Thursday, June 24, 2010

Straight Actors Playing Gay Men

The Ovation channel has been honoring Gay Pride Month by running ten evenings' worth of programs featuring gay themes and characters. I've so far seen the UK "Queer as Folk" episodes, of which there seem to be precious few, and a truly pretentious movie called Velvet Goldmine that centers on the bygone British glam-rock craze (of all the wonderful GLBT movies out there, why, I wonder, did they run this dud?)

Aside from the fact that American TV is pathetically bereft of good GLBT programming, and the equally annoying fact that naughty words are still siphoned out by censors, no matter what the demographic of a show's audience (for shit's sake, this isn't 1952!), I realized how much I dislike seeing straight actors in gay roles.

This isn't the same as objecting to straight women writing GLBT fiction. I don't give a rip who writes the stories. But I do give a rip about the players who bring the stories alive for me.

Imagine reading a book marketed as m/m romance that's full of straight characters who are only pretending to be gay. Yeah. That's how I've been feeling about the shows I've been watching this week. Strange as it sounds, I feel a little cheated. Maybe a lot cheated. Why? Because straight actors destroy the illusion.

We all know that most of the time, heterosexual actors in heterosexual movies aren't really falling in love or even in lust. But, through convincing performances, they can at least persuade us to suspend disbelief. Moreover, that crackling chemistry we see on the screen is often real -- temporary, perhaps, but genuine.

HOWEVER, as I'm watching the insanely beautiful Charlie Hunnam get it on with the wickedly intense Aidan Gillen in "QaF," or the obscenely sensuous Jonathan Rhys Myers share a kiss with grungily handsome Ewan McGregor in Velvet Goldmine*, all I can think is, Damn it, I'll bet they're straight. They're not IN this; they're somewhere else. They aren't moved by the touching, aren't feeling anything -- unless they're feeling revolted and can't wait for the sequence to be over.

Then, when I find out my assumption is correct, my reaction goes something like this: It isn't right! How can they not have been excited? How can men with blowjob lips not want to give blowjobs? How can men with superior asses not want to share them? It goes against nature! ARGH!

Don't get me wrong. I greatly admire the courage and talent of these actors. But the fact remains, I don't want to Google them after I've been carried away by their performances . . . and see them with their wives and girlfriends. Pffft! Illusion punctured; satisfaction drained away.

I didn't know squat about Heath Ledger or Jake Gyllenhaal when I saw Brokeback Mountain, but I sure as hell knew about them afterward. To this day it galls me that neither one was genuinely attracted to the other. Gah, how could it be? How could "Ennis" and "Jack" not have had some sexual and romantic feelings for one another?

Answer: Because they actually liked girls. ARGH! Say it isn't so!

All this verbal teeth-gnashing and hair-pulling brings me back to my original point: For me, straight actors in gay films destroy the illusion of romance and sexual chemistry.

Am I the only person who's nutty this way?


* These descriptions fit how the actors looked when the shows were made, not necessarily how they look now.


Chris said...

I keep getting stuck on Jeffrey and Patrick Stewart, myself. :)

K. Z. Snow said...

I never saw that movie, Chris.

Here's another odd twist to my quirk: If I know before I see a gay movie or TV show that the actors are straight, it doesn't bother me. But if I'm unfamiliar with the actors, and they really engage me, I get bummed when I find out they're het. It just throws a wet blanket over my whole viewing experience, because by then I've made a big psycho-emotional investment in the story.

What I need to do is stay away from Google. Ignorance is bliss. ;-)

Chris said...

Oh, that movie will mess with your mind and you'll have to start a massive slash STTNG rewrite in your brain. ;)

K. Z. Snow said...

Yikes! Nope, don't need that either.

Jenre said...

I know what you mean, KZ. I was gutted when I discovered that Charlie Hunnam was straight - those lips are definitely made for blow jobs :). QaF wasn't so popular here in the UK which is why they only made a few episodes - 1 series and a couple of 'finale' episodes. The US spin off really took off which is why they made so many episodes over there. It's a shame really cos I liked Nathan much better than his US counterpart, Justin.

Is the true in reverse? How do you feel about gay actors playing straight characters? I remember when Anne Heche came out, there was a huge fuss cos she'd just made a film with Harrison Ford and people were saying that it ruined the illusion to know she was actually a lesbian.

K. Z. Snow said...

Oh gawd, Jen, I felt the same! Hunnam had me riveted to the screen, just waiting for him to kiss somebody. Or something. Anything. A lamppost. (Truly the depths of dirty-cougardom, for he was 19-20 when the episodes were shot!) I'm really surprised the series didn't take off there.

I haven't seen the US "QaF." We don't get the satellite channel on which it was/is run. Damn it.

Before I started my rant, I considered my reaction to gay actors playing straight characters. It isn't the same. If anything, I'm kind of tickled to find out a gay actor has "fooled" viewers. (Yes, I remember the flap over Anne Heche, which amused me. Tempest in a teapot though--wasn't it?--considering she switched back again. WTF?)

Anyway, I must have gender identity issues or something. There seems to be a gay man inhabiting me.

Chris said...

KZ: Have you talked to your guy about the gay man inside you? ;)

Tam said...

I guess I never thought about it much. No different than a gay guy playing a straight man and then finding a pic of him with his BF and knowing my chances of getting lucky are nil. :-)

As an actor I would be pretty pissed if the roles were only open to gay or straight or lesbian characters, even if you were the better actor. It's a job, it's not your sexuality to me. Also forcing someone to out themselves in order to get a job or stay in the closet because they want a certain type of role seems completely unethical. Acting is pretend, I can accept that and don't expect guys who play criminals and terrorists to BE criminals or terrorists, or women who play prostitutres to BE prostitutes.

Word veri: chest. Ha!

K. Z. Snow said...

"KZ: Have you talked to your guy about the gay man inside you? ;)"

No. He's better off being in the dark about that. WAY better off. :-)

K. Z. Snow said...

Intellectually I'm with you 100%, Tam. Yeah, they're all doing a job, and when that job is done well, audiences benefit. I admire great acting as much as I admire any talent.

BUT...damn, it just rankles that some of these guys aren't gay! That just kind of sucks the juice out of their to speak. ;-)

Jay Frek said...

What you're really saying is that when you use this media as masturbation material, you do not orgasm as intensely when you are aware that the actors are straight. But these movies and TV shows are intended to be art not porn. The actors are portraying attraction and lust, which are common human experiences independent of sexual orientation. The actor's goal is to capture those feelings, not to get the audience off. Homosexual actors play heterosexual characters all the time. Acting is just that, acting. The actor is being someone that he or she isn't truly. This is an inherent and accepted quality of this medium.