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Believability in certain roles

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What does it mean?

 

I was reading a comment on the IMDb about a Warner Brothers star that was perceived as being gay. But then there was another comment by someone who had played in his band and said the guy had a wife and two daughters. And was definitely not gay.

 

Today, we have people looking at performances in old films, labeling them a certain way--viewing them much differently than they were probably viewed during the time in which they were first shown to audiences.

 

This said I do think there is an on-going issue of believability in certain roles, by certain actors.

 

Thoughts...?

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I doubt that many people, especially movie stars, were openly bisexual in the 30's and 40's. In a way, the idea probably would have perplexed the public more than the idea of homosexuality itself, since it would have involved looking further into the subtleties of a subject they were wary of in the first place. I'm glad you brought this up because we may finally be able to have a discussion like this without the constant interference we had in other forums. Speculation about the sexuality of stars generally accepted as straight always seems to cause a stir. The unspecified Warners' star could have easily fallen into the common pattern of marrying and (the clincher) having children in order to avoid detection. Any gay man who isn't living under a rock knows that this is still common enough today. I wouldn't necessarily accept the word of a bandmate as proof one way or another, since it could be a matter of loyalty in the face of adversity. As far as modern audiences looking back at the performances of those people and reading them as "gay", it's probably important to remember that the early era of sound films often employed actors imported from theater, with broader performance styles. I'm thinking of Bert Lahr in particular and his Cowardly Lion, who even refers to himself as "a sissy". How can a modern audience NOT wonder? But is it style or substance? Comic relief in a "gay" vein was a staple of that era, for whatever reasons. (Anyone see "The Nance" with Nathan Lane when PBS showed it recently?) Of course, if the actor is considered a heartthrob rather than a comic, it becomes harder to defend on the grounds of "style". Personally, it makes me wonder more about the psychology of the audience than it does about the nature of the performer. People like Oscar Wilde have always known that many people love to be titillated by what they profess to abhor.

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Great reply, Dougie. We could just as easily reverse the discussion and make a sister thread called 'Actors who seemed straight but apparently were not.' We're discussing conditions related to perceived sexual identity. And as you said, the psychology of the audience, not to mention the psychology of the stars themselves, factors into this.

 

I wonder if there was a greater likelihood for a man oriented gay in the late 1930s to go straight because of societal factors, and pressure from family, studio bosses and religion. Or maybe in his own mind and soul he did not consider himself gay, though he actually was.

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I wonder if there was a greater likelihood for a man oriented gay in the late 1930s to go straight because of societal factors, and pressure from family, studio bosses and religion. Or maybe in his own mind and soul he did not consider himself gay, though he actually was.

It could be all of the above. The only place in which gay men and women were free from negative judgements was probably in their own company and it wasn't exactly easy to congregate. Clubs and even private homes were often raided, pretty much on the whim of police or other authorities. It wasn't as if there were even a public debate about it like there is today. It must have felt like standing on the edge of an abyss. You either walked away from the edge and hid your true self or you stepped into a whirlwind which could uproot your whole life. I know people did it, but it meant accepting the terms of a life on the fringe and not a lot of people could face that. Your last sentence brings up the scariest part, the damage which so much constant negative reinforcement could do to minds and souls, making people question their own innate knowledge of themselves. Maybe in Hollywood it was easier to mix with others like yourself away from the public eye. I'm sure George Cukor's pool parties were never raided. But my overall impression has always been that the studios were freaked out about the potential consquences of exposure and were pretty much committed to squelching any outright expression of gayness before it could get to that point. Also, I wonder if your status on the totem pole (A-list, B-list, etc.) had any bearing on how fearless or fearful you would be. Anyway, I know you wanted to talk about public perception. Who's to say, really, about your Warners' star? I remember that I knew Phil Silvers only as Sgt. Bilko on TV. It wasn't until later as an adult that I saw some of his older films and my gaydar practically blew up. But do I think he was actually gay? I don't know. It's a tough one, because the language around the subject has changed so much over the years.

