saving face

Ramin Setoodeh Blames You Homos For Missing the Point of His Straight-For-Pay Essay

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

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.

Cheyenne Jackson Is Ready to Drop Elbows on Ramin Setoodeh

Newsweek Ought to Fire That Horrible Ramin Setoodeh

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  • D'oh, The Magnificent

    Well, he has a future on the right wing shock culture book circuit with Ann (“I am a horse, of course, of course”) Coulter.

  • TommyOC

    Am I missing something, or is Neil Patrick Harris’ character in “How I Met You Mother” not a convincing heterosexual womanizer?

  • TommyOC

    Let’s do a follow-up: Was not Neil Patrick Harris’ character in “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog” not convincingly in love with Penny, the lovable advocate of the homeless?

  • jkamen

    Cheyenne Jackson has been playing a straight character on 30 Rock and I haven’t flinched once. Or when I’ve seen Neil Patrick Harris play straight on his sitcom all seems fine in the illusionary world of acting.

    Honestly…I wouldn’t be surprised if Sean’s mannerism are to just indicative of effeminacy (which on a man has been traditionally interpreted as gay-ish). And if the role he’s currently playing has traditionally casted a typically masculine male then it would be jarring. With gender roles still being very definitive in our culture the criticism is at worst un-progressive.

  • Fitz

    I hate Ramin for putting me in the position of wanting to defend Sean Hayes.

  • WalkderDC

    Fitz! No kidding!

  • Joe Blows

    I know Ramin for many years (since college) and he’s definitely not self-hating or homophobic as he has been deemed. I did find his article awkwardly-written and sensationalistic. He swears he was not trying to be provocative and was trying to make the point that he didn’t believe Sean Hayes as the straight male character of the play. Obviously people’s opinions can differ and this has made Ramin a household name (albeit gay household maybe). I just want to say that he’s not that bad of a guy, very smart and witty and does care about civil rights issue. Let him have this one mistake but keep a watch on him to make sure it’s indeed one errant article and not the beginning of an Ann Coulter-style manifesto.

  • WalkderDC

    @Joe Blows:

    Here is an idea, then, if he didn’t like Sean Hayes performance then just say that he is a shitty actor.

  • Hilarious

    So does he have a problem with all of the Gay-For-Pay straight actors who don’t play convincing gay men yet get more awards than they can fit in their arms after the fact?

    If he’s hellbent on taking straight acting roles from gay men then why doesn’t he get our gay acting roles back first?

  • That Bitch Téa Delgado

    @ Joe Blows

    As D’Oh points out, Setoodeh has a track record of disparaging gay men in his Newsweek essays, so he already is on his way to an unfortunate manifesto, if indeed that’s what it is. This isn’t “one errant mistake,” it’s part of a pattern and if you are a friend, you should point it out. Essentially, he’s not helping the cause, he’s contributing to the problem.


    Just a combover and a 70’s porn actor moustache away from turning into ‘nother George Reekers….. :-p

  • Jeff

    @jkamen: Hayes is just a bad actor, that is the main problem with him. And with Ramen Noodle, well, he is just a bad writer.

  • Cindy

    If that was his point, he did an extremely shitty job of making it.

    I’m wondering if that was really the point he was trying to make, why he needed to malign every out gay and lesbian actor/actress in existence to do it.

    Massive fail on both the article and the incredibly lame backtracking.

  • Cassandra

    How ironic. Ramin complains that gay men are bad actors who cannot play straight roles because of their sexual orientation. Yet he is a terrible writer who cannot communicate a straightforward idea.

    Ramin’s big problem is that he has confused being type cast as a result of playing a very memorable character, with an actor’s actual character or abilities.

    It may very well be that the character of Jack from Will & Grace is Sean’s Spock; a character so ingrained on our culture that, like Leonard Nemoy, he may never be seen as anyone but Jack. He should have been applauded for trying to step out of the shadow of Jack.

    But it isn’t a matter of sexuality, and so Ramin’s spin is homophobic. Actors and actresses of every description have gotten themselves trapped in a particular kind of role, by creating a very memorable character that ends up defining their career.

    It seems to happen a lot to tv stars, from Bob Crane (Hogan’s Heroe’s), Bob Denver, first in Doobie Gillis and then breaking that to get stuck from Gilligan’s Island, and Larry Hagman, first type cast by his role in “I Dream of Jeanie” and then, by his role in “Dallas”.

    How well did the stars of MASH escape their characters? Alan Alda had some success in other roles, but others from the cast faired very poorly.

    It appears to me that Ramin is simply fabricating an excuse for prejudice against gay actors.

  • Jon (ugh yep that one)

    @Joe Blows: apparently, Mr. Blows, You haven’t read any of your friends other homophobic drivel. This las one is by far the worst.

