There are some who decry gay pride as redundant in 2014 — an excuse for those affluent enough to throw down for pricey events and pop the latest designer drugs.
Those same people would tell you that with all the strides made in mainstream gay acceptance and rights, the need for our community to take to the streets and shout “Here we are!” to the world has lost its edge.
And they aren’t completely wrong. But they sure aren’t right, either.
Just in time for some of the world’s biggest cities to embark on their weekends of rainbow flamboyance, we hear two stories out of Hollywood that show just how relevant our visibility is.
“Playing gay” has traditionally been career suicide for an actor. And even though that theory has been thoroughly disproved (Will Smith, Darren Criss, Andy Samburg, Paul Rudd, Jake Gyllenhaal, etc., etc.), this outdated stigma that playing gay will somehow forever scar your future prospects of landing roles is very much alive.
And perhaps it’s still even a bit true, which is even worse.
First there’s Brendan Fehr of NBC’s The Night Shift, who took on the role of a gay doctor, but not without enduring some serious internal conflict.
Normally I’d commend Fehr on speaking so honestly about his struggle over accepting a role that makes him uncomfortable, but then he went and said this:
To play a homosexual on network television, what are the risks? There’s a whole bunch of them. What are the rewards? Not as many.
“Not as many.”
Ask any struggling actor if they think there are any rewards to taking a gay role on network television. I expect they’d be able to find one or two.
To his credit, Fehr did end up taking the role, stepping outside his comfort zone along the way. And that’s great. But he clings to the idea that he’s doing something risky, dangerous and brave.
Daniel Radcliff recently took on the role of gay poet Allen Ginsburg in Kill Your Darlings, and nobody cared. Granted he was already a huge star at the time, but audiences are smart enough to realize that those projected people on the screen in great lighting are just actors playing parts.
Then there’s True Blood’s Luke Grimes, who abruptly left the cast in December citing concerns over the “creative direction” of his character. When he came on to the show it was as hunky straight vampire boyfriend of Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll), but when he learned he’d eventually wind up in a gay romance scenario with Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis), it was time to jump ship.
Just to be clear for those who haven’t seen True Blood, it has to be one of the goriest shows ever created (except of course for Game of Thrones). Body parts routinely explode, the death count is off the charts and the camera does not shy away from closeups of horrific injuries.
And that violence is greeted as “normal” by cast members and audiences, but a little same-sex storyline has one of its actors running off the set and hiding behind his publicist.
Grimes’ publicist denies it all of course, saying, “Luke always had an out clause as a means of pursuing other opportunities which arose in the form of features…”
But sources close to HBO say otherwise.
Gay stigmas are still very much alive in Hollywood despite an ever-expanding cast of LGBT characters on screens small and large.
But perhaps we’re headed towards a tipping point where refusing to play gay could actually harm a career more than it helps it. It’s not such a crazy thought.