Sticking a big fat tongue out to Bret Easton Ellis and Rupert Everett, researchers at South Carolina’s Clemson University found that audiences have no problem believing openly gay actors as straight characters. We’re also assuming that these audiences know what “acting” is.
According to PinkNews, the study also revealed that being out had no measurable effect on an actor’s overall acceptance on screen:
Nearly 400 college students participated in the study by answering questions about a male actor’s fictional Facebook page that included a photograph and basic demographic information, including sexual orientation.
After watching a video of the actor’s performance, participants rated the performance and their likelihood of casting the actor in their own productions.
“Early research showed that people tend to perceive a direct connection between sexual orientation and established gender roles, especially in the entertainment industry,” said Clemons psychology professor Paul Merritt. “However, these new findings indicate that knowledge of an actor’s sexual orientation doesn’t necessarily cause their performance to be perceived in light of stereotypes about gays and lesbians.”
Ellis blanched at the prospect of Matt Bomer playing heterosexual horndog Christian Grey in the film adaptation of 50 Shades of Grey – development of which the erstwhile author was otherwise not involved. He also took Twitter aim at Neil Patrick Harris, who successfully played a heterosexual horndog on 85 seasons of How I Met Your Mother.
As for Everett, he also endeared himself to the gays by advising closeted actors to stay put, claiming that coming out effectively killed his career. Because The Next Best Thing and that hooker past of his had nothing to do with it.
Then, of course, there’s the controversial 2010 Newsweek article by Ramin Setoodeh, which cited the lack of a gay(er) George Clooney as reason enough that audiences weren’t ready for a gay-list actor. But the times they are a-changin’ and in the three years since then, the Matt Bomers, NPHs, Zachary Quintos and even the Russell Toveys of the world are clawing their way up the ladder.
That’s not to say that Tom Cruise is going to climb onto John Travolta’s handelbar mustache for a ride through a Pride Parade anytime soon. But if Clooney finally came out as a Lake Cuomo-sexual, the celluloid closet would be blown off the goddamn hinges once and for all.