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It could be all of the above. The only place in which gay men and women were free from negative judgements was probably in their own company and it wasn't exactly easy to congregate. Clubs and even private homes were often raided, pretty much on the whim of police or other authorities. It wasn't as if there were even a public debate about it like there is today. It must have felt like standing on the edge of an abyss. You either walked away from the edge and hid your true self or you stepped into a whirlwind which could uproot your whole life. I know people did it, but it meant accepting the terms of a life on the fringe and not a lot of people could face that. Your last sentence brings up the scariest part, the damage which so much constant negative reinforcement could do to minds and souls, making people question their own innate knowledge of themselves. Maybe in Hollywood it was easier to mix with others like yourself away from the public eye. I'm sure George Cukor's pool parties were never raided. But my overall impression has always been that the studios were freaked out about the potential consquences of exposure and were pretty much committed to squelching any outright expression of gayness before it could get to that point. Also, I wonder if your status on the totem pole (A-list, B-list, etc.) had any bearing on how fearless or fearful you would be. Anyway, I know you wanted to talk about public perception. Who's to say, really, about your Warners' star? I remember that I knew Phil Silvers only as Sgt. Bilko on TV. It wasn't until later as an adult that I saw some of his older films and my gaydar practically blew up. But do I think he was actually gay? I don't know. It's a tough one, because the language around the subject has changed some much over the years.

 

The Warners star I referred to in the OP was a B-lister that was used in A-musicals as support and B-comedies in occasional lead parts. He was very flamboyant, but maybe that was part of his stage act. 

 

The way sexual identity was defined and the way homosexuality (or even bisexuality) was kept in the closet back then could be considered a whole other 'language'. Compare it to how it would be in subsequent decades and now today, and you get different scenarios. 

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I would like to know which star they are talking about. Has anyone noticed how when they associate classic movie stars who might be gay with gay stereotypes? I have peers who insist that Katharine Hepburn was a lesbian and that whole nonsense of some writer dredging up a man who used to procure women for her and men for Spencer Tracy as fact and I can't believe it because 1) sex workers will tell you anything you want to hear for money 2) though not true, Katharine Hepburn wasn't lesbian, and Tracy wasn't gay. Relatives have confirmed this. Friends of them confirmed this. 

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I would like to know which star they are talking about.  

The point of the thread is not to name names. Rather, it's to comment on a social issue, on a situation related to the closeting of stars...which I think in some ways affects casting and believability in certain roles.

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The point of the thread is not to name names. Rather, it's to comment on a social issue, on a situation related to the closeting of stars...which I think in some ways affects casting and believability in certain roles.

Okay, I get that. I guess I am wondering still why the closeting of stars have to be a thing, and its relation to people's own attitudes about homosexuality anyway. 

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What does it mean?

 

I was reading a comment on the IMDb about a Warner Brothers star that was perceived as being gay. But then there was another comment by someone who had played in his band and said the guy had a wife and two daughters. And was definitely not gay.

 

Not sure if stars were openly bisexual in the 30s and 40s. So is it possible they were repressed homosexuals who lived straight lives...? If so, we have people today looking at these performances in old films, labeling them a certain way-- saying they are gay, when by current standards they would probably be pushed/pulled out of the closet. But not during the time in which they lived.

 

Thoughts...?

 

As for 'perceived as being gay';   well that perception can be based on either their off-screen persona and actions (e.g. they never married),  or their on-screen film persona and type of characters they typically played (or both in some cases).

 

I assume it is fairly natural for movie viewers to assume someone is gay based on their film persona and associated characters, but since we are dealing with actors one shouldn't make those assumptions.    e.g.  Dan Duryea was a very nice and gentle man but his film persona was anything but (this example has noting to do with sexuality but I use it to illustrate that film persona doesn't relate to ones' actual persona).

 

Were actors that were gay better at playing gay character types in film?    My first reaction to this was 'of course' but deeper thought leads to no conclusion because most  'gay characters' in movies are typically based on broad stereotypes that often don't reflect reality (or like any stereotype may not reflect the reality of the majority of remembers of said group).         

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Okay, I get that. I guess I am wondering still why the closeting of stars have to be a thing, and its relation to people's own attitudes about homosexuality anyway. 

Well, I think closeting does relate to casting. It went on way back when and it still happens now. Some closeted actors are afraid that if they play a gay character on film, they will have to come out of the closet in real life, which may not be something they are ready to do.

 

Aside from the orientation, a closeted actor could very well have nothing in common with the gay character he's portraying. Yet the gayness issue is what reporters often want to discuss and what fans want to know about, when a star is promoting the movie in which he is playing a homosexual character. This happens to straight actors playing gay characters in movies-- but if they go to the interviews with the woman in their life by their side, acting all lovey-dovey, nobody is going to ask them about being gay like the character.

