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Ramin Setoodeh remains a nincompoop

Timothy Kincaid

May 11th, 2010

When Newsweek’s Ramin Setoodeh wrote an asinine article a couple weeks ago in which he lamented that gay actors just aren’t convincing if the audience knows that they are gay, I criticized his logic. And I was certainly not the only one.

Well now Setoodeh has printed a response. Sadly, it is every bit as idiotic as his original assertion.

Basically, he says three things in his defense:

1. I’m not the only one who thinks gay people can’t play straight:

When Sean Hayes, from Will & Grace, made his Broadway debut in Promises, Promises playing a heterosexual man, the New York Times theater review included these lines: “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.” This, to me, is code: it’s a way to say that Hayes’s sexual orientation is getting in the way of his acting without saying the word gay.

Well, no, that’s not exactly what they said. The full quote is:

Yet except when he’s with Ms. Finneran (more on whom later), who plays a crazy barfly, his emotions often seem pale to the point of colorlessness. It’s easy enough to like Chuck but hard to feel for him. And his relationship with Ms. Chenoweth’s Fran feels more like that of a younger brother than a would-be lover and protector.

But the Times had high praise for a scene between Hayes and Finneran:

Nothing in the languorous first act prepares you for the jolt of energy that begins the second. That’s when Ms. Finneran shows up as a singles-bar stalker named Marge, a molting flamingo of a woman whose pickup line is that she is not a pickup. When Marge homes in on Chuck, the evening’s first sparks are struck, and we are reminded that sexual desperation can be very, very funny.

Doing the freshest variations I’ve seen in years on over-the-top, deluded drunkenness, Ms. Finneran and Mr. Hayes turn their single shared number, “A Fact Can Be a Beautiful Thing,” into a showstopper you wish would never end.

And we can be sure that Setoodeh didn’t make a quick run to the bathroom during that scene and miss all the sparks and sexual desperation, because it is exactly that scene that he described as “unintentional camp” because “the woman is so drunk (and clueless) that she agrees to go home with a guy we all know is gay.”

2. I’m a victim

Immediately, a number of gay blogs picked up my essay and ran excerpts from it out of context, under the headline that I was antigay. It went viral. Chenoweth wrote a letter to NEWSWEEK calling the article “horrendously homophobic,”, even though she went on to acknowledge that I am openly gay. It went even more viral. In the meantime, commenters on the Internet piled on the attacks. Many of them said they hadn’t even read the original article (some of them did) but they all seemed to agree on the same point: that I was an idiot.

Sometimes, just sometimes, when all the world agrees that you are an idiot, it should give you pause to stop and consider, “Gee, I wonder if maybe I’m an idiot?” And maybe, just maybe, it doesn’t help to run a follow-up article that only confirms the idea that you are.

And when measuring out who gets martyr status, I think that Jonathan Groff just might be closer to the front of the line. After all, he doesn’t have a prominent news magazine in which to defend himself.

3. You missed my point.

But what all this scrutiny seemed to miss was my essay’s point: if an actor of the stature of George Clooney came out of the closet today, would we still accept him as a heterosexual leading man? It’s hard to say, because no actor like that exists. I meant to open a debate—why is that? And what does it say about our notions about sexuality? For all the talk about progress in the gay community in Hollywood, has enough really changed?

I agree that Hollywood is no where near as gay-accepting as it pretends to be. I live here. And I know that there are gay actors who might not get cast in that macho role, or star in that teen drama, or get a chance to be a leading heartthrob if they were out. I know of the ladies who don’t show up on the red carpet with their other half in tow.

But that is Hollywood’s homophobic (and insulting) assumption that midwestern Americans would never accept gay actors. And that wasn’t Setoodeh’s point.

No, his “point” is that Hollywood is right. That we would not accept an openly gay Clooney playing a heterosexual leading man. (In his ‘rebuttal’, Setoodeh answers his own question with “The answer seems obvious to me: no, it has not [changed].”) He may pretend to lament the homophobia of Hollywood, but in reality he supports it and agrees with it.