  • jeffrey bryan

    I hate the “you didn’t get what I was saying” defense. He’s a (supposedly) professional writer. If he’s incapable of accurately communicating his point of view he deserves to be fired for more reasons than just being a self-loathing homophobe.

  • Nick

    I’m not sure I disagree with Setoodeh. While there is nothing about being gay that would intrinsically prevent an actor from playing a straight role (see Rock Hudson), there are behavioral markers that would make an actor unbelievable as a straight person. Duh, society associates certain behavior with homosexuality.

    In fact, every time this website, or any other bitchy queen, smugly claims that a celebrity is gay in the “Who are you trying to kid??!!” mode, it is doing exactly that: reaffirming society’s belief that there are certain gay behaviors.

    As to whether behavior and sexuality are linked is beside the point. The argument is over whether or not the perception that they are linked is enough to prevent actors who do no conceal such characteristics on stage from being accepted as believable by audiences.

    The outrage on this page is surprising. and sad. It reflects our discomfort with our own femininity – we still take such an accusation of effeminacy as offensive. To “act straight” in the gay world is to be lauded with attention and desire. To be accused of effeminacy is taken as exactly that- an accusation. And the anger on this page sounds like it just might be the latter.

  • revulu

    Here is the writer’s point, which NOT A SINGLE PERSON has been able to contradict:

    “when was the last time you saw a movie starring a gay actor?”

    And no, porn doesn’t count.

    I think some queens are just itching to be offended. But enough about Kristin Chenoweth.

  • jeffree

    If Ravin’ Ramin thought Sean Hayes doesn’t have the acting chops for the part, then all he really had 2 do was explain that view. To attribute it to Sean’s sexual O is lame. Fellow gay guy TR Knight was convincing & moving playing a str8 character on Greys Anatomy — because he’s a good actor.

    Setoodeh’s blanket statement about gays playing str8s wasn’t fleshed out properly. It’s unfounded — & his back tracking struck the wrong note once again. Seems like a pattern !

  • GregorVonK

    I didn’t read the whole article but I’m glad it’s produced something like a healthy debate. I’d say that Neil Patrick Harris (whose show I haven’t seem) and the guy who played Bull Dog on FRASIER probably give the lie to the notion that a Gay can’t play it straight. But I am concerned that so few are given a chance to. Rupert Everett has been given that chance on occasion, but not often enough. And you know when it does happen, it sometimes seems like “stunt casting.” The out gay actor portrays a downright womanizer. Why is that? One thing I would say is that the whole debate is based on a very questionable star system. In an ideal world, actors would be actors–and their main concern (as well as everyone else’s) would be their acting and NOT their image. And that’s the real problem, isn’t it? Actors, casting agents and the PUBLIC all hung up on image rather than ability.

  • Josh

    Ramin has a long history of homophobia….

    Not only did he write this piece disparaging gay actors who play straight roles…

    Not only did he blame effeminate gays and actors for hurting gay marriage….

    Not only did he go on O’Reilly to do a hit piece on Adam Lambert last season on American Idol (where he depicted Kris as a good straight Christian and Adam as a godless heathen gay even though it was known that Adam was Jewish)…..

    But he also blamed that 8th grade kid (Lawrence King) that was murdered by his classmate (who shot him in the head in class) for his own murder because he dressed effeminately at school and therefore was flaunting his sexuality.

    I don’t care what Ramin or his friends say, he is a DISGUSTING SELF HATER who has an obvious problem with effeminate gays.

    It is important for us to defend the most effeminate gays because they are the ones who face the most ire from the haters.

    Ramin wants us to pile on them too and throw them under the bus.

    Ramin’s self hating homophobia NEEDS to be condemned by the gay community.

  • jeff r

    @D’Oh: Excellent comments. Kudos for posting the link for another one of his prior diatribes!

    @Joe Blow: If this person really is a friend of yours, I suggest that you have him contact David Ehrenstein, a frequent Queerty commentator, who is very knowledgeable about lgbt talent in the industry and can educate him on all of the obvious facts that he missed or neglected to mention since they would invalidate his premise. Ramin clearly did not do any research whatsoever for his piece. In addition to being poorly written, his piece is factually incorrect. Several commentators have mentioned various actors who were gay or bi – Rock Hudson, Jean Claude Brialy, et al. There were many others who had very successful careers, including Tab Hunter, Farley Granger, Dirk Bogarde, Richard Chamberlain, Anthony Perkins, et al., and those matinee idols who were allegedly bi or gay like Cary Grant, Randolph Scott, Tyrone Power, etc. The same goes for TV. The foregoing is a partial list. We don’t even know how many relatively successful “stars” in the business are currently closeted – I would suspect that quite a few are. The same for successful working actors.