 

But it's different with a closeted actor promoting a movie in which he's playing a gay character. So to avoid all this, he may choose to stay in the closet and not even attempt to play gay characters. I think this is one of the major reasons why in big budget Hollywood films (not the low-budget independent cinema) straight actors tend to play gay characters more than gay actors do. It is weirdly reversed, than what you might expect it to be. This is because a deep dark closet still exists in the mainstream motion picture industry, no matter how progressive it tries to present itself as being.

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Well, I think closeting does relate to casting. It went on way back when and it still happens now. Some closeted actors are afraid that if they play a gay character on film, they will have to come out of the closet in real life, which may not be something they are ready to do.

 

Aside from the orientation, a closeted actor could very well have nothing in common with the gay character he's portraying. Yet the gayness issue is what reporters often want to discuss and what fans want to know about, when a star is promoting the movie in which he is playing a homosexual character. This happens to straight actors playing gay characters in movies-- but if they go to the interviews with the woman in their life by their side, acting all lovey-dovey, nobody is going to ask them about being gay like the character.

 

But it's different with a closeted actor promoting a movie in which he's playing a gay character. So to avoid all this, he may choose to stay in the closet and not even attempt to play gay characters. I think this is one of the major reasons why in big budget Hollywood films (not the low-budget independent cinema) straight actors tend to play gay characters more than gay actors do. It is weirdly reversed, than what you might expect it to be. This is because a deep dark closet still exists in the mainstream motion picture industry, no matter how progressive it tries to present itself as being.

 

Good point. When Dallas Buyers Club (2013) was a big hit, the transgender community, or at least individual people who identify as transgender made a point to wonder why a transgender actor couldn't play a transgender character. Same could be said why after Rupert Everett came out of the closet, his film career went down the professional toilet. Speaks wonders to authenticity and respect for self there that Hollywood claims to support, but put a bunch of heterosexuals with limited views on homosexuality, bisexuality, and the transgender experience, and you have heterosexual actors playing homosexual characters. Interesting point. 

 

As for the classic movie era and keeping everything in the closet when it comes to casting, we have to consider pre-Code Hollywood, which openly suggested the GLBT Americans among us, regardless of social assignment of "sin" that was the common social belief back then, with the Hays Code representation of GLBT Americans, with no mention of the actual name of the label, but punishment and stereotype that the label presented to the mainstream mind back then. 

 

Hollywood can make a bundle on heterosexual actors who play homosexual characters, but like the practice of "blackface" it may die out as long as people keep encouraging for authenticity. 

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Good point. When Dallas Buyers Club (2013) was a big hit, the transgender community, or at least individual people who identify as transgender made a point to wonder why a transgender actor couldn't play a transgender character. Same could be said why after Rupert Everett came out of the closet, his film career went down the professional toilet. Speaks wonders to authenticity and respect for self there that Hollywood claims to support, but put a bunch of heterosexuals with limited views on homosexuality, bisexuality, and the transgender experience, and you have heterosexual actors playing homosexual characters. Interesting point. 

 

As for the classic movie era and keeping everything in the closet when it comes to casting, we have to consider pre-Code Hollywood, which openly suggested the GLBT Americans among us, regardless of social assignment of "sin" that was the common social belief back then, with the Hays Code representation of GLBT Americans, with no mention of the actual name of the label, but punishment and stereotype that the label presented to the mainstream mind back then. 

 

Hollywood can make a bundle on heterosexual actors who play homosexual characters, but like the practice of "blackface" it may die out as long as people keep encouraging for authenticity. 

Hollywood has long been hypocritical when it comes to casting roles of minorities. There was a huge flap made a year or two ago when an able-bodied man was cast in the lead role for the reboot of Ironside. Why not just hire a paralyzed actor? Bring more authenticity to it. Needless to say, the show quickly tanked.

 

I think your comment about blackface dying out, relating it to heterosexuals playing homosexual characters, is a very interesting one.

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Were actors that were gay better at playing gay character types in film?    My first reaction to this was 'of course' but deeper thought leads to no conclusion because most  'gay characters' in movies are typically based on broad stereotypes that often don't reflect reality (or like any stereotype may not reflect the reality of the majority of remembers of said group).         

I think this is where the discussion goes into the grey areas. You would not be able to discount openly bisexual performers, and if they play gay characters more realistically than their exclusively heterosexual counterparts.

 

Now, if we're talking about method actors, they believe you become the character. So it would not be out of the realm of possibility for a straight (even married) method actor to dabble in bisexuality so that he can better understand and become the gay character he's playing. That way the performance is shaded with additional nuances of realism.

