premiered in 1952, and they shared a bed. Though in fact it's ">Mary Kay and Johnny, from 1947, who did it first, but nobody has ever heard of them, so the answer is usually Ozzie and Harriet. ;)
posted by tzikeh at 12:20 PM on May 9, 2010


Gay actors can't play straight huh?

Anyone ever watched one of those films full of bad-ass dudes doing bad-ass stuff. everyone, even the extras are all bad-ass and buff. I find, when i have the misfortune to see one of these movies, that i play a game. i look at all the buff, bad-ass extras, and i wonder how many of them are gay.

Quite what this video does to his arguement i don't know. cops ahoy.
posted by marienbad at 12:29 PM on May 9, 2010


All of this back and forth about "who's gay" is pretty useless because the author's point was precisely that out gay people cannot play straight people not that they couldnt hide it and also because as civilized human beings we should refuse to extend the definition of 'actor' to include john travolta.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:30 PM on May 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


A question for XQUZYPHYR:

1) If you're actually spouting out private information, then I'm actually offended, and so should the people who trusted you into their "circle."

2) hermitosis' Travolta story

Are you offended by hermitosis' story? Has he taken advantage of information he got from a small circle of friends--in this case, one friend--to name names about other people's personal lives on a website read by thousands of people? My example was one that happened in a very public place, in front of dozens and dozens of people. His is one that happened in a very private place, in front of one person: the person who shared the story.

I am not being coy or snarky. I want to know where you draw the line w/r/t this kind of information, and what has crossed it and what hasn't.

(And, hermitosis, just so we're good, I *don't* think that what you shared was an invasion of privacy, though I do fear for your safety, as you yourself stated *g*)
posted by tzikeh at 12:31 PM on May 9, 2010


so i had never heard a Hugh Jackman gay rumor so i searched the net and the closest thing i found was a blog talking about him being on oprah with other celebrities as they held a kind of round table discussion. The following is from that site:

The singing, dancing, very sexy Jackman said he’d come out if he was gay, because denying it implies shame. And he brought up past laws which forbade couples to marry because of religion and race.

The same search yielded Hugh Jackman discussing gay rumors with barbara walters apparently you can't be straight and play a gay person. Only gay people can play gay people.
posted by djduckie at 12:43 PM on May 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


I thought John Mahoney (Frasier's dad) played a straight man convincingly. Although as James Coco once said, the public never really thinks about old men or old, balding, overweight men as either gay or straight. They are asexual.

I had no idea. But for me it's because he reminds me a little of my grandfather, that sort of Harry Truman type personality.
posted by krinklyfig at 3:17 PM on May 9, 2010


remember when... women started getting roles in Shakespeare plays?

The Whelk, I think you must be older than I, as I do not personally remember this controversy.
posted by _paegan_ at 3:42 PM on May 9, 2010


COVERS BLOWN CODE LAZARUS! CODE LAZARUS!
posted by The Whelk at 4:00 PM on May 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


Hugh Jackman and Kristin Chenoweth. See how the largish Jackman is hiding behind the tiny Chenoweth? Clearly it's a Vast Gay Conspiracy.
posted by Sparx at 5:20 PM on May 9, 2010


What is most significant to me, is that Chenoweth, who I recognize as a very gifted performer (if not to my particular musical interests), strongly identifies as Christian and (yet?) supports gay rights. I wish there were more like her.

When I was promoting "As I Am" last year, I went on "The 700 Club," I wasn't thinking about what it represents. I guess I was living in a little bit of a bubble, and I was surprised that it upset so many people. If I had it to do over again, I wouldn't go, because I don't agree with that anti-gay stuff. I don't understand what the big deal is with gay marriage. Get over it, people. What if it was a sin to be short? Well, I guess it is in the Miss Oklahoma pageant.
posted by Morrigan at 5:24 PM on May 9, 2010


That's like saying Italian-American actors can't convincingly play Cuban immigrants.

