Newsweek Ought to Fire That Horrible Ramin Setoodeh

Newsweek‘s Ramin Setoodeh dropped a bomb recently when he argued in an article that gay thesbians like Sean Hayes, now in Broadway’s Promises, Promises, couldn’t really play straight:

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. Even the play’s most hilarious scene, when Chuck tries to pick up a drunk woman at a bar, devolves into unintentional camp. Is it funny because of all the ’60s-era one-liners, or because the woman is so drunk (and clueless) that she agrees to go home with a guy we all know is gay?

Kristin Chenoweth, now starring opposite Hayes in Promises, did not take kindly to that assessment:

This article offends me because I am a human being, a woman and a Christian. For example, there was a time when Jewish actors had to change their names because anti-Semites thought no Jew could convincingly play Gentile. Setoodeh even goes so far as to justify his knee-jerk homophobic reaction to gay actors by accepting and endorsing that “as viewers, we are molded by a society obsessed with dissecting sexuality, starting with the locker-room torture in junior high school.”

Really? We want to maintain and proliferate the same kind of bullying that makes children cry and in some recent cases have even taken their own lives? That’s so sad, Newsweek! The examples he provides (what scientists call “selection bias”) to prove his “gays can’t play straight” hypothesis are sloppy in my opinion. Come on now!

This isn’t the first time Setoodeh, Newsweek‘s go-to for all things gay, has turned progress in the gay community into a negative. In November, he argued the fey gay characters on shows like Ugly Betty and Glee were bad for America’s young gays, seemingly unaware that these kids get the shit kicked out of them daily.

Setoodeh’s theses aren’t just a Slate-izations of a topic, where taking the unpopular view counts for intellectual hyperbole.

He has a history of arguing for going backwards in our march toward acceptance. This man is a deterrent, not a catalyst for change. If he wants to continue spouting these nonsensical views, let him do it on a personal blog. Not in a newsweekly that’s already having a difficult time keeping America’s attention.


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  • JoeyB

    Isn’t Newsweek foldin?

  • alan brickman

    You’re sticking up for Sean Hayes instead?….good call….

  • JoeyB

    Hayes = Hack.

  • alan brickman

    if fey characters are the only ones on tv then yes it is a bad thing….masculine gays exist too…

  • Sammy

    I’m with the Newsweek guy on Sean Hayes…there’s not a bit about him that comes off as straight. But obviously I disagree that a gay actor (who is actually good) can’t play straight. T.R. Knight did it convincingly on Grey’s for years and NPH continues to do it on whatever that show is my mom watches.

    I mean Tom Cruise has been doing it for decades now.

  • Baxter

    @Sammy: It seems that the issue then is that Sean Hayes just isn’t a good actor, not that gays are incapable of playing straight. Actually, most of us have had a lot of practice at that.


    First off has anyone actually seen a Newsweek lately? I used to have a prescription and enjoyed the rag. I recently picked one up at the Dentists and it is virtually unreadable. The layout and design look like they were designed at a braile school.

    Silly me, I thought being an actor involved the act of acting to portray a role. In Ramin Setoodeh’s twisted homophobic world you need to actually to be in real life the charachter you portray in a role. I have just written a lovely screenplay about a serial killer, how can I get Setoodeh to be the casting director????

  • D'oh, The Magnificent

    @Baxter: That’s what makes the comment so idiotic. Most gay men spend most of their teenage years and early 20s acting straight. Quite a few actors in Hollywood are gay, but not out. Some are out, including quite a few character actors, who play straight al the time. The list is fairly long if you check the subject out on Wikipedia- which this Newsweek writer clearly did not bother to do. Yet, this writer argues gay men can’t play straight. The truth is we play straight all the time so his argument is idiotic on the most basic level of what we know of being gay men.

  • JP

    I beginning to realize that gay guys bring a lot of the animosity they face on themselves. Think about it, an openly gay guy wrote this homophobic Newsweek article! How is telling gay actors they can’t play straight helping them?

  • scott ny'er

    it all depends on what people consider “coming off as straight”. Which I think plays into a stereotype. Which is what we LGBT peeps have been trying to knock down. What does a straight man act like vs a homosexual man act like? Does one chug beer and the other daintly drinks cosmo? I mean, really?

  • D'oh, The Magnificent

    @scott ny’er: It means being able to play a character convincingly, which is actually not about playing a role “straight” but about being perceived of as “in love” or “attracted” to a female character. Can they do so believably? It is not something that is objective. It is subjective. Its the difference between why the actor who plays Miranda in Sex in the City works as a hetero character despite her being a lesbian in real life. Other examples include, Cheyenne Jackson, Jonathan Groff, etc . In other words, you are right- the frame is wrong. It is not whether gays can play straight. It is whether one thinks of the actor as convincing in their roles. Here’s a long list of actors who play in roles who are gay (many are actually celebrities, but in the list are a lot of actors and some are actually surprising and very good actors):


    When people think of NPH on How I met your mother- do they think that’s a gay guy? i don’t. I think of him as barney. Or, take this guy:

    Jeremy Glazer

    He was in a recent episode of “in Plain Sight” that I thought was really good so I looked up the actor to discover that he’s gay. He actually plays a jewish character deeply in love with his wife in the story.

