Our inbox has been flowing with questions along the lines of, “How is Newsweek‘s Ramin Setoodeh attacking actors who are gay when he’s gay himself?” Indeed, we’ve been hearing “Setoodeh is gay himself” line for months; we thought it was an accepted fact, but today my editor emailed him to ask him to confirm his sexuality, since he seemed an expert on how members of the gay community are interpreted by mainstream audiences. (He didn’t respond.) And in his web-only follow up to that terrible piece about Sean Hayes being too gay to play straight, Setoodeh confirms he’s playing for our team. Not that it’s going to save him from the lions.
Of which Queerty — and Cheyenne Jackson and Michael Urie — is among.
“Instead of hiding behind double entendre and leaving the obvious unstated, I wrote an essay in the May 10 issue of NEWSWEEK called ‘Straight Jacket’ examining why, as a society, it’s often hard for us to accept an openly gay actor playing a straight character,” he writes. “You can disagree with me if you like, but when was the last time you saw a movie starring a gay actor? The point of my essay was not to disparage my own community, but to examine an issue that is being swept under the rug.”
But Setoodeh didn’t write about “why, as a society, it’s often hard for us to accept an openly gay actor playing a straight character” — a reasonable debate. He wrote about why Hayes, who Promises Promises audiences know from his feminine Will & Grace characters, was too much of a fag to convince anyone otherwise.
The revival [of Promises, Promises] hands the lead over to Sean Hayes, best known as the queeny Jack on Will & Grace. Hayes is among Hollywood’s best verbal slapstickers, but his sexual orientation is part of who he is, and also part of his charm. (The fact that he only came out of the closet just before Promises was another one of those Ricky Martin-duh moments.) But frankly, it’s weird seeing Hayes play straight. He comes off as wooden and insincere, like he’s trying to hide something, which of course he is.
This has nothing to do with Hayes’ sexuality. This has everything to do with Hayes’ acting ability. Setoodeh should be going after (what he perceives to be) Hayes’ terrible acting chops. When Debbie Allen cast all black actors in her Broadway show Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, nobody went after the actors for being unable to play “white parts”; criticism was reserved for the actors’ ability to convincingly play the characters of whose lines they were reading. When Colin Farrell ditches his Irish accent to play American roles, do we find him unconvincing because of the “accent” (air quotes to acknowledge he has no “accent” among Irish) he developed in childhood? Or his inability to satisfactorily transform into the character?
Setoodeh says we all “miss[ed] my essay’s point.” Hardly. His essay missed his own self-professed point, which he is now attempting to clarify. For which we’ll allow him the opportunity. Too bad the only reason people like us, and perhaps you, have to even consider his argument is because he has Newsweek‘s name behind him, and not a blogspot.com.
Continues, and concludes Setoodeh: “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.”
Not with you leading the debate, anyhow. Unsubscribe.