Two weeks ago, Ramin Setoodeh of Newsweek wrote that when gay actors play straight roles, he often finds them unconvincing. Specifically, he's unconvinced by actor Sean Hayes' performance as a straight romantic lead on Broadway--he comes across as "wooden and insincere." Setoodeh has a similar reaction to seeing Jonathan Groff play Jessie St. James, the boyfriend of Rachel on the TV show Glee.
In half his scenes, he scowls--is that a substitute for being straight? When he smiles or giggles, he seems more like your average theater queen, a better romantic match for Kurt than Rachel. It doesn't help that he tried to bed his girlfriend while singing (and writhing to) Madonna's Like a Virgin.
Setoodeh cites other examples of gay and lesbian actors and arrives at this basic conclusion:
While it's OK for straight actors to play gay (as Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger did in Brokeback Mountain), it's rare for someone to pull off the trick in reverse.
One person who took particular offense at this idea was Broadway star Kristin Chenoweth, who is playing opposite Sean Hayes and has appeared on Glee as well. In the comments section, she responds furiously to the article. (See her fully reply here.)"From where I stand, on stage, with Hayes, every night--I've observed nothing 'wooden' or 'weird' in his performance." Aside from finding the Setoodeh's argument offensive, she thinks it's flat-out wrong.
The examples he provides (what scientists call "selection bias") to prove his "gays can't play straight" hypothesis are sloppy in my opinion. Come on now! Openly gay Groff is too "queeny" to play Lea Michelle's boyfriend in GLEE, but is a "heartthrob" when he does it in Spring Awakening? Cynthia Nixon only "got away with it" 'cause she peaked before coming out? I don't know if you've missed the giant Sex and the City movie posters, but it seems most of America is "buying it." I