Thursday 13 May 10
There is an associate editor at Newsweek magazine named Ramin Seetodeh who wrote an article entitled Straight Jacket in which he purports the theory that gay actors can't play straight. His article, which struck me as narrow-minded and mean-spirited but emblematic of a lot of ill-informed and thinly-veiled homophobia that exists out there in the world, has caused a huge hullabaloo.
One of the people who he singled out for derision in regard to alleged lack of conviction in playing a straight role is the recently out Sean Hayes, with regard to Sean's performance in the Broadway musical Promises, Promises. His co-star and love interest in said show, the lovely Kristin Chenoweth, wrote an impassioned and erudite response for Newsweek.com. This went uber-viral and was picked up CNN, Fox News, The Huffington Post and the New York Times to name but a few. Since then Ryan Murphy, the creator of Glee - whose Jonathan Groff was victim of the Ramin Seetodeh bile about his giggling and inability to convince as a hetro - weighed in in support of Kristin.
Jarret Barrios, the President of GLAAD (the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) and Academy Award winning screenwriter Lance Black talked to Newsweek and The Hollywood Reporter about the hoopla. Marc Peyser of Newsweek interviewed them about their statements and thoughts therein.
Ramin Seetodeh wrote yet another article for Newsweek about the furore that his original article engendered, claiming he had only meant to open a debate about how there are no out, gay A-list movie stars. Here, I have to say I agree and disagree with him. I agree there are not, I disagree that anyone other than he could have discerned that that was the intention of his original article. He also told of the affects his original article had on his life: personal attacks, nasty emails, yadda yadda. Welcome to the warped world of celebrity, Ramin.
Since then...are you all still with me?...Seetodeh has gone on Joy Behar's TV show and bumbled his way though a defence of his comments and.....yawn... probably even as I write this, thousands of missives are flying across the blogosphere about this whole palaver. Today The Washington Post weighed in, as did The Hollywood Reporter , citing why Newsweek need not apologise for its comments. Blah, blah, blah, right?
Here's what I, Alan Cumming - out queer person, actor, purveyor of characters both straight, gay and those whose sexuality is not defined, currenly typing this with acrylic nails and sore toes from being shoved into high heels from playing a TRANSVESTITE has to say about it all......
There are millions of gay people all over the world who convincingly portray straight people every single day. Some of them are even actors. There are loads of gay people in the world who are effeminate. There are loads of straight people in the world who are effeminate. What is wrong with being effeminate? Does Ramin Seetodeh, and indeed society in general, have a probelm with people who are too masculine? (Actually, probably yes, if they happen to be female). Calling someone out for being effeminate is a way of being negative about them for being gay without actually having to fess up to actual full-blown homophobia because our society has a tacit understanding that effeminacy is just a euphemism for faggot. Again, what is wrong with effeminacy? Do we have articles written in Newsweek about men (or women) who display particularly jockish behaviour or exhibit high levels of testosterone?
Ramin Seetodeh has written a similar article, and, oh yes, another similar article, and again, a similar article, all for Newsweek. One of these articles involves the murder of a 15 year old child, Larry King, who Seetodeh describes thus: a troubled child who flaunted his sexuality and wielded it like a weapon. Sentences like that made me sick to my stomach. Compared to this one, his weirdy rant about gay actors is quite cute.
Ramin Seetodeh is gay. He is a self-hating gay, and he is a danger to us all, not just gay people - as is apparent by the above, hideous quasi-apology for the classroom shooting of a boy - but everyone on this planet because Newsweek is allowing his dangerous and insidiously warped messages to be published and enter society to fuel the flames of shame, fear, anger and, in this case, homophobia. His words allow people to validate their bigoted and fearful views of gay people, especially because he is gay himself. Which brings me to the crux, and I promise, the swansong of my thesis...
It is my contention that Ramin Seetodeh is not happy with himself. He has particlaur shame about being gay. He sees gayness, paricularly open and unabashed gayness, or effeminacy, as a reminder of what he does not like about himself. And so he attacks it. His own shame translates into his paralysis when thinking of others who might have his own curse and yet be able to function fully and happily within the rest of the world: a child chasing his friends around a playground in high heels; an actor who he knows is publicly gay but feels he needs to re-out to make himself feel better about his own self-loathing and lack of acceptance of his most basic needs and happiness. As someone who is a only a decade or so immigrant to these shores, I have noticed that shame is one of America's biggest exports, imbibed more domestically than overseas, and Mr Seetodeh could easily manage its Gay division.
But sadly he is not alone. His article has ignited a conversation that I think highlights the fact that self-hating gays operate at the highest level of the entertainment industry: casting directors, producers, directors, agents, managers, publicists, who are themselves gay willingly engage in the oppression of their fellow gay actors. An actor who is publicly out is not heralded as a role model or celebrated amongst this dark little band of unhappy people but derided and mocked, and their exclusion from projects in which they might play straight is borne, often, by this band of their self-hating brothers and sisters.
I have been asked to comment on the Newsweek story controversy by many media outets. My fatigue from shooting a mini-series in South Africa and tottering around in high heels in some way prevents me, but more so the boredom at the question and my overwhelming belief that continuing to talk about whether being openly gay in Hollywood is a detrimental thing only sensationalises and perpetuates the issue has led me to stay up way past my bedtime and write this post.
What I think would ultimately be so much more illuminating and progressive is to ask why so many gay people feel the need to publicly deride and hold back the progress of their own?
And deal with this picture, Mr Ramin Seetodeh...