Thursday, February 09, 2006

Penguins Cannot Fake It - Can Actors?

OK, so this is a fairly lame attempt to link two completely unrelated issues I wish to blog about in the same post.

Long-time readers of QP will know of the on-going shenanigans with the queer Humboldt penguins at Bremerhaven Zoo.

The latest development (thanks to Mindless Munkey for bringing this to my attention) :

Shy Swedish female penguins sent to seduce "homosexual" male Humboldt penguins in a German zoo have failed to break up any of the male-male twosomes, officials said yesterday.

Now, while this is a victory for queer penguin solidarity, it's also unfortunately not doing the Humboldt species any favours in the longer-term:

The zoo has far too many male penguins, while Kolmarden Zoo in Sweden has an oversupply of females.

The species is in danger of dying out.

But the moral of the story, once again, is that you can't teach a gay flightless bird straight tricks.

So - link, link, link - if penguins can't pretend to be something they're not, should actors be allowed to?

Check out this mass debate on the topic of fake gays Jake and Heath in Brokeback.

Naturally, the bulk of people are getting very sniffy about this. "Of course straight actors can play gay roles. It's acting, DUH."

"Does this mean gay actors won't be able to play straight roles anymore?" - which then leads to snide speculation about the death of the careers of Tom Cruise, Kevin Spacey etc.

But herein lies the point: if, for argument's sake, these actors are closeted, what is that telling you? That the world is still not ready for openly gay actors to take leading roles in major Hollywood movies?

Or, as Harley - I assume from such blog sites as Gayety - asks amidst the sniffles:

This issue has nothing to do with whether Heath or Jake were authentic playing gay. In an ideal world their off-screen sexuality would indeed be irrelevant. The issue, however, is that a gay man, no matter how good an actor, would never have been given the part because of commercial decisions. In the 21st Century, that is a tragedy.

Darn tootin'. I mean heavens, it's not like the world is wanting for gay actors. They're about in as short supply as gay hairdressers, PR consultants or lesbian TV camera operators.

So why aren't there more genuinely high-profile openly queer actors? Is it because despite how far we think we've come, staying in the closet is still a necessary evil to earn millions in Hollywood?

Sure, I'm not denying the existence of Sir Ian McKellan, Rupert Everett, Portia de Rossi etc, but ultimately they are still the exception(s) to the rule.

I personally do, on occasion, get a little tired of seeing what I know are horribly well-meaning, sincere and generally quite talent heterosexual actors playing gay. Gale Harold (Brian, QAF), Eric McCormack (Will, Will & Grace) and Jude Law (just about every role he was in before he hit it big) never fail to convince as homos, but they themselves are still not homos. Just like Dustin Hoffman the actor was not really a woman in Tootsie. Just like Gong Li is not really Japanese in Memoirs of a Geisha. Just like Meryl Streep, amazing actress though she is, might not be so ideal a choice to play Coretta Scott King in a hypothetical movie bio as, say, Angela Bassett or Alfre Woodard.

Perhaps the line is drawn at physicality. Race and gender manifest much more explicitly than sexuality and so the comparison might ultimately not be so apt. But I still maintain it's disappointing that, for an industry comprised of a disproportionately high number of queers, we are disproportionately low in the high-profile, big-budget roles and movies. Many people will dismiss Joe.My.God's frustration but I get where he's coming from. I understand him. And not just because I think he's a bit of a hot and sexy Pilf (pappa I'd like to...frolic...with).


At 9/2/06 5:25 pm, Blogger JahTeh said...

I thought Gale Harold was Gay.

Now if you were an actor, could you play straight on Neighbours?

Actually if you weren't an actor (not necessary on Neighbours) could you play straight?

And be very convincing.

At 9/2/06 6:14 pm, Blogger Ron said...

I stopped watching QAF when I found that most of the cast were straight.

In such an in-your-series, there is just something wrong with not using gay actors.

As for films like Brokeback, we would never have seen it (and would probably never have been made) if the lead characters had been played by openly gay actors.

At 9/2/06 6:15 pm, Blogger Ron said...

in-your-series = in-your-face series

At 9/2/06 7:16 pm, Anonymous Tom said...

Actors on Neighbours... whatever next!

At 10/2/06 11:23 am, Blogger Sam said...

In such an in-your-series, there is just something wrong with not using gay actors.

I disagree. You should hire whichever actor is best for the role, regardless of their sexuality.

And yeah, it sucks that gay actors aren't more prolific, but gay anything isn't that prolific.

At 10/2/06 11:58 am, Anonymous kate said...

you gotta give those straight actors a chance to play gay. queers get to 'act straight' all the time. it just isn't fair!

(yes I'm being silly, and really, I wish some more people would and could come out in hollywood, and that they could play gay/lesbian/queer/etc characters)

plenty of actors have appeared on Neighbours. they just weren't required to act at the time.

At 10/2/06 1:46 pm, Blogger Sam said...

JT: Nope, Gale's straight. Gets a lot of gay bois trying to pick him up on the street apparently but from what I've read he's the sort of guy who can politely laugh it off.

Ron: That's exactly the point. Why do we live in a world where being an openly gay actor jeopardises his or her box-office pull, and therefore restricts his/her available roles?

Actors are good or they're crap, irrespective of their sexuality. But it would seem a lot of people don't agree with this.

At 10/2/06 2:23 pm, Anonymous bazza said...

Thats why I left the "Business". There just was'nt the parts that! you know? inspired my inner talents.
Oh! well back to Coles checkout!

At 10/2/06 7:20 pm, Blogger Ron said...

I've no problem with gay actors playing straight roles and vice versa or a Chinese woman acting as a Japanese geisha. The best actor for the part is the way it should be.

However, it's just in the case of QAF which is a degree or three from porn, I would have preferred gay actors. Once I found out that most of the QAF actors were straight it didn't 'do it' for me anymore.

At 13/2/06 12:07 pm, Blogger Sam said...

Three words: Gay. For. Pay. Some of those gay porn stars are necessarily gay either.

Actors are good or they're crap, irrespective of their sexuality.

At first I read that as "irregardless" and was about to issue you with a beatdown. "Irregardless" is only acceptable when quoting Mean Girls.

At 13/2/06 12:43 pm, Blogger JahTeh said...

Heath Ledger's Casanova got panned.

Am I the only person in Oz who liked 'Roar'?

Robert Gant came out as gay half way through QaF and Peter Paige is gay.

Too many chocolate do-nuts leads to weird comments.

At 13/2/06 9:40 pm, Anonymous stephen said...

Can't help but think we are all missing the point about the nature of acting here.
Susan Langer the dramaturge (philospher of drama you ignorant cretins) defines drama as "the virtual enactment of real life".
It is meant to be a true enactment, but it is not a replacement for life.
Actors act!
Rock Hudson must be turning in his grave

At 14/2/06 12:17 am, Blogger Gay Erasmus said...

Would Rock Hudson, or Cary Grant, or James Dean, or Montgomery Clift, have had as many opportunities to act had they disclosed their sexuality to the world? I doubt it.

Even Rupert Everett saying in an interview that playing gay in My Best Friend's Wedding ruined his career, because people concluded that his acting ability was somehow linked directly to his real-life sexuality.


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