Doe-eyed six-year-old Dakota Fanning made her career by playing the wise-beyond-her-years girl in heartwarming films like I Am Sam, The Cat in the Hat, and Charlotte’s Web. So now that she’s 16, playing bisexual rocker Cherie Currie, and tongue-kissing her costar in the Joan Jett biopic The Runaways, will she stay as adorable in the eyes of her fans, or get typecast as a rough-around-the-edges lipstick lezzie?
The Runaways tells the story of adolescent she-rockers Joan Jett and Cherie Currie who struggled with sexism, drugs, and sex to make it in the male-dominated world of 1970s rock. In the film, Fanning kisses her co-star Kristen Stewart in a roller rink, a scene inspired by a comment from the real-life Curie. In the 2004 documentary Edgeplay: A Film About the Runaways, Curie says:
“Of course back in the 70′s there was this whole thing going on with bisexuality. David Bowie had come out of the closet, Elton John. And of course, I was such a Bowie fan, I had to… check that out. And that was all part of the magic I believe of that year in music and the free sex, free-minded experimentation and I did… I had a couple of fun times with Joan. And She was good too… really good! (Laughs) With Sandy too, y’know… but I don’t wanna mention it… OK, and Sandy wasn’t half-bad either (laughs). Am I bad?”
A lesbian kiss is pretty tame in a film that has Fanning stripping for cash, breaking shit, and suggestively singing “Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-CHERRY BOMB!” But when you consider that most of the original actors from the 2006 film Another Gay Movie didn’t return for the horribly ad-ridden 2008 sequel (because their agents didn’t want them typecast in gay roles?), Fanning’s decision seems all the braver. Also: Less campy.
Granted, the boys from Another Gay Movie weren’t nearly as established as Ms. Fanning, but by playing gay on film, the teenage actress is continuing the more recent trend of child actors taking a queer turn — whether on screen or in real life — in their adolescence. Home Alone‘s Macaulay Culkin played murderous gay club kid Michael Alig in the 2003 Party Monster. Lindsay Lohan got gay with Samantha Ronson after playing in a slew of remakes of Disney classics. Even New Moon heartthrob Taylor Lautner is keeping his sexuality up for grabs in a recent interview with Rolling Stone.
Might bisexual roles be the new rite of passage for young Hollywood? Possibly. But what’s the last Macaulay Culkin or Lindsay Lohan film you saw?
Culkin and Lohan both have messier public images that have tossed them into the cliche bin of “messed up child actors,” but Fanning, who is squeaky clean in comparison, has a chance here to really foster greater acceptance of ostensibly straight actors playing LGBT characters without fear of Hollywood backlash (read: starring opposite Paris Hilton in a straight-to-DVD flick).
As the real-life Curie says, it’s all about experimentation. When asked about the incredible freedom she had as a 15-year-old rock neophyte, she said:
“Well, I don’t think the Runaways could have happened under [modern] circumstances. And our band was a milestone. Thank God we had the parents that we had because I can tell you, being the mother of a 19-year-old, there isn’t a chance I would have let [everything that happened to me] happen. But we made history. So it’s a double-edged sword.
“We experimented. We weren’t in love with each other. We just had fun. I like that it’s in the film. So many kids go through these serious guilt trips. I want them to know it’s okay.”
The real-life Currie now does chainsaw art.