Or Satan.
posted by bwg at 6:20 PM on May 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Richard Chamberlain
Kevin Spacey
John Travolta
ad infinitum


HOLY SHIT AD INFINITUM IS GAY?
posted by Joey Michaels at 6:44 PM on May 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


This thread just has me wondering if there was anyone on Fraiser who wasn't gay.
posted by piratebowling at 7:01 PM on May 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Setoodeh (the author of the Newsweek article) is openly gay. It's not a secret.
posted by fugitivefromchaingang at 7:46 PM on May 9, 2010


I just always kind of saw Jack as the gay equivalent of black-face from the few moments of the show i saw, and I was surprised that gay people weren't offended.

i like what hayes did on will & grace. the character was supposed to be over the top, but he did embody many elements that were true to gay people i've known, and with the same sense of humor about it. there's gay rights and all that, but gay stuff is funny, and that's awesome.

but also, over the course of the show jack was an endearing character (not to mention this his character, by contrast, defined a more 'regular' type of gay guy, in will, than people were accustomed to), and i think he and the show did a lot to break down some of the sense of scary other-ness that many straight people had about gay people to that point. i saw this even in my own family--people who had previously viewed gay culture from the outside as a tragic existence, and who feared for my identification with it, loosened up a lot and could see the joy in it, and a normalcy they didn't expect. they might not have come around as they did outside the 'safe' confines of a popular sitcom.

i think the show gets put down a lot, as does its audience, but i enjoyed it, and i'm rather grateful for it.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 8:06 PM on May 9, 2010


I just always kind of saw Jack as the gay equivalent of black-face

wait, what? You always thought that the actor was actually gay, and was also playing a very stereotypical gay character? And this is like blackface, where someone who is not-x plays a stereotypically-x character, how?
posted by jacalata at 8:44 PM on May 9, 2010


wait, what? You always thought that the actor was actually gay, and was also playing a very stereotypical gay character? And this is like blackface, where someone who is not-x plays a stereotypically-x character, how?

Bert Williams wasn't an isolated incident, but probably the most famous example. Spike Lee called Tyler Perry's Madea character Minstrelsy.

So, hit the cages and we'll try again when you're ready to play in the majors.
posted by djduckie at 9:27 PM on May 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sorry, I was watching A league of their own while Writing that response. But yeah, many people play rolls that portray negative stereotypes of groups they belong to.
posted by djduckie at 9:44 PM on May 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I know people can portray their own group negatively: I was not previously familiar with the idea of black actors portraying stereotypes of black people being classified as doing 'blackface', I thought that was specifically describing non-black people pretending to be black.
posted by jacalata at 11:17 PM on May 9, 2010


...many people play rolls that portray negative stereotypes of groups they belong to.

i still don't get how this applies to jack's character. he was often shallow and superficial, but these are not gay stereotypes; they're standard sitcom character types. he was the first gay tv character i recall who was unapologetic and uncompromising about his sexuality. the show was not at all about making fun of gays at their expense. i'm actually more offended by the suggestion that he is a negative stereotype than at anything hayes did with that role.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 1:16 AM on May 10, 2010


Yeah, jacalata, it wasn't uncommon back in the day. To perform a 'black' act meant you were gonna be in blackface, regardless your actual skin color. Spike Lee made a whole movie about it.
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 2:34 AM on May 10, 2010


Fallacy, I never watched the show. the few clips i saw struck me that way. I am in no way the Will and Grace expert and if I am wrong, there's nothing I could do to change that (short of watching the show and changing my opinion, which I don't see happening in the near future(watching the show that is, I am willing to change my opinion on most things)). So I am sorry that I called what Jack did minstrelsy.
posted by djduckie at 5:04 AM on May 10, 2010


I didn't like Will & Grace because that group of people was a collection of four of the least friendly, least likable, least supportive group of people to ever call themselves a group of friends on the planet. I wouldn't have wanted to know any of them in real life, and if any of them had been part of my social circle, I would have found ways to distance myself from their insults and selfishness. That doesn't have anything to do with whether any of them are gay or straight, and simply has to do with the way the characters were written to interact with each other.
posted by hippybear at 9:51 AM on May 10, 2010


This thread just has me wondering if there was anyone on Fraiser who wasn't gay.

Kelsey Grammer is a Republican, so...

cast parties musta been fun.
posted by kittyprecious at 12:53 PM on May 10, 2010


I have a hard time following the thinking behind "Jack from Will & Grace was not a cartoon stereotype."

Dude, this character was the definition of a cartoon stereotype. In the dictionary under "gay cartoon stereotype," there's a picture of Jack. At a Cher concert. Wearing glitter.

