Enough is enough: It’s time to stop giving straight actors gay roles
ESPECIALLY you James Corden, the unwelcome king of the straights
I feel like one thing everyone can agree on now is that a cisgender actor should not play a trans role. That’s basic. Nice and easy to comprehend. And the second thing everyone can agree on is that James Corden fucking sucks.
From those two simple, salient facts, we should be able to easily extrapolate that straight actors also shouldn’t play gay roles. And to that point: James Corden should never have been allowed to play a gay role, which he does, in Netflix’s The Prom.
Maybe it isn’t something to have fully entered the straight consciousness yet, but letting straight actors play gay roles is actually completely misguided and unhelpful. I get it – when I first heard this argument I had reservations too. Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer came to mind, and I remembered how convincing their relationship was in CMBYN.
But when you deep it, that’s actually incredibly depressing. Think of all the gay men who watched that and hopefully Googled “Timothée Chalamet gay?” (we’ve all done it) only to be let down once again by the answer being a big straight no.
This let down for gay audiences is a familiar feeling, and 2021 needs to be the year where we finally draw a line under it. It’s all well and good providing gay stories but you need to back them up. There is something a bit hollow and bizarre about straight actors playing gay roles when they’ve never felt those feelings or lived that life.
This is something Kristen Stewart mentioned when it was brought up that her Happiest Season co-star and on screen girlfriend is actually straight in real life. In an interview with Variety, she said: “I would never want to tell a story that really should be told by somebody who’s lived that experience,” seemingly calling out her co-star for doing exactly that.
But she continues: “Having said that, it’s a slippery slope conversation because that means I could never play another straight character if I’m going to hold everyone to the letter of this particular law.” However, this is simply not the case. The reality of this world means that many gay actors will actually have the “lived experience” of being straight because the straight experience is the default. For many people, this “lived experience” could have been for years and years, before they eventually came out. This is more than enough insight into what being straight is like to warrant playing a straight character – certainly more insight than that held by straight actors playing gay.
Moreover, straight actors playing gay characters are actually depriving gay actors of roles. Unlike straight actors, who have been given the freedom to play both sexualities, there is a barrier for gay actors in Hollywood. Certain gay male actors wouldn’t be awarded “leading male romantic lead” roles playing straight characters because they’re not considered as “masculine” enough despite the fact that they’re literally actors and twink-baiting feminine straighties like Tim of thee Stallion get to play both straight and gay? So gay actors have even fewer opportunities by straight actors coming in and taking the, in some cases, rather small amount of roles they would be considered for. Darren Criss recognised this privilege and did something about it by saying he would never take another gay role, and so should everyone else.
And don’t even get me started on the fact that it’s James Corden doing the offending that has most recently reignited this conversation. James fucking Corden. My sleep paralysis demon. The straightest man. The man who, less than a year ago, consciously chose for Gavin and Stacey characters to say the f slur when singing Fairytale of New York in the Christmas special. Letting this man play a gay character really is the final insult. He has got a lot of his fame from playing gay, acting camp and thinking the funniest thing in the world is performing an affected feminine voice. We called time on David Walliams for that, so it’s Corden’s time now too. Also, most importantly, did they not learn from the Cats movie?
I don’t want to deprive the world of nuance, but when there’s a small pool of gay roles and you’re handing 90 per cent of them out to straight people, you have to know that something’s wrong there.