We’ve written before about out Newsweek reporter Ramin Setoodeh and his … puzzling opinions when it comes to gay issues. Last year he wrote an article suggesting that effeminate gay men on American TV were hurting the fight for GLBT equality. That article seemed to have more to do with Setoodeh’s own issues with effeminate men than anything else.
Setoodeh is back with another article that seems deliberately provocative as he suggests gay actors really can’t play straight roles.
Setoodeh starts off with the reviews for the recent Broadway production of Promises, Promises starring Sean Hayes which Setoodeh notes didn’t get great reviews, and, according to him, missed "… the big, pink elephant in the room." Namely that Hayes is gay.
Unlike Jerry Orbach, whom Setoodeh says had "macho swagger," Hayes doesn’t work in the role specifically because he’s gay. Says Setoodeh:
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.
Um, what is Hayes trying to hide exactly? Hayes is open about his sexual orientation, so it can’t be that. Presumably Setoodeh means Hayes’ is trying to make the audience forget he’s gay in real life?
Setoodeh then goes on to discuss out actor Jonathan Groff, the "latest fabulous player to join Glee." Groff plays Jesse, the love interest for Rachel (Lea Michele), but according to Setoodeh:
…there’s something about his performance that feels off. In half his scenes, he scowls—is that a substitute for being straight? When he smiles or giggles, he seems more like your average theater queen, a better romantic match for Kurt than Rachel. It doesn’t help that he tried to bed his girlfriend while singing (and writhing to) Madonna’s Like a Virgin. He is so distracting, I’m starting to wonder if Groff’s character on the show is supposed to be secretly gay.
Neil Patrick Harris, Lea Michele and Jonathan Groff
What Setoodeh fails to mention about Groff is that not only did he play Michele’s love interest in Spring Awakening on Broadway for more than a year without anyone finding him unconvincing, but he received Tony and Drama Desk nominations for his performance as well. But perhaps theater critics aren’t as astute observers as is Setoodeh.
Setoodeh is certainly entitled to his opinions. If he doesn’t think Hayes or Groff work in their parts, that’s fine. But to suggest it has to do with the fact that they are gay, seems shockingly retroactive and to my mind, says more about what Setoodeh obsesses over than anything about how "believable" gay actors are when playing gay.
After acknowledging that Neil Patrick Harris and Portia de Rossi have each found success playing straight characters on How I Met Your Mother and Better Off Ted respectively, Setoodeh dismisses them because the roles are "broad caricatures" and "not realistic."
So much for them, I guess.
After acknowledging the damage the closet cause to gay actors such as Rock Hudson, Anthony Perkins and Tab Hunter, and the similarities faced by African American actors back in the ’60s, Setoodeh finishes his article by wondering what would happen if someone like George Clooney were to come out:
If an actor of the stature of George Clooney came out of the closet
tomorrow, would we still accept him as a heterosexual leading man? It’s
hard to say. Or maybe not. Doesn’t it mean something that no openly gay
actor like that exists?
So I gather Setoodeh thinks that a gay Clooney would no longer be able to play straight. I suppose that might be true … if all of Clooney’s fans were as narrow-minded and as obsessed by an actor’s sexuality as Setoodeh seems to be.
This attitude also seems especially weird coming from an out gay man. What does Setoodeh hope to accomplish with this article? It’s already difficult enough for actors to brave any possible backlash by coming out.
Having another gay man say he doesn’t think gay men can convincingly play straight, doesn’t make it any easier.
Frankly, I wish Setoodeh would stop writing about gay issues, or at least Newsweek would stop publishing them; his opinions are certainly not representative of any gay person I’ve ever met. On the contrary, Setoodeh’s predictable contrarianism seems to reflect a gay constituency of one — or, worse, the tired gay-obsessions of the far right.