STUDY: Audiences Buy Gay Actors Playing It Straight

straight-gay-actorsSticking 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.

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  • miagoodguy

    Now the question is if these “gay” actors whose performances were viewed played big screen romantic leading man type roles (they carry the movie) or if they played supporting roles or more comedic roles.

  • Caleb in SC

    This article nailed it — it’s called “acting.” If an audience can buy a straight actor playing gay, then the reverse should also be true.

  • Homophile


    Keep raising that bar!

  • EManhattan

    Please note that this was a study of American COLLEGE STUDENTS. It reveals that American college students have no problems believing that a gay actor can play a straight role.

    Who does this surprise?

    Why are Queerty writers coming to conclusions about studies like this as if they apply to the population in general? They may, or they may not. Given the rising backlash against gay people as we get closer to legal equality, I would suspect that this study only holds true for college students – the results in other demographics would be much more mixed. But I’m speculating about that! Just like the Queerty writer is speculating! The only actual facts here are about college students!

    This is bad reporting.

  • Deepdow

    Me thinks Queerty meant Lake Como-sexual.


    You’re also speculating that it was only Queerty that made this minor mistake. PinkNews, its source, did the same thing.

  • Niall

    @Homophile: Of course, and after a gay actor succeeds in playing a leading role in a romantic movie, then it’d be “but can they succeed with being believable in sex scenes like in erotic movies like Unfaithful?”

  • tardis

    Truth is, there’s different type if gay men. Chris Colfer won’t convincingly pass for a heterosexual man like Matt Bomer will. A lot of these gay actors playing straight role embody traditional masculine features. So, really, I think the actor has to look the part.

  • miagoodguy

    Rebutt what someone says with actual facts.

  • Cam


    Every actor has to look whatever part they are cast in.

  • Homophile


    Your entire post was based off of your opinion, no facts to be found.

  • Cam

    Of course they do, Hollywood is always years behind the rest of the country when it comes to things like this.

  • ait10101

    @tardis: A lot of straight actors couldn’t convincingly play the sort of roles you are talking about.

Comments are closed.