Then I read his comments about the kiss with Van Der Beek:
“Me and James Van Der Beek making out is not hot, it’s rather disgusting. We both looked at each other and said, “Dude, don’t stick your tongue in my mouth. It’s hot for some people…that’s cool. That’s totally cool. But it is what it is, and that’s what it is.”
The interview eventually led to Sarah Michelle Gellar and Selma Blair’s kiss in Cruel Intentions to which he replied, “Yeah, they did, but they are chicks and they can…that’s allowed. That’s very allowed”
I’m not going to dwell on comments Ian made over ten years ago to a now out-of-print teen magazine no one remembers. Since then he explained what he meant and cleared the air as well as some interesting tidbits about the backlash he occurred for kissing another man on screen. He clearly thought at the time being gay was “totally cool” and did not degrade anyone. Heck, the thought of sticking my own tongue down a girl’s mouth makes me nauseous, so it works both ways.
I didn’t see Ian’s comments as homophobic then, and I still don’t. However the comments shattered my illusion of LGBT acceptance in the new millennium. Rules of Attraction was this heavily promoted and extremely mainstream movie with a strong, sexually empowered gay character who wasn’t afraid to go for what he wanted, and here was the actor backpedaling and reinforcing the idea that gay was still counter culture. Ian’s performance embodied everything that made male sexuality appetizing: a naturally lean frame, striking eyes, and a confident personality. He was the ideal man, not an actor trying to make excuses for his craft. I cringe looking back at his comments because it was a missed opportunity for him to be a trailblazer like Jake Gyllenhaal, Darren Criss and Eric Stonestreet.
As it turns out, I was right about him embodying male sexuality because he’s gone on to play the hunky Boone Carlyle on Lost and is currently at the epicenter of the Fifty Shades of Grey casting craze as a contender for Christian Grey.
Now as I watch the The Vampire Diaries, Ian, aged ten years like a fine bottle of Jack Daniel’s, still captivates me. His performance as Damon is different than all the other mainstream fangs we’ve seen: David Boreanaz who played Buffy’s lover Angel as a melodramatic buffoon who was painfully out of touch with women or Robert Pattinson’s Edward Cullen who dazzled audiences with half-baked dialogue and a bubblegum haircut. Ian’s performance stands above theirs. He’s gritty, raw, and naturally masculine without coming across arrogant or misogynistic.
As this season of TVD comes to an end and Mystic Falls prepares for a ghostly invasion, I want to see Ian fulfill his destiny and become the trailblazer he was meant to be and push the boundaries of sexuality on television. Perhaps a kiss with his debonair costar Paul Wesley to rock pop culture at its core? Well, this boy can dream.
The season finale of The Vampire Diaries airs tonight on The CW.