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Hollywood has long been hypocritical when it comes to casting roles of minorities. There was a huge flap made a year or two ago when an able-bodied man was cast in the lead role for the reboot of Ironside. Why not just hire a paralyzed actor? Bring more authenticity to it. Needless to say, the show quickly tanked.

 

I think your comment about blackface dying out, relating it to heterosexuals playing homosexual characters, is a very interesting one.

 

Well I still question whether casting actors that are more authentic really adds anything.     This is why I mentioned Dan Duryea.  I assume by 'authentic' we are NOT saying the real life character of the actor has to be in sync with that of the character they are playing.  e.g. one has to have murdered to be authentic to play a murderer.     

 

So authentic as it relates to their looks?   Well take the film Monster with Charlize Theron -  should the producers have hired an unattractive really worn out actress for the role?    To me that would be silly.  Instead they hired the best actress for the part and she won the Oscar. 

 

Now, I do see the point as it relates to rolls where the character's looks are associated with a specific race and culture,  but even here how authentic does that have to be?  e.g.   is it 'ok' to place someone that is Japanese or mixed Asian for a Chinese role?  

 

But back to casting for gay character roles;   I don't feel that it is necessary or adds any authentic type vibe to cast gay actors in gay parts or vise-versa)     i.e.  a sound actor should be able to play the part (or vise-versa, a gay person playing a non gay part like Patrick Harris did so well in How I Meet Your Mother).   So cast the actor that one feels will do the best job,  period.

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I think that there are two kinds of authenticity we can look for. As an actor myself, if the talent is there, the talent should overpower the role. Maybe its hypersensitive to suggest that an actor playing an orientation other than their own (heterosexual playing homosexual, cisgender playing transgender) should take time in their research and preparation for the performance to do so out of respect.

 

I feel whenever I hear an actor talk in publicity about the respect they have for the people they play, I have a hard time believing it. I don't know how genuine it is or whether the actor is saying it because it will score points towards recognition. I believe Sandra Bullock respects Leigh Ann Tuohy, but I don't know nor believe Meryl Streep respects Margaret Thatcher, but she as of late appears disingenuous to me in all her interviews. I digress.

 

Film has done good out of late to dispel GLBT stereotypes, but industry practices alone are questionable. If people feel disrespected based on hows and the whys, those need to be listened to. The desire for authenticity in entertainment is a good development only to provide opportunities for actors who have been neglected by opportunity by bad institutional practices to have opportunity to show their talents. And its not just for the GLBT community. 

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I think that there are two kinds of authenticity we can look for. As an actor myself, if the talent is there, the talent should overpower the role. Maybe its hypersensitive to suggest that an actor playing an orientation other than their own (heterosexual playing homosexual, cisgender playing transgender) should take time in their research and preparation for the performance to do so out of respect.

 

I don't think it's about being overly sensitive. It is about authenticity. If a straight actor can convincingly play a gay character (or more accurately, if he can get the audience to buy it even if it is not entirely convincing), then that's a successful performance no matter how you slice it. But if a straight actor cannot convincingly play gay, or a gay actor cannot convincingly play straight on screen, then that is going to face criticism by professional reviewers, and it will probably turn off the average movie-goer.

 

Does an actor have to do a serious amount of research to play all his roles? No-- he can just innately tap into some of the truths in the character and perform it that way, almost allegorically. But it does have to spring from some real place-- or else nobody will believe it as sincere or as authentic on any level.

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I don't think it's about being overly sensitive. It is about authenticity. If a straight actor can convincingly play a gay character (or more accurately, if he can get the audience to buy it even if it is not entirely convincing), then that's a successful performance no matter how you slice it. But if a straight actor cannot convincingly play gay, or a gay actor cannot convincingly play straight on screen, then that is going to face criticism by professional reviewers as well as the average movie-goer.

 

I don't think an actor has to do a serious amount of research to play some roles-- they can just innately tap into some of the truths in the character and perform it that way, almost allegorically. But it does have to spring from some real truth-- or else nobody will believe it as sincere or as authentic on any level.

True. In film, we hear about process and preparation a lot in publicity, and there are only so many I believe to be true. It's how recognition is accepted I guess. I was hesitant myself about Dallas Buyers Club (2013) not only because Matthew McConaughey doesn't all appeal to me, but because though the performance was supposedly fabulous, it wasn't authentic to me because his character, based on a real person, was bisexual in real life( and I did my research here), but because McConaughey has an image and because maybe producers don't understand bisexuality as much and afraid to approach it, it was okay. Like Streep's Thatcher being a feminist interpretation even though Thatcher was not one and did nothing to advance women's equality in the world let alone the United Kingdom. 

