it is true that after Newsweek's controversial article written by openly gay Ramin Setoodeh, that stated that in his opinion as a gay man that gay actors can't pull off playing heterosexual, actress Kristin Chenoweth wrote these comments, but they were never published as a letter to the editor of NEWSWEEK, much too long for that. So the AP's Sandy Cohen misreproted that Chenoweth wrote a letter to Newsweek, implying that it had appeared in the magazine's print edition. It never did.
What Chenoweth did write was this, but it was NOT a letter to the editor of NEWSWEEK. It was more of a long note she sent off to Newsweek but it was not a letter to the editor.
As a longtime fan of Newsweek and as the actress currently starring opposite the incredibly talented (and sexy!) Sean Hayes in the Broadway revival of Promises, Promises, I was shocked on many levels to see Newsweek publishing Ramin Setoodeh’s horrendously homophobic 'Straight Jacket,' which argues that gay actors are simply unfit to play straight. From where I stand, on stage, with Hayes, every night — I’ve observed nothing 'wooden' or 'weird' in his performance, nor have I noticed the seemingly unwieldy presence of a 'pink elephant' in the Broadway Theater. (The Drama League, Outer Critics Circle, and Tony members must have also missed that large animal when nominating Hayes’ performance for its highest honors this year.)
I’d normally keep silent on such matters and write such small-minded viewpoints off as perhaps a blip in common sense. But the offense I take to this article, and your decision to publish it, is not really even related to my profession or my work with Hayes or Jonathan Groff (also singled out in the article as too 'queeny' to play 'straight.')
This article offends me because I am a human being, a woman and a Christian. For example, there was a time when Jewish actors had to change their names because anti-Semites thought no Jew could convincingly play Gentile. Setoodeh even goes so far as to justify his knee-jerk homophobic reaction to gay actors by accepting and endorsing that 'as viewers, we are molded by a society obsessed with dissecting sexuality, starting with the locker room torture in junior high school.' Really? We want to maintain and proliferate the same kind of bullying that makes children cry and in some recent cases have even taken their own lives? That’s so sad, Newsweek! The examples he provides (what scientists call 'selection bias') to prove his 'gays can’t play straight' hypothesis are sloppy in my opinion. Come on now!
Openly gay Groff is too 'queeny' to play Lea Michelle’s boyfriend in GLEE, but is a 'heartthrob' when he does it in Spring Awakening? Cynthia Nixon only 'got away with it' ’cause she peaked before coming out? I don’t know if you’ve missed the giant Sex and the City movie posters, but it seems most of America is 'buying it.' I could go on, but I assume these will be taken care of in your 'Corrections' this week.
Similarly, thousands of people have traveled from all over the world to enjoy Hayes’ performance and don’t seem to have one single issue with his sexuality! They have no problem buying him as a love-torn heterosexual man. Audiences aren’t giving a darn about who a person is sleeping with or his personal life. Give me a break! We’re actors first, whether we’re playing prostitutes, baseball players, or the Lion King. Audiences come to theater to go on a journey. It’s a character and it’s called acting, and I’d put Hayes and his brilliance up there with some of the greatest actors period.
Lastly, as someone who’s been proudly advocating for equal rights and supporting GLBT causes for as long as I can remember, I know how much it means to young people struggling with their sexuality to see out & proud actors like Sean Hayes, Jonathan Groff, Neil Patrick Harris and Cynthia Nixon succeeding in their work without having to keep their sexuality a secret. No one needs to see a bigoted, factually inaccurate article that tells people who deviate from heterosexual norms that they can’t be open about who they are and still achieve their dreams. 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!
THAT ABOVE IS NOT A LETTER TO THE EDITOR OF NEWSWEEK. SORRY SANDY COHEN.
Heterosexual actors play gay all the time. Why doesn't it ever work in reverse?
By Ramin Setoodeh | Newsweek Web Exclusive
Apr 26, 2010
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The reviews for the Broadway revival of Promises, Promises were negative enough, even though most of the critics ignored the real problem—the big pink elephant in the room. The leading man of this musical-romantic comedy is supposed to be a single advertising peon named Chuck who is madly in love with a co-worker (Kristin Chenoweth). When the play opened on Broadway in 1968, Jerry Orbach, an actor with enough macho swagger to later fuel years and years of Law and Order, was the star. The revival hands the lead over to Sean Hayes, best known as the queeny Jack on Will & Grace. Hayes is among Hollywood's best verbal slapstickers, but his sexual orientation is part of who he is, and also part of his charm. (The fact that he only came out of the closet just before Promises was another one of those Ricky Martin-duh moments.) 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? (Click here to read Newsweek's response to Kristin Chenoweth)
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This is no laughing matter, however. For decades, Hollywood has kept gay actors—Tab Hunter, Van Johnson, Anthony Perkins, Rock Hudson, etc.—in the closet, to their own personal detriment. The fear was, if people knew your sexual orientation, you could never work again. Thankfully, this seems ridiculous in the era of Portia de Rossi and Neil Patrick Harris. But the truth is, openly gay actors still have reason to be scared. 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. De Rossi and Harris do that on TV, but they also inhabit broad caricatures, not realistic characters likes the ones in Up in the Air or even The Proposal. Last year, Rupert Everett caused a ruckus when he told the Guardian that gay actors should stay in the closet. "The fact is," he said, "that you could not be, and still cannot be, a 25-year-old homosexual trying to make it in the ... film business." Is he just bitter or honest? Maybe both.
Most actors would tell you that the biographical details of their lives are beside the point. Except when they're not. As viewers, we are molded by a society obsessed with dissecting sexuality, starting with the locker-room torture in junior high school. Which is why it's a little hard to know what to make of the latest fabulous player to join Glee: Jonathan Groff, the openly gay Broadway star. In Spring Awakening, he showed us that he was a knockout singer and a heartthrob. But on TV, as the shifty glee captain from another school who steals Rachel's heart, 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.
This is admittedly a complicated issue for the gay community, though it is not, in fact, a uniquely gay problem. In the 1950s, the idea of "color-blind casting" became a reality, and the result is that today there's nothing to stop Denzel Washington from playing the Walter Matthau role in the remake of The Taking of the Pelham 1-2-3. Jack Nicholson, by the force of his charm, makes you forget how he's entirely too old to win Helen Hunt's heart in As Good As It Gets. For gay actors, why should sexual orientation limit a gay actor's choice of roles? 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.
It's not just a problem for someone like Hayes, who even tips off your grandmother's gaydar. For all the beefy bravado that Rock Hudson projects on-screen, Pillow Talk dissolves into a farce when you know the likes of his true bedmates. (Just rewatch the scene where he's wading around in a bubble bath by himself.) Lesbian actresses might have it easier—since straight men think it's OK for them to kiss a girl and like it—but how many of them can you name? Cynthia Nixon was married to a man when she originated Miranda on Sex and the City. Kelly McGillis was straight when she steamed up Top Gun's sheets, and Anne Heche went back to dating men (including her Men in Trees costar). 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?