If you don't agree with me, ask yourself this ... didn't you notice the deliberately extreme contrast between mega-flamboyant Jack and the "normal," down-to-earth Will that used to actually date Grace before he came out?

Will was what middle America wanted all gays to be like. Jack was what middle America feared they really were like.

Between the two lay some fertile ground for humor. And Megan Mullally.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:32 PM on May 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


I can't believe I read all the way through this thread and no one mentioned that John Barrowman was considered "too straight" to be cast as Will and lost the part to Eric McCormack.
posted by hindmost at 2:11 PM on May 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have a hard time following the thinking behind "Jack from Will & Grace was not a cartoon stereotype."

i don't know that anyone else was arguing along those lines, but i'll say that i didn't argue that jack did not embody a set of exaggerated gay stereotypes, only that those stereotypes were not negative. a lot of his character elements were reflected in many people i've known over the years, at varying shades of intensity, and i embrace them. on top of specific mention of the word 'negative', the blackface reference seemed to imply that jack's behavior was something to be embarrassed by.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 4:05 PM on May 10, 2010


Jack's mannerisms are nothing to be embarassed by.

His overt selfishness and cattiness and mean-spiritedness toward other is certainly cause for embarassment.
posted by hippybear at 4:17 PM on May 10, 2010


His overt selfishness and cattiness and mean-spiritedness toward other is certainly cause for embarassment.

to whom? these qualities were part of the humor and weren't at all restricted to gay characters on the show. it seemed to me more an absolutely fabulous influence.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 4:38 PM on May 10, 2010


I didn't like Will & Grace because that group of people was a collection of four of the least friendly, least likable, least supportive group of people to ever call themselves a group of friends on the planet. I wouldn't have wanted to know any of them in real life, and if any of them had been part of my social circle, I would have found ways to distance myself from their insults and selfishness.

Man, if I was playing "Password" with a group of friends, and my clue was "TV show about 4 of the least friendly, least likable, least supportive group of people to ever call themselves a group of friends on the planet", everyone would be all "Seinfeld! Seinfeld!" until one guy in the back quietly says "It's Always Sunny in Philedelphia", at which point everyone would agree that should be the answer, over and over, until time runs out.

I reveal the show was "Will and Grace". Everyone would just stare.
posted by 23skidoo at 5:25 PM on May 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


You'd have an even worse time of it trying that in the UK.
posted by Artw at 5:28 PM on May 10, 2010


these qualities were part of the humor and weren't at all restricted to gay characters on the show.

Well, I suppose that humor is, after all, subjective. I certainly didn't associate those qualities with the sexuality of the characters so much as I associated them with "Okay, I've watched three episodes of this and won't ever watch any more." YMMV.

Yes, I didn't watch Seinfeld much either. Or It's Always Sunny. And Ab Fab was utterly horrifying to me the first time I was made to watch it. I guess I just don't find much humor in cruel interactions between characters who purport to be friends. People who act that way to me in real life don't get invited back.
posted by hippybear at 5:56 PM on May 10, 2010


And Ab Fab was utterly horrifying to me the first time I was made to watch it.

We can't be friends no more.


if you press me, I'll say I like It's Always Sunny and not Seinfeld or W&G cause on It's Always Sunny, it's clear these people are raging assholes to be mocked and derided for being idiot savants - on the other shows you get the idea you're supposed to be smirking along with them in a "uh uh amiright?!" way
posted by The Whelk at 6:06 PM on May 10, 2010


I guess I just don't find much humor in cruel interactions between characters who purport to be friends. People who act that way to me in real life don't get invited back.

on will & grace (way less on Ab Fab i guess) it pretty much always came around that their actions were redeemed in their actual closeness...so you'd have shows where jack would let down his guard and express his gratitude to will...or karen would say something nice to grace. it always came around, eventually, to them telling each expressing that they couldn't have gotten by without the others.

but i guess it's strange to me, too, the idea of taking it so seriously. their cattiness toward each other was so much part of the comedy; civility and sincerity would have killed it. (jack calling will fat all the time was so incredibly silly; it was bitchy and grating, and will could at no point have been realistically described as fat!)