 

I would have loved to see authentic portrayals amid all professional risk. Creative license aside, people believe what they see. Publicity sells what it sells. But in the meantime, those in the GLBT community, do not feel exactly respected when representation rings false. The same is true in the Americans of color communities. 

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I would have loved to see authentic portrayals amid all professional risk. Creative license aside, people believe what they see. Publicity sells what it sells. But in the meantime, those in the GLBT community, do not feel exactly respected when representation rings false. The same is true in the Americans of color communities. 

I agree that actors (as well as directors and producers with their choice in subject matter) should take professional risks. Of course, they would want the films they make to earn as much money as possible.

 

One thing that I do think minority groups get wrong is that in their quest for equal or fair representation, they tend to want things portrayed in the most respectful light possible. But even this rings false sometimes. Having Sidney Poitier always play a saintly black character doesn't seem true to me-- the implication being that all black men, if given a fair chance, are good. And they are not all good. He should have played a criminal or a killer in at least one or two of his films.

 

And we should see some gay and lesbian characters on film that are cold-blooded murderers, because they do exist. Like what the Tom Ripley character suggests. To insist that all homosexual or bisexual characters on screen advance the cause of LBGT rights just is not realistic to me. There are good and bad straight people, and there are good and bad gay people. We have to show it all on screen if we are going to be truly authentic.

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True. In film, we hear about process and preparation a lot in publicity, and there are only so many I believe to be true. It's how recognition is accepted I guess. I was hesitant myself about Dallas Buyers Club (2013) not only because Matthew McConaughey doesn't all appeal to me, but because though the performance was supposedly fabulous, it wasn't authentic to me because his character, based on a real person, was bisexual in real life( and I did my research here), but because McConaughey has an image and because maybe producers don't understand bisexuality as much and afraid to approach it, it was okay. Like Streep's Thatcher being a feminist interpretation even though Thatcher was not one and did nothing to advance women's equality in the world let alone the United Kingdom. 

 

I would have loved to see authentic portrayals amid all professional risk. Creative license aside, people believe what they see. Publicity sells what it sells. But in the meantime, those in the GLBT community, do not feel exactly respected when representation rings false. The same is true in the Americans of color communities. 

 

I'm not sure if I'm understanding what point your trying to make.    All I can say that IF the point is that GLBT actors should play GLBT characters,  then the inverse would also be true;  GLBT actors shouldn't be cast as NON GLBT characters.    The end result of that POV would be LESS work for GLBT actors.

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I agree that actors (as well as directors and producers with their choice in subject matter) should take professional risks. Of course, they would want the films they make to earn as much money as possible.

 

One thing that I do think minority groups get wrong is that in their quest for equal or fair representation, they tend to want things portrayed in the most respectful light possible. But even this rings false sometimes. Having Sidney Poitier always play a saintly black character doesn't seem true to me-- the implication being that all black men, if given a fair chance, are good. And they are not all good. He should have played a criminal or a killer in at least one or two of his films.

 

And we should see some gay and lesbian characters on film that are cold-blooded murderers, because they do exist. Like what the Tom Ripley character suggests. To insist that all homosexual or bisexual characters on screen advance the cause of LBGT rights just is not realistic to me. There are good and bad straight people, and there are good and bad gay people. We have to show it all on screen if we are going to be truly authentic.

Viola Davis once said: "The thing about the African-American community compared with the white community is, we are more concerned with image and message than execution. I don't play roles that are necessarily attractive or portray a positive image. They are well-rounded characters. When you squelch excellence to put out a message it's like passing the baton and seeing it drop." 

 

The same can be true to the GLBT community, or any other "minority" represented in film. While I understand and support where she is coming from, I also understand the need for positive images. Positive images fight back against the dominant negative ones. By image alone, Sidney Poitier fought back years upon years of negative images of African-Americans in film because he was not a stereotype because Hollywood let him be dimensional as the times were changing and the mainstream could try to accept an image like him. Was that image perfect, especially in retrospection? No. But it was better than what was before it 

 

The same is true for the GLBT community representation in film. Mainstream film has, until very recently, accounting the last 20 + years, portrayed GLBT characters in the negative light, by way of vampires, serial killers, and Mrs. Danvers from Rebecca. Until Philadelphia, no one could see the human side of the label until Tom Hanks portrayed a Sidney Poitier-like character who had AIDS. Not to reduce the film, because its phenomenal, as is Hanks' performance, but that was one of the first positive representations of a "minority" that showed humanity shared, and made the years since of depicted GLBT characters in a relatable light easier. But, it doesn't account for what more there is to show, like GLBT individuals who happen to be people of color as well. Queen Latifah is going to portray Bessie Smith on an HBO movie, and if the Michael Douglas Liberace movie is any indicator, it's on HBO because no studio would touch it. 

