“Newsweek”‘s Ramin Setoodeh Responds to Controversy: I’m the Victim Here

Regular readers of AfterElton.com know we’ve been writing about Newsweek entertainment reporter Ramin Setoodeh for quite some time. We wrote about his article pondering whether or not effeminate gay characters are hurting the fight for gay equality, we’ve pondered Setoodeh’s own apparent issues with masculinity, and more recently we’ve covered his article about why he thinks gay actors can’t convincingly playing straight.

Heck, I even tried to get Setoodeh to talk with me about his articles, but no dice. Ditto Newsweek editor Jon Meacham.

Well, Setoodeh’s finally responded Tuesday in a piece called Out of Focus: The Internet is attacking me for my essay on ‘Promises, Promises.’ But can we steer the debate back to where it belongs? 

Nutshell? Setoodeh is the victim here.

Like all self-perceived victims, Setoodeh has to engage in more than a little historical revisionism. He does so by quoting a New York Times review of Sean HayesPromises, Promises that says of Hayes’ performance, "his emotions often seem pale to the point of colorlessness … his relationship with [his costar Kristin] Chenoweth feels more like that of a younger brother than a would-be lover and protector."

Sean Hayes and Kristin Chenoweth in Promises, Promises

In his latest article, Setoodeh says this struck him as coded way of saying Hayes’s sexual orientation made him unbelievable in the role without actually using the word gay. Interesting point. Too bad that Setoodeh didn’t say that in his original article.

Indeed, he said nothing about the New York Times or any other reviews of Promises, Promises except to note they were negative. In fact, he criticizes them for not addressing "the big pink elephant in the room" which is the "real problem" according to Setoodeh. From the original article:

But frankly, it’s weird seeing Hayes play straight. He comes off as wooden and insincere, like he’s trying to hide something, which of course he is. Even the play’s most hilarious scene, when Chuck tries to pick up a drunk woman at a bar, devolves into unintentional camp. Is it funny because of all the ’60s-era one-liners, or because the woman is so drunk (and clueless) that she agrees to go home with a guy we all know is gay?

This doesn’t sound to me like a reporter who has an issue with how others perceive Hayes’ performance as a straight man, but how Setoodeh perceives it himself. It’s "weird" seeing Hayes play a heterosexual role? And how exactly is Hayes’ "hiding" something anyway? Isn’t every actor hiding something if that is how Setoodeh views acting?

Setoodeh then goes on to say the point of his first essay wasn’t to disparage his own community but examine an issue "being swept under the rug." I agree that the perception of homosexuality is something the traditional media needs to examine more than they do. 

Too bad Setoodeh didn’t do that in his original article.

Instead, his original article disparages Jonathan Groff on Glee saying, "there’s something about his performance that feels off." Additionally, Setoodeh complains that knowing Rock Hudson was gay caused Pillow Talk to "dissolve in a farce." But Pillow Talk was a farce — made even more enjoyable, in my opinion, by the idea of a closeted gay actor playing a straight man playing a gay man. Suck on that, Victor/Victoria.

Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in Spring Awakening, Doris Day and Rock Hudson in Pillow Talk

For all of this and more, Setoodeh was rightfully criticized — or "attacked" from Setoodeh’s point of view — but his response doesn’t address any of the criticisms. Instead, he plays the victim card, saying his words were "taken out of context" and that he became the subject of "vicious attacks" and received anonymous phone calls and a "creepy letter" at his house.

While I would never condone threatening a writer in any way for what he has written — we are all entitled to our opinions after all — the internet can be a rough-and-tumble place. Vitriol is, alas, part of the deal these days. AfterElton.com gets a fair amount of ugliness directed at it (and we dismiss it all, since it’s inevitably the work of cranks and idiots, not those who want to engage us in legitimate debate).

It’s unfortunate that Setoodeh has been attacked in personal terms, but it’s simply not relevant to the issue of his essay.

Setoodeh finishes off by saying he knows the issue is complicated and that the internet "has a way of simplifying things." Well, he should know about simplifying things.

Again, it’s worth noting: Setoodeh never addresses any of the criticism leveled at him by AfterElton.com or any other legitimate source, and he never speaks to the comments made by Broadway star Kristin Chenoweth.

If his goal was to start a "debate," and he says it was, it’s telling how uninterested he seems to be in actually having that debate. Instead, he’d rather play the victim. I guess he has no other choice: there doesn’t seem to be anyone else, online or off, who actually agrees with him.

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