    Or, other people like TR Knight as George. I didn’t know until later that he’s gay in real life. The list goes on like that.


    Kill the idiot!

  • unclemike

    There’s a whole 10-minute-long montage of scenes from “Promises, Promises,” that shows he can, and does, play a convincing straight character (albeit, in a musical comedy, but still).

    Those of you who think otherwise do know, of course, that Jack was just a character he was playing on TV, right? Sean’s not actually like that in real life.

  • David Ehrenstein

    What’s so wonderful about being able to play a breeder? Is that the Ultimate in the acting profession?

    “Newsweek” is folings. And with creeps like Setoodeh on board IT CAN’T FOLD FAST ENOUGH!!!!!!

  • AlwaysGay

    Ramin is a water carrier for heterosexual prejudices. Ramin can change his views because he’s gay but that would only happen if he acknowledges the heterosexual prejudices that were instilled in him from birth.

    The fact is gay people have pretended to be heterosexual successfully for millennia around the world and they are not actors. They had to or else face at the very least humiliation or at worst death. Ramin repeated a tool heterosexual casting directors use to deny gay actors work.

  • Nick

    Mr. Setoodeh is the “Uncle Tom” of the gay community. His articles/opinions are only published in order to perpetuate the stats quo among the heterosexual community: that even though the overwhelming majority of straight people do not hate the LGBT community and love and support us, however, they still are inherently superior to us (a.k.a. “heterosexism”). Straight is “normal” while gay is not (“Not that there’s anything wrong with that!”). The belief that a straight actor can convincingly play gay while the reverse is not true is perceived as just a natural fact to many heterosexuals and because Mr. Setoodeh agrees with this sentiment, he becomes the token gay that every heterosexist can point to and say, “See it’s true because I have a gay friend who says so.”

    It is a shame that Mr. Setoodeh chooses to go this route with his articles. His writing could be a force to help foster LGBT rights and acceptance among mainstream heterosexual society. For instance, his article about gay actors playing straight should have been about why mainstream society (if in fact it does in 2010) still believes that gay actors cannot play straight. That would have made for a thought provoking article. As a reporter, he should not have simply accepted the view that we can’t as a given fact. Sadly, though, he chooses to be “Uncle Ramin” and rehash a “conventional belief” as fact thereby supporting this attitude. Such sloppy reporting is more damaging to our cause than all the effiminate gay characters on television combined.

  • jeffree

    It’s like he’s yelling to the Right Wing: Even though I’m a homo & look foreign, I’m just like you !

    He’ s off base. Gay men can play straight ones & straight men can play gay ones. It’s called acting!

    A should actor should be able to do what the part calls for. Meryl Streep has made a career out of playing women completely unlike herself. Collin Ferrell has played a gay man. Eric McCormack (spelling) convincingly played a gay man falling in love w/ a man.

    This Newsweek guy is pandering to the homophobes guy might have some ISSUES with accepting his own sexuality and outsider status.
    He’s trying to make a name for himself — even though it’s not a name that easily glides off the ole tongue. That internalised homophobia & racism can make a guy go all batsh*t krazy and reactionary.

  • Tessie Tura

    if he wants to dwell on stereotypes, I hope he has a good time on his next visit to the airport. Or perhaps Times Square. Or Arizona.

  • riese

    AMEN, queerty! I don’t care if Newsweek is already going down in flames, they need to fire this man! He could just get a tumblr. Lots of people have tumblrs.

    Love K-Chen 4-evs

  • mrr

    guillermo from weeds is gay. i couldn’t tell

  • WalkderDC

    Well if gay guys shouldn’t play straight I guess every film with Montgomery Clift, Barbara Stanwick, Joan Crawford, Rock Hudson, Rudolph valentino, Carey Grant, Danny Kaye, etc… should be thrown away. If he had a problem with HAyes acting, them maybe it’s because Hayes isn’t a good actor, to blame it on his sexuality is idiotic.

  • Cam

    Gee, articles like this wouldn’t have anything to do with the fact that Newsweek is being sold off now would it?

  • Jaroslaw

    Allright already. Sean Hayes isn’t Sir Lawrence Olivier with his acting. Nobody said he was. But I for one think he is pretty good most of the time. I think people got saturated with him playing Jack on Will & Grace and haven’t given him an honest chance.

  • Lamar

    It seems to me that he simply hates gays playing straight not particularly Sean as an actor. I have a feeling that if Sean hadn’t come out and didn’t act camp then he wouldn’t really have a problem because he wouldn’t know he was gay. Look how he elaborates on how “wooden and insincere” he apparently is and how he’s “trying to hide something”.

  • David Ehrenstein

    I went to the “Newsweek” website to see the reponses to this piece (of shit) OVERWHELMING opposition. Tons of letters and only one ever-so-vaguely rose ro Ramin’s defense.

  • Joe Moore

    @Sammy: Reserve judgment until you have seen Sean perform his role on Broadway. I initially thought that he couldn’t play straight until I thought about it for a moment and realized, I only have ‘Jack’ as an image of his performance.

    Don’t be so quick to place judgment before you have seen ALL the evidence.

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