 

I guess my point is is that there is a reason why "minority" groups are concerned with image, and it's a valid reason. That shouldn't be the only reason to not show a character's dimensional humanity in performance though, which is what Viola Davis means. 

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I'm not sure if I'm understanding what point your trying to make.    All I can say that IF the point is that GLBT actors should play GLBT characters,  then the inverse would also be true;  GLBT actors shouldn't be cast as NON GLBT characters.    The end result of that POV would be LESS work for GLBT actors.

Hollywood would have to try it and see. 

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Hollywood would have to try it and see. 

 

Try and see what?   NOT cast gay actors in NON gay parts?    So Patrick Harris and many others shouldn't have been cast for NON gay parts?    I'm sorry,  but I really don't understand what you're trying to get at.    If an actor can do the job they should get the part regardless of their sexual orientation. 

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Try and see what?   NOT cast gay actors in NON gay parts?    So Patrick Harris and many others shouldn't have been cast for NON gay parts?    I'm sorry,  but I really don't understand what you're trying to get at.    If an actor can do the job they should get the part regardless of their sexual orientation. 

True, actors should get parts regardless of sexual orientation. All I am saying is that the practices of the industry do not match the ideal we would hope for. 

 

Neil Patrick Harris played straight very well on How I Met Your Mother, and played well to the audience that way, can he get a role not on Broadway where he can play a gay character? I don't know. I haven't seen or heard any news pointing to yes. 

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Viola Davis once said: "The thing about the African-American community compared with the white community is, we are more concerned with image and message than execution. I don't play roles that are necessarily attractive or portray a positive image. They are well-rounded characters. When you squelch excellence to put out a message it's like passing the baton and seeing it drop." 

 

The same can be true to the GLBT community, or any other "minority" represented in film. While I understand and support where she is coming from, I also understand the need for positive images. Positive images fight back against the dominant negative ones. By image alone, Sidney Poitier fought back years upon years of negative images of African-Americans in film because he was not a stereotype because Hollywood let him be dimensional as the times were changing and the mainstream could try to accept an image like him. 

I think the overriding need for political correctness and excessive positive images becomes a form of posturing (saying 'look how good we really are'), which turns it into a negative thing, ironically. It ultimately can defeat the goal. It becomes unrealistic-- because a logical minded person knows that not all minorities are perfect; so trying to present them as perfect positive role models all the time may make them lose any sort of credibility and value. I think the idea of depicting minorities as flesh-and-blood human images with character flaws is the key here, not heavy-handed positive images.

 

Poitier did not exactly fight back years of negative images. At first it seemed so, but after a while, he became a bit of a caricature-- a predictable backlash to 'traditional' views about minorities. Many of his characters were written and directed by reactionary progressives. So in their hands, he becomes a new stereotype created and maintained by the left preaching to its own choir. Again, this is where minorities fighting for better representation make most of their errors. They are trying to swing the pendulum back the other way, and they go too far and fail to show balanced representations of how people really are in their subgroup. 

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I think the overriding need for political correctness and excessive positive images becomes a form of posturing (saying 'look how good we really are'), which turns it into a negative thing, ironically. It ultimately can defeat the goal. It becomes unrealistic-- because a logical minded person knows that not all minorities are perfect; so trying to present them as perfect positive role models all the time may make them lose any sort of credibility and value. I think the idea of depicting minorities as flesh-and-blood human images with character flaws is the key here, not heavy-handed positive images.

 

Poitier did not exactly fight back years of negative images. At first it seemed so, but after a while, he became a bit of a caricature-- a predictable backlash to 'traditional' views about minorities. Many of his characters were written and directed by reactionary progressives. So in their hands, he becomes a new stereotype created and maintained by the left preaching to its own choir. Again, this is where minorities fighting for better representation make most of their errors. They are trying to swing the pendulum back the other way, and they go too far and fail to show balanced representations of how people really are in their subgroup. 

In the meantime, no one is talking about the dominant social group's errors in perception, but those don't exist because white heterosexual actors can play anybody and have nothing to complain about. 

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