    Your friend not only picked on Sean Hayes, who has ironically just been nominated for various prestigious awards, but he maliciously called out Jonathan Groff for being too “queeny” on “Glee.” When Mr. Groff wowed the critics and was nominated for a Tony for “Spring Awakening” as a straight romantic leading man, his peers, his fans and the critics did not find him “queeny.” The same goes for his performance in “Woodstock” and other theatrical productions. His character is a theater buff. Matthew Morrison is a successful Broadway leading man and he’s straight. It’s called acting! Is your friend really that dense? His comments were mean spirited and I am glad that Kristen C. has called him out on it. “Newsweek” deserves to go out of business for publishing such homophobic garbage and your friend and his editor deserve to be fired.

    If Ramin really isn’t self loathing and homophobic, as you insist that he isn’t, then I can only assume that he is either following in the career path of Ann Coulter, overwhelmed by some horrendous personal problems or else he is just incredibly stupid. If you really are his friend, in addition to suggesting that he go back to school to learn his craft, I suggest that you have him “man up” and publicly apologize to Jonathan Groff, every lgbt actor, closeted or out, and everyone else in the lgbt community, and acknowledge that in addition to being poorly written his article was not well researched and resign from his position at “Newsweek.” Then Ramin can concentrate on learning to write intelligently, factually and hone his craft.
    Jeff R

  • Cassandra

    revulu snarks:

    “when was the last time you saw a movie starring a gay actor?”

    Off the top of my head

    The Lord of the Rings (3 movies). Stuart Little (2 movies). The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Serial Mom. Bullets Over Broadway. A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

    But I don’t watch many movies a year.

    It is a such a heterocentric thing to do, creating this illusion that only heterosexuals can do anything well.

  • Cassandra

    “It reflects our discomfort with our own femininity”

    Save the projection for the movie theatre, Nick. Your assumption that homosexual male = effeminate = unable to pass reflects only your discomfort.

    You raised the issue of effeminacy, it is your discomfort that you are foisting onto everyone else. The rest of us know that many effeminate men are heterosexual, and the butchest men are usually gay.

  • Nick


    Please read more carefully. I never assumed that homosexual male is necessarily effeminate, or that an effeminate male is necessarily homosexual.

    I said that the *perception* by our society that this is so, is what prevents audience members from believing that a character is straight, should he have effeminate characteristics.

    In other words, certain behaviors, whether coming from a straight or gay actor, will signal to audience members that the character is gay. And if the character is indeed straight, it would be confusing.

    I am not making a value judgement. While the tone of Setoodeh’s piece is less than friendly, and he may be self-hating, I nonetheless think he touches on a discussion-worthy subject.

  • D'oh, The Magnificent

    @Nick: I rated you down because you are projecting your issues into a discussion and making up a thesis that it not there by the writer.

    Besides your comment being wrong on its own terms, it is wrong as to the subject matter we are discussing.

    The issue at hand is whether a gay actor can play straight in film and other mediums.

    Look, the obvious answer is yes because there are just too many examples that we both know about, and due to the closet, don’t know about to contradict any thesis claiming otherwise. On the most basic level, most gay men spend on average the first two decades of their lives pretending to be straight. As a matter of simple reality, the argue is per se impossible since straights are not going around going “ah, ha, I know you are gay! I figured out each of the queers as being queers before they told me!” There is a reason that the closet can exist. That’s because gay men are good at acting straight.

    The interesting part is how you that acting as reality. It may or may not be reality, but it has nothing to do with the conversation of whether we can act the part of being straight.

    Rather than discussing that, you go off on some random tangent about your own baggage.

  • Me

    @revulu: Queen Latifah in JUST WRIGHT. Cynthia Nixon in SEX AND THE CITY 2 opens in like two weeks. Other than her, there are plenty of gay actors who are starring in movies. They just don’t come out for the exact reasons listed above.

  • Wy

    Well, the thing that has struck me most about Setodeh is the examples he picks are all rather well-groomed handsome males, then I do a Google search and see nothing but pictures of him that look like he’s a week overdue for his flea dip. It just answers it all really.

    And yeah, his writing presents himself as being that superficial.

  • WalkderDC

    No. 18 · Nick

    “The outrage on this page is surprising. and sad. It reflects our discomfort with our own femininity – we still take such an accusation of effeminacy as offensive.”


    So Nick, he is saying that gays cannot play straight actors, and you are trying to bend this to mean we do not like to be called effeminate? What a desperate twist to defend this guy.

