You’ve heard of blackface, but let’s raise the bar.
Ladies and Gentleman, I give you…gayface.
Said countenance is the appropriation of homosexuality by a heterosexual in the practice of pretend.
Acting – The process of pretending to be something you’re not.
It seems one actor’s in hot water for doing just that.
If you haven’t heard, The Prom is a new Netflix musical comedy.
Along with the tunes comes the tale of a smalltown teen set to take her same-sex partner to the big dance.
But not so fast: PTA head Mrs. Greene’s no lover of lesbianism, so she 86’s the event.
Even so, have no fear — the cavalry’s comin’: Five folks from Broadway hear the news via Twitter and head out to help.
From there, I’m assuming hummable hilarity ensues.
And amid the comedy is gay Barry Glickman, one of the Fab 5.
But stop the presses: Flamboyant Barry’s played by TV host James Corden, who’s married to a woman.
Newsweek critic Samuel Spencer’s unimpressed:
Opinions differ on how acceptable it is for straight actors to play gay roles, but few straight actors could get away with a gay character like this, a role that would feel stereotypical in an ’80s sitcom and here feels offensive.
Did James take it too far? See for yourself:
The Hollywood Reporter’s David Rooney also caned the casting:
Perhaps aware of the potential minefield for a straight actor playing a flaming gay stereotype, Corden channels the mannerisms without the joy. It’s a flat performance without much heart. … This is a role that cries out for Nathan Lane.
Back to Samuel, beyond Corden’s performance, there was a greater gaffe — how could they possibly cast a straight actor when the part isn’t of a straight character?
After all, it is not like we have a shortage of actual gay actors who could give the role more pathos. Was Titus Burgess busy? Was Nathan Lane on holiday? Andrew Rannells is even in this movie, so we know he was available, and though he has fun as the out-of-work actor who wants everyone to know he went to Juilliard, this film would have been better had he been given the bigger role.
The Telegraph’s Tim Robey agrees. He even nailed a new type of appropriation — the grotesque gayface:
In a cast full of talented queer actors in the younger parts, it’s a massive problem to have Corden in gay-face front and center, trying his utmost to own Barry’s tragic experience of leaving home as an unloved 16-year-old. When he grabs Emma’s hand and whisks her to the mall for a makeover, it’s an insult the film doesn’t even consider, stereotyping the young lesbian as fashion-clueless and the gay man as a bustling Queer Eye nightmare who made this reviewer embarrassed to be batting for the same team.
Vanity Fair jabbed James as well:
Corden, flitting and lisping around in the most uninspired of caricatures, misses all potential for nuance, and thus never finds even a hint of truth in the role. And this is in a movie that’s supposed to be about empowering queer people!
As for sexual attraction, is this where Hollywood’s headed?
That won’t fare well for actors who are gay but enjoy playing it straight.
Plus, how could anyone be sure who’s what? Will those wanting to make it in the movies have to hide their preference so they can still get parts?
Apropos, actor Viggo Mortensen recently defended his portrayal of a gay man in the new flick Falling:
“[I] didn’t think it was a problem. And people then ask me, ‘Well what about Terry Chen, who plays my husband in the film, is he a homosexual?’ And the answer is I don’t know, and I would never have the temerity to ask someone if they were, during the casting process. And how do you know what my life is? You’re assuming that I’m completely straight. Maybe I am, maybe I’m not. And it’s frankly none of your business.”
Solid point, but I’d say Tinseltown’s moving toward identity politics in lieu of created characters. You may remember the case of Scarlet Johansson — a female — cast to play a female-identifying-as-male:
Scarlett Johansson has dropped out of an upcoming film in which she was cast as a trans character. pic.twitter.com/VYuUmI3JcP
— AJ+ (@ajplus) July 13, 2018
Remember the film 'Rub and Tug,' where Scarlett Johansson was going to play a trans character? Well now it will be a TV series with a trans lead and a trans writer – Our Lady J – as it should have been in the first place.https://t.co/9w4XUirQHV
— Erik Anderson (@awards_watch) July 21, 2020
If Cancel Culture’s keen on erasing the past, and if it’s wrong to play someone unlike yourself…and if that’s particularly true where sexuality’s concerned…will they #CancelRockHudson?
If so, get ready: There’s gonna be a whole lot of cancellation comin’.
And speaking of Nathan Lane, ever seen The Birdcage? This sure wouldn’t fly today:
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