Chenoweth defends gay actors from Setoodeh

Timothy Kincaid

May 10th, 2010

There are few people who delight me more than Kristen Chenoweth. This talented woman is known to many as a Tony winning star of Broadway (including originating the role of Galinda in Wicked), but those outside of New York have more recently got to know her from her Emmy-winning role as Olive Snook in the very quirky Pushing Daisies, or from her guest role on Glee.

But one of the things that make Chenoweth special is that she is unapologetic about both her Christian faith and her advocacy for the gay community. To Kristen, these go hand in hand.

And when she read the nonsensical Newsweek column by Ramin Setoodeh in which he laments that gay people just aren’t convincing in straight roles, she didn’t smile sweetly and go on. It turns out that Chenoweth has worked with the actors in the roles that Setoodeh just couldn’t believe. She is costarring in Promises, Promises opposite Sean Hayes and guest-starred on a recent Glee episode with Jonathan Groff.

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.

I am grateful (but not too surprised) that Chenoweth defended her fellow actors. But it is an additional joy to see her do so in terms that stand much anti-gay bigotry on its ear. Kristen’s spiritual devotion may seem irrelevant to many who already agree with us, but her faith gives her a voice to reach many who might otherwise dismiss her as ‘godless Hollywood’.

I believe that the tipping point on gay rights will come when more people see equality not as something that they can support despite their faith, but must support because of it. Kristin is already there.

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!

Andrew

May 10th, 2010

Look at that! Someone from Oklahoma not being a bigot. No seriously, I already loved her. But this makes me love her a little more. OK represent!

Evan Hurst

May 10th, 2010

Wow.

Lindoro Almaviva

May 10th, 2010

You go girl!

Rebecca

May 10th, 2010

Kristin Chenoweth is so great.

Patrick

May 10th, 2010

I love her on Glee. I love her even more now.

James Ash

May 10th, 2010

Wow indeed, Evan! Thanks to BTB and Timothy for careful journalism showcasing a wonderful model of exemplary Christian courage and integrity. Imagine a world full of such passion for simple human rights! Again, wow!

Regan DuCasse

May 10th, 2010

And John Barrowmen! Let’s not forget John Barrowmen!
He was up for playing Will on “Will and Grace”.
Even then, a gay man didn’t get the role playing a gay man!

OMG!!!
I don’t care how gay or not…but gimme Capt. Jack 24/7!

Sethoodeh…FOS!

Burr

May 10th, 2010

That was an especially salient point tying this into the plight of Jewish actors.

Well done, Kristin.

Andrea

May 10th, 2010

Goodness, but I do love this woman. Kristin, thank you for being such a wodnerful person. And so dang articulate too!

CB

May 11th, 2010

BRAVO, Kristin, BRAVO!!!

IRT the Newsweek article – Some people just can’t get past their internal prejudices. If you didn’t know that an actor was gay, and was playing a ‘str8’ role, you’d accept it. However, if an openly gay actor played a ‘str8’ role, suddenly it’s unbelievable. That is the whole problem with the article. The author ASSUMES all actors are straight until such time they come out as gay. Once they are open, their characterizations are no longer acceptable/believable. It’s roughly the same thing as saying an actor has become bigger than the role they are playing. When you go and see Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise or George Clooney in a movie, do you see the character they are portraying or do you see Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise or George Clooney? I think the public would be surprised to find out how many actors/actresses are gay or bi. The author of that article just can’t get past his internal prejudices. Actors play roles, some succeed, others do not. It DOES NOT depend on the actors sexuality but it does depend on the characterization, chemistry between the actors and YOUR acceptance, perception and prejudices.

Thank you Kristin for saying what needed to be said.

For tweeters, you can give her thanks @ http://twitter.com/kchenoweth

DaveM

May 11th, 2010

Don’t forget her early roles as Mr. Noodle’s sister, Miss Noodle, from Sesame Street!

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