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.
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