but also, i kind of have a vague sense that--in the way, for instance, horror movies have some kind of cathartic effect for the viewer--the comedy in a show like will & grace kind of indulges the viewers' fantasies of being able to say anything they want, or be completely selfish, or even silly in a way you can't get away with in real life. nobody expects that they can treat people that way and have any kind of real relationship, but it's fun to see it taken to an extreme. i imagine it would be difficult, in real life, being friends with the on-screen marx brothers, or neighbors to the kramdens, or being poor mrs. kravitz, or having your best friend kenny be killed once a week; but i don't think the character situations are meant to be inhabited that way.

but yeah, we like what we like. i've got my own comedy blindspots. i don't like stuff that dupes actual people, for instance, and humiliates them, and that seems to be pretty popular. i totally don't get the appeal of jim carrey. seeing eddie murphy's more hostile anti-gay stuff while i was young and closeted, he is welcome on no screen in my house. so i get that there's a gut reaction.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 9:32 PM on May 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm now kind of curious as to what people who hate Will and Grace would think of Gimme Gimme Gimme, which is basically Will & Grace without the boring "normal" characters*.

* I'm not necessarily saying that Gimme Gimme Gimme is necessarly all that good here, just to be clear.
posted by Artw at 9:35 PM on May 10, 2010


"Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie" was okay, but I prefer "What I See".
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:40 PM on May 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm quite fond of Gimme Gimme Gimme, but then how can you go wrong with anything from that group?

All that aside, I understand the nature of the comedy and the way it's meant to be a fantasy and all that. And it is witty dialogue, etc. But when it was on television, it was being held up as some kind of breakthrough gay sitcom or something, and all I could think when I was watching it was that if this is the picture of gay life with gay friends that is being painted across the US every week, it isn't doing much to help the image of homosexual men in general. Sure, it's exposure, but to some extent it wasn't any better than creating a sitcom where the stereotyped black household staff was front-and-center after years of being relegated to walk-ons in the background. I'm not the only person I talked to at the time it was on television who felt that way, and there were not many queers in my social circle who really liked that show much at all.

*shrug* To some extent, this all boils down to taste, I think. I'm not overly fond of modern sitcoms generally, and it takes a real break-out as far as characters and writing goes before I'll devote much time to one. I didn't see that in W&G, but perhaps you did. That's why we have variety in our entertainment choices.
posted by hippybear at 12:14 AM on May 11, 2010


Heh. No. I meant this.
posted by Artw at 12:25 AM on May 11, 2010


it isn't doing much to help the image of homosexual men in general.

i think in the broad strokes of sitcom it gave more variety of gay male types, with its main characters and the occasional minor ones. and i think within the context of what the sitcom is and how it was viewed, it was groundbreaking. the people on sitcoms are caricatures; but for decades straight people have had all manner of caricatures that reflect (though exaggerate), to some degree, familiar personality element, types, and roles; if you're a father, a cop, a laborer, a slut, a liberal, a partier, a goofball, or whatever, you are represented somehow--not necessarily in flattering ways, but in sitcoms not entirely heartlessly--even archie bunker was in some ways redeemable. for gays this was limited more often to minor types that were the occasional punchline. having not one but two different major gay characters on will & grace put gays on that same plane, and in the sitcom world they became real people. they were no more denigrated or elevated than any other representation in sitcoms, but they were added to the roster. (i guess for me it's the same kind of thrill as seeing gay advertisements; you could look at it in a cynical way and be all 'oh, great, now we're a target market to be pandered to like all the rest', and that's not necessarily elevating, but in its own way it is still acknowledgment and validation within one common language of the culture.)

i don't think jack or will were generally received as an accurate portrayal of gay life; i think they were viewed through the same lens as other sitcom characters. but what i think was important was that they established a safe familiarity, considering how even in their distortions they resembled other sitcom characters. jack was no more slutty than blanche dubois; will was in some ways a variation on felix unger. and they were (for people who enjoyed the show, at least) endearing characters put in the same kind of situations as other sitcom characters, to be sympathized with, and i think that went some way--not the most refined, but still mainstream--to making gay people and culture somewhat less scary to a certain segment of straight viewers.

i can see that if sitcoms are not your thing it doesn't seem a big deal, or that it is not very flattering. but i think within the context of sitcoms it was pretty neat, and the popularity and common cultural currency of sitcoms did something to magnify that benefit.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 6:46 AM on May 11, 2010


When do I throw this pie?
posted by The Whelk at 6:47 AM on May 11, 2010


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