And Setoodeh knows that producers and Hollywood executives are right because he, himself, can’t see beyond the sexual orientation of the actor. It’s his “honest impression” that sexual orientation should indeed “limit a gay actor’s choice of roles.” Because, you see, “The fact is, an actor’s background does affect how we see his or her performance.”

Poor Ramin Setoodeh. He’s been called on his own internalized discomfort with his own sexuality, and rather than consider the criticism he’s entrenched his position. Frankly, I’m not sure his sense of self worth – or his intellect – are adequate to the challenge of reporting on gay issues factually and fairly.

If the editorial staff at Newsweek are wise, they’ll let Setoodeh go. Or, at least, rein him back in and reassign him his old role of writing banal interviews of C-list celebrities.

He’s an embarrassment to their reputation.

Comments

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Cole
May 11th, 2010 | LINK

Ramin’s attitudes come from heterosexuals. He’s internalized them and believes them. This is how George Rekers are produced. They grow up in a heterosexual supremacist/anti-gay environment surrounded by heterosexuals and internalized everything they see and hear and in turn hide their homosexuality and pretend to be heterosexual. That’s the only way they see themselves living. Ramin sees this situation of gay people being incapable of playing heterosexual characters as reality and unchangeable beause that’s the way heterosexuals see it and want it.

Gay people can play heterosexuals convincing. Gay people who are not actors have done for thousands of years across the globe.

MattNYC
May 11th, 2010 | LINK

He reminds me of the comment about lawyers–they love to hear themselves speak. Granted he is a paid writer, but it’s too bad he has nothing coherent or intelligible to say (the fact that he appears regularly on Faux News proves that point).

Why doesn’t he complain about all of the ‘mer’can roles being stolen by residents of the British Commonwealth. I mean how can they CONVINCINGLY play Americans when we KNOW they are Brits/Aussies/Kiwis???

Burr
May 11th, 2010 | LINK

No link?

Oh well Newsweek is in trouble anyway, this just highlights why.

Timothy Kincaid
May 11th, 2010 | LINK

Sorry Burr… link now in place

Burr
May 11th, 2010 | LINK

Thanks.. looks like you quoted most of it anyway, but I wanted to make sure.

He still comes across as self-important, as if he’s the only one who has thought of this and as if elevating his personal opinion on actors’ performances to the level of truth is an honest form of sparking debate. Instead, he’s only fueling a self-fulfilling prophecy. By asking the question so pointedly and stacking the deck with the answer he’s already decided on, it makes discussion and progress that much harder.

Lindoro Almaviva
May 11th, 2010 | LINK

when I see a pic of him I think I’d do him.

Then he starts talking and all sense of tension just goes out the window. Danny Devito has a lot more going on for him than this twit.

DN
May 11th, 2010 | LINK

I know this might sound silly, but maybe he was rejected for all the hearthrob roles in high school and instead settled for a career in journalism.

And if his point was to spark a debate, why not write an article that presents more than one side to a story? I agree – this follow-up is baloney.

Regan DuCasse
May 11th, 2010 | LINK

I will never forget this. A very dear friend of mine had ALWAYS played straight roles. He had an early start on his film career since a child, but in young adulthood he was outed and it was a very traumatic experience.

About four years ago, he played a Christian missionary as well as the role of his son.
You might guess the actor from the title of the film “The End of The Spear”.

The folks at Sharper Iron were incensed that a gay man would play, not only a straight married man, but a Christian one as well.
There was a bit of a kerfuffle because some anti gay people raised a fart about it.

But the very man he portrayed, LOVED it, loved the performance and said it was performed dead on.
So, if the Saint family didn’t have a problem, why should anyone?
It was THEIR story.

My friend plays more gay related roles, but he can do anything.
Indeed, Robert Gant is one of those rugged hotties that could too.

