Queer roles for the straight souls



There’s a piece on the Internet gaining traction, and it should be nipped in the bud.

Written by an angry Tyler Coates for online entertainment magazine Flavorwire the day after the Golden Globes, the column claims that the “homophobic” acceptance speeches prove we need to have more LGBT actors playing LGBT roles.

Coates gets angry mostly with three speeches in particular: those given by “Dallas Buyers Club” stars Jared Leto and Matthew McConaughey, and Michael Douglas of “Behind the Candelabra.” Leto and McConaughey for failing to respectfully acknowledge the real people affected by the AIDS struggle that they represent in the film; Douglas for indulging in a story involving the “birth” of his role as Liberace.

Coates ends the whole escapade with some slight rhetorical questioning: “Would queer or transgender actors have brought something different to their roles?” “Would they have perhaps added more dimensions to the characters they were playing?” “Would they have realized that you cannot simply step up on the Golden Globes stage and disregard the identity-based struggles of these complex characters who put golden trophies in actors’ hands?”

It’s an issue I truly wish I could get behind.

There are plenty of LGBT actors that should gain traction in the industry and public eye, but not for solely playing queer roles.

There are simple facts to acknowledge that unravel Coates’s convoluted points.

First, acting, at its core, is about finding a life outside of your own. It’s about accurately experiencing and displaying another person no matter who he or she might be.For this reason alone, it shouldn’t matter what orientation an actor is for the role he or she is playing.

If the actor is talented and understands what it takes to explore the life of another human being, there is no room for the actor’s “previous” life.

Second, Coates is emphasizing the gayness of these roles far too much.

For a man declaring that queer actors would add dimension to the characters they are playing, emphasizing that you must be queer in order to understand queer struggles seems to make everything more one-dimensional to me.

Coates is reducing great characters and historical figures to only be defined by their orientation and not their deeper qualities.

Sean Penn’s Academy Award-winning portrayal of Harvey Milk wasn’t rooted in Milk’s queerness. Instead, Penn successfully pulled off the life of a kind, dedicated man who couldn’t stand for injustice.

Yes, we should get more LGBT actors into the American film canon, but we shouldn’t shun straight actors for their work and portrayal of the queer struggle.

It’s true we could do without Jared Leto’s superficial speech about getting into character by waxing, but most of the people at the Golden Globes are drunk
anyway.

At the end of the day it comes down to the fact that without using straight actors to do some brilliant work in gay roles, those stories would not be as popularized.

That’s what we need to focus on — making the struggle known.

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