    If a producer comes out and says that black actors can’t play lead roles in movies and the black community gets upset. Are they upset because they are uncomfortable with their race? No, it was a bigoted comment by a mediocre writer. You and the writer both are trying to same tactic. Both of you are trying to claim that if anybody is not a fan of what he wrote it’s because of some problem with us. Sorry, thats the sad defense of of a child.

  • jason

    In the heterosexual paradigm, men are chasers. Therefore, they need to have that active air of masclinity about them. This is difficult to pull off if you are a camp gay man. The real issue here is camp. These are mannerisms normally associated with nervous females, and don’t sit well in a chaser context. He’s more likely to slap you than want to have sex with you.

    Is there an underlying objection to gay men playing heterosexual that goes beyong mere objection to camp? Probably. I think this is best illustrated by society’s attitude to male bisexuality. There is this opposition to male bisexuals that comes from women. Women – even bisexual women – are known to object to the idea of having sex with bisexual men.

    There is this very real prejudice that emanates from a very ugly female mindset.

  • hephaestion

    I don’t like the word “effeminate.” You don’t describe women as effeminate… the word was created only to insult men with feminine traits. I prefer to just say a man has this or that feminine characteristic rather than saying he is “effeminate,” because I think that explains things in a more positive manner. “Effeminate” is NEVER used in a positive manner.

  • Cam

    The funny thing is, a bunch of other critics were not kind to Sean Hayes about his performance, they managed to do that by focusing on his acting. With this guy it’s like he’s saying “I didn’t like Martha Stewart’s show because her parents were German”.

  • Cassandra

    “In the heterosexual paradigm, men are chasers. Therefore, they need to have that active air of masclinity about them. This is difficult to pull off if you are a camp gay man.”

    So, you don’t know anyone who is gay, do you?

    After more than 20 years in San Francisco, I can testify from observation that “campy” men (gay or straight) are just as successful at chasing and scoring sexually as “butch” men (gay or straight). Many less than butch men seem to have a higher sex drive than their more traditional peers.

    As for the het paradigm, you ought to read up on human sexuality. Het women are interesting in their choices – when they are ovulating, they do respond more to coarser featured men, but chose more baby-faced, soft, less traditionally masculine men for husbands.

  • TikiHead

    I was shocked to discover that Anthony Hopkins is not really a cannibal. How DARE he take work away from cannibals? No no, Actors can only play parts they’ve actually experienced.

    Setoodeh’s an imbecile.

  • MAWM

    If the question is whether a gay person can play straight convincingly. The answer is obviously, yes. Like others have said, there wouldn’t be a closet if we couldn’t play straight. Has anyone ever gone, “Oh my God! He’s Gay?”. Rock Hudson, for god’s sake!
    If the question is whether an American audience can accept a gay person playing a leading straight romantic role once they know he/she is gay in real life, I don’t think you can really answer that except to notice that it looks like they are with roles like Jackson’s and Harris’. I think there is still a closet in Hollywood though, because executives fear that it would turn off middle America. A lack of out gay actors in lead romantic roles is more a statement on the studios’ fears rather than what the public would accept.

    I bet women can still swoon over Montgomery Clift in “Rain Tree County” even knowing now that he just wanted to be their friend.

  • Nick

    @D’oh, The Magnificent:

    In my first comment, I stated that:

    “While there is nothing about being gay that would intrinsically prevent an actor from playing a straight role (see Rock Hudson)…”

    So I clearly do not believe that it is impossible for a gay actor to play a straight role convincingly, or “play it straight”, in my eyes. But that is speaking for me, and probably many others.

    Unfortunately, many people are unable to separate the screen from reality, or the stage. For whatever reason, in a society so focused on sexual classification people cannot always forget what they know about the actor, especially if that actor has obvious feminine characteristics in his role. It’s unfortunate, but true.

    If Ramin is saying that a gay actor can *never* play a straight role, I disagree. Such a conclusion is too final, and too broad. There are examples where they do. But the discussion on why some can play a role convincingly, why some can’t, and what their personal lives have to do with it, is worthy of discussion.

    I’m not familiar with his other writings, and he sounds like he is not that great of a person. But he brings up a discussion-worthy issue.

  • MAWM

    Nick said,
    “But the discussion on why some can play a role convincingly, why some can’t, and what their personal lives have to do with it, is worthy of discussion.”

    I don’t think that is worthy of discussion. Are you gay, Nick? I’ll assume you are and say we. I think we should be having the discussion about why Hollywood is so homophobic that they don’t use more out gay actors. Why should we continually turn the discussion onto ourselves? I don’t think this matter has anything to do with us. It has to do with other people’s homophobia.
    Also, this is a straw man, “especially if that actor has obvious feminine characteristics in his role”. If an actor naturally has feminine characteristics and can’t overcome them for a role that requires it, it means they are not a very good actor.

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