It’s A Sin shows the importance of queer people telling LGBT stories
Being gay isn’t a performance, it’s our lives
It’s A Sin is a work of art. It’s truly a heart wrenching tragedy that follows the lives of young people working their way through their 20s and the 1980s AIDS pandemic. It’s such an important story to tell and it’s done flawlessly thanks largely to a leading cast of queer male actors. The AIDS pandemic was very real, over 32 million people have died as a result of AIDS related illnesses and It’s A Sin has taught us so much about queer history and LGBTQ+ sex education.
The actors tell their own history in a raw and authentic way – the show totally deserves all the attention and praise it’s getting. It’s A Sin is the perfect example of why directors should only cast queer actors to play queer characters, and it proves there has never been any need for straight actors to ‘act gay’.
It’s really not complicated or hard to understand but straight actors should not be cast in queer roles – they shouldn’t even be going to audition for them. I understand there are some cases where straight actors have been praised for their performances as gay characters, like Cate Blanchett in Carol or Timothée Chalamet in CMBYN. But let’s not forget the straight actors like James Corden in The Prom, where he played a narky theatre actor who wore sparkling suits, had a stereotyped camp lisp and hands always limp at his wrist – it was just tasteless and offensive.
Straight and cis-gendered actors face a privilege which allows them to as many opportunities to play roles outside of their own gender and sexuality. They’re convinced they can just ‘tap in’ to any character successfully, no matter their gender, sexuality or how offensive it actually is. This is another reason, in addition to the authenticity factor, why queer roles should be reserved for queer actors.
How can a straight actor successfully perform a queer character? Honest answer: They can’t. Being a part of the LGBTQ+ community is not the same as being involved in one big performance – it’s our lives and we should have our chances to tell our own history. Director of It’s A Sin, Russell T Davies even said himself that the idea of acting gay is just a “bunch of codes for a performance.” You simply can’t ‘act gay’ and if you think you can then you’re part of the problem.
Davies also told PinkNews: “You wouldn’t cast someone able-bodied and put them in a wheelchair, you wouldn’t Black someone up.” And he’s right. Casting directors wouldn’t do these things now, they wouldn’t be able to do because they’d face backlash and criticism. But where is the criticism when straight and cis gendered actors get given all the queer roles? Where’s the call for queer authenticity?
It’s A Sin is an open and honest exploration of queerness, all the characters are unapologetically themselves. We need more queer actors who get given chances to tell a story that is part of their own history. I’m tired of seeing straight actors taking awards home for convincing critics they can play a homosexual – it’s time for change.
Featured image via @thepinkpalace on Instagram