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GLAAD Joins Newsweek Debate

By admin Published: May 12, 2010

You may have been following the argument over Newsweek's essay "Straight Jacket," which you can find here. People including "Glee" guest star Kristin Chenoweth and "Glee" creator Ryan Murphy have responded negatively, with Murphy calling the essay "homophobic."

I think the piece, by Ramin Setoodeh, was wrongheaded in arguing that audiences will not accept openly gay men in straight roles, that ''an actor's background does affect how we see his or her performance.'' Neil Patrick Harris has been cited as an example working against Setoodeh's thesis, and I think it's a valid one regardless of the writer's argument cited below.

On the other hand, as Setoodeh observed, I thought Jonathan Groff on "Glee" played his straight character in a way that implied he might be a closeted gay whose straight behavior was just a way of gaining Rachel's confidence. And I thought that before I knew Groff was gay.

But I don't think Setoodeh made a very effective argument by basing it on Groff and Sean Hayes. And I say all this as preamble to a GLAAD statement which makes a very reasonable argument for why Setoodeh was wrong. Here's the statement:

On April 26, 2010, Newsweek printed an article entitled ‘Straight Jacket’ in which contributor Ramin Setoodeh criticizes LGBT actors. Glee Creator Ryan Murphy and actors including Kristin Chenoweth and Michael Urie have spoken out against the article. Today GLAAD joins Murphy in urging Newsweek to issue an apology.

The following is a statement from GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios:
“Whether he intended it to or not, Ramin Setoodeh’s article in Newsweek sends a false and damaging message about gay actors by endorsing the idea that there are limits to the roles they are able to play.

If Setoodeh wanted to start a discussion about the work of gay performers, he undermined his own premise by affirming stereotype after stereotype, such as gay actors being ‘insincere’ or unbelievable when playing romantic leads, and dismissing or disregarding the work of actors like Neil Patrick Harris, Cheyenne Jackson, Cherry Jones, Wanda Sykes, Jonathan Groff and Alan Cumming, among others.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender actors can play a wide variety of diverse roles and Setoodeh’s perspective on this issue reflects his own discomfort that he attempts to project onto the audience by indicting Sean Hayes instead of examining his own inability to embrace gay actors in straight roles.

Since the article’s publication, Setoodeh has attempted to reframe his opinion piece as an analysis of the lack of gay men in leading roles, however, he continues to posit that gay male actors are not believable. In his May 11th interview with Joy Behar, Setoodeh claims about Neil Patrick Harris’ television role: ‘He’s not really a romantic lead where women are actually supposed to believe him as a heterosexual character.’

Whatever Setoodeh’s intentions or beliefs, Newsweek is ultimately responsible for having published this deeply problematic essay and consciously or not, promoting and encouraging Setoodeh’s discomfort.

GLAAD has been in dialogue with Newsweek to provide space for views on the subject that expand their readers’ understanding of this issue past the harmful attitudes of writers like Setoodeh, whose perspective is used to pressure gay actors to stay closeted.

GLAAD also joins Glee creator Ryan Murphy in urging Newsweek to issue an apology.”

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