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If Straights Can’t Play Gays, Does That Mean Gays Can’t Play Straights?

Something odd is going on over in the world of make believe. There’s seems to be considerable confusion over what acting is all about – pretending. That being the job of an actor, to pretend. There are very few Danish princes treading the boards but someone has to play Hamlet. Oddly enough those shot, blown up and stabbed on screen don’t in fact die, they get up again and still do panto at Christmas. Not all the people playing the good guys really do rescue kittens as a hobby even though it is of course true that all the bad guys really do eat babies for breakfast.

It is important to grasp this idea of what is going on:

Rose, who is openly gay and identifies as gender-fluid, was hit with an onslaught of criticism after she announced her casting as Batwoman, who, according to the DC Comics canon, is a lesbian of Jewish descent.

Some critics said it was a problem that Rose isn’t Jewish, and others suggested she’s not gay enough to play a lesbian superhero.

The attributes of the actress aren’t really the point though, are they? It’s whether she can act:

As Syfy notes, Rose’s final tweet before shutting down her Twitter saw her lament the fact that people were saying she can’t play a lesbian character because she is not a lesbian. Rose, however, has identified as a lesbian since she was a child.

Here it seems that it’s “not lesbian enough.” Which seems a bit strange. But then Jack Whitehall seems to be getting an even simpler version of this criticism:

Disney is facing backlash online after a report from the The Sun revealed English comic Jack Whitehall’s role in the family film tentpole “Jungle Cruise” is that of a gay man who is “hugely effete, very camp, and very funny.” The supporting role would make it one of Disney’s most significant gay film characters in history, which is why the casting of a straight male is angering some fans online.

Folks, he’s an actor. He’s pretending.

Disney’s upcoming action-adventure movie Jungle Cruise is facing backlash for casting a straight man, Jack Whitehall, in a stereotypically gay role. This will be the second time that Disney featured a gay character in a live-action children’s movie, following Josh Gad as Gaston’s loyal henchman LeFou, but it will be the first instance of an openly gay character.

It’s as if the very basics of the profession are being missed. This is people playing dress up. The entire point is for them to be portraying something and someone they’re not. Johnny Depp really isn’t a pirate, Tom Cruise doesn’t work for an international law enforcement organisation and Jason Statham doesn’t hunt sharks. These are roles they play.

We could also ask whether those complaining have really quite got the implications of their demands. If straight people cannot play gay roles then it should be equally true that gay people cannot play straight ones. Which, given the historic preponderance of sexual tastes among actors would have been a problem. Rock Hudson’s career would have been notably short for example.

But even if the tu quoque is not allowed because reasons, this demand that an actor be what they portray is simply nonsense, isn’t it? Because it’s to miss the very point of what is being done, acting. You know, pretending and dress up?

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Spike
3 years ago

A black man has the right to portray Alexander Hamilton but all hell would break loose if an Asian portrayed Martin Luther King. (In fact, credibility would suffer in either case.) The same as for “cultural appropriation.” It is not a principle, as it works in only one direction; it is a weapon.

Rhoda Klapp
Rhoda Klapp
3 years ago

‘they get up again and still do panto at Christmas. ‘

Oh, no they don’t!

Philip Scott Thomas
Philip Scott Thomas
3 years ago

“hugely effete, very camp, and very funny.”

Two of those three describe Jack Whitehall precisely. Guess which.

Spike
3 years ago

The biggest outrage is yet to come: Eventually, Obama will be portrayed by an actor who can actually learn new material.

Rhoda Klapp
Rhoda Klapp
3 years ago

‘they get up again and still do panto at Christmas. ‘

Oh, no they don’t!

Spike
Spike
3 years ago

A black man has the right to portray Alexander Hamilton but all hell would break loose if an Asian portrayed Martin Luther King. (In fact, credibility would suffer in either case.) The same as for “cultural appropriation.” It is not a principle, as it works in only one direction; it is a weapon.

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