This is just an odd story all the way round, but made odder by the notion that the failing Newsweek is actually being read at all. On a web-exclusive op-ed on April 26th, entertainment writer Ramin Setoodeh opined that while straight men could convincingly pass for gay in various entertainment projects, gay men are not convincing playing straight.
For decades, Hollywood has kept gay actors—Tab Hunter, Van Johnson, Anthony Perkins, Rock Hudson, etc.—in the closet, to their own personal detriment. The fear was, if people knew your sexual orientation, you could never work again. Thankfully, this seems ridiculous in the era of Portia de Rossi and Neil Patrick Harris. But the truth is, openly gay actors still have reason to be scared. While it's OK for straight actors to play gay (as Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger did in Brokeback Mountain), it's rare for someone to pull off the trick in reverse. De Rossi and Harris do that on TV, but they also inhabit broad caricatures, not realistic characters likes the ones in Up in the Air or even The Proposal. Last year, Rupert Everett caused a ruckus when he told the Guardian that gay actors should stay in the closet. "The fact is," he said, "that you could not be, and still cannot be, a 25-year-old homosexual trying to make it in the ... film business." Is he just bitter or honest? Maybe both.
Most actors would tell you that the biographical details of their lives are beside the point. Except when they're not. As viewers, we are molded by a society obsessed with dissecting sexuality, starting with the locker-room torture in junior high school. Which is why it's a little hard to know what to make of the latest fabulous player to join Glee: Jonathan Groff, the openly gay Broadway star.[Nicole: shown in the video above dancing with co-star Lea Michele] In Spring Awakening, he showed us that he was a knockout singer and a heartthrob. But on TV, as the shifty glee captain from another school who steals Rachel's heart, there's something about his performance that feels off. In half his scenes, he scowls—is that a substitute for being straight? When he smiles or giggles, he seems more like your average theater queen, a better romantic match for Kurt than Rachel. It doesn't help that he tried to bed his girlfriend while singing (and writhing to) Madonna's Like a Virgin. He is so distracting, I'm starting to wonder if Groff's character on the show is supposed to be secretly gay.
Setoodeh also had some bitchy things to say about the newly openly out Sean Hayes in his turn as the male lead in Promises, Promises on Broadway, something his co-star, Kristin Chenoweth, took great umbrage at and wrote a slamming letter about. Ironically, Setoodeh is gay himself, which adds a particularly self-loathing aspect to the article. Understandably, people were upset at Setoodeh's article and wrote in vociferously, to which Setoodeh responded somewhat disingenuously:
Over the weekend, I became the subject of a lot of vicious attacks. I received e-mails that said I will be fired, anonymous phone calls on my cell phone and a creepy letter at my home. Several blogs posted my picture, along with a link to my Twitter feed. People commented about my haircut, and that was only the beginning. I was compared to Ann Coulter and called an Uncle Tom. Someone described me as a "self-hating Arab" that should be writing about terrorism (I'm an American, born in Texas, of Iranian descent).
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? The answer seems obvious to me: no, it has not.
Call me sensitive, but slamming gay actors for being "queeny" and "unconvincing" doesn't lend itself to a in-depth or enlightened discussion Setoodeh claims he wanted. Now Glee creator Ryan Murphy has called for a boycott:
The most recent addition to the carnage is from Glee creator Ryan Murphy, who has written an open letter calling for the boycott of Newsweek until an apology is issued. In it, Murphy says, “This article is as misguided as it is shocking and hurtful.” He condemns Newsweek as well for their publishing the article in the first place saying, “Would the magazine have published an article where the author makes a thesis statement that minority actors should only be allowed and encouraged to play domestics? I think not.” Murphy then extended an invitation to Setoodah to visit Glee’s writers room, see how they do things, and to take home a copy of Glee covering Madonna’s Open Your Heart , calling it “a song you should play in your house and car on repeat.”
Well, given that Newsweek's readership has fallen considerably, I'm not thinking the boycott will be a problem.