And Sethoodeh is kind of set all over Sean Hayes.
But John Barrowmen, (yum, yum, yum) was up for the role of Will from the same series and didn’t get it.
So not even a gay man got the role of a gay man.
But as Capt. Jack of Torchwood, that airmen’s trench had me at…

Jon Swift (PSUdain)
May 11th, 2010 | LINK

Mmmmm….John Barrowman… He also got the (gay gay gay! campy campy campy!) role of lead tenor in Springtime for Hitler in the movie version of The Producers.

But back to Doctor Who/Torchwood, by Setoodeh’s logic, only an omnisexual (possible alien, possible human) should be able to play the role of Jack Harkness with any degree of convincingness.

And Barrowman plays macho just fine, by the way, in his omnisexual spaceman from the future way.

Richard Rush
May 11th, 2010 | LINK

Has Setoodeh ever heard of Rock Hudson, for example? Maybe Setoodeh’s problem with a gay playing straight only kicks in when he is aware the actor is gay. And then he just can’t get his mind off that fact.

David
May 11th, 2010 | LINK

“Maybe Setoodeh’s problem with a gay playing straight only kicks in when he is aware the actor is gay. And then he just can’t get his mind off that fact.”

He’s confusing being type cast with sexual orientation. When a het actor gets typecast no one blames their sexual orientation, but Setoodeh’s basically blames homosexuality when a gay actor gets type cast.

The character Sean Hayes created for Will & Grace was very memorable; Jack is now a comedic character as recognizable as Gilligan, Hawkeye, Lucy, or drama roles like Spock or J.R. Ewing. Many actors and actresses have become so identified with a particular role they created that they struggled to be accepted in any other role.

Is William Shatner’s inability to be seen as anyone but Kirk a heterosexual failing? Of course not.

Sean Hayes may have created his own Spock, an inescapable character that will influence how people see his work for years to come. But he did so because of his skill as an actor, not because of his sexual orientation.

Of course, this experience is pretty common, many stars from popular sitcoms and movie series have had a hard time being convincing to audiences in other roles.

The homophobia in Setoodeh’s theory is in his attribution of this challenge to gay actor’s sexuality, rather than to the intersection of skill, familiarity and a devoted audience. In my opinion, he’s just looking for another imaginary way for GLBTQ people to be inferior.

Lindoro Almaviva
May 11th, 2010 | LINK

did anyone see the segment in the Joy whatsher name from the view? This guy is just a total idiot.

CB
May 11th, 2010 | LINK

Your statement, “But that is Hollywood’s homophobic (and insulting) assumption that midwestern Americans would never accept gay actors”, I don’t believe is totally true. In my opinion it isn’t “Hollywood’s homophobic (and insulting) assumption”, but I think over-reaction might be more plausible. Another correction might be ‘red State Americans’ since not all midwestern states are ‘red’ Republican strongholds which are strongly homophobic. However, as you pointed out, that was not Setoodeh’s point.

Other than that minor disagreement with your article, the rest is sound.

Jason D
May 12th, 2010 | LINK

3 words
Neil Patrick Harris

Been out for awhile now, yet straight men LOVE his character on “How I Met Your Mother”

The dude who played “Bulldog” on Fraiser Came Out in like the second season and nobody took issue with that.

Regan DuCasse
May 12th, 2010 | LINK

You’re right, Jason D. That was Dan Butler who played Bulldog, and damn he was wonderful.

I love him too.

Here’s what I especially think about the stupidity of Sipoopy, or whatever his name is.

Has anyone seen films or shows where the traditional casting wasn’t?
Where a woman was in a man’s role (Linda Hunt in “The Killing Fields”) or when racially mixed casts have transcended what audiences were familiar with.
If COLOR can be transcended in casting, then CERTAINLY sexual orientation definitely can.

Methinks Sillybooby, or whatever his name is, is too inexperienced with any of this to know what the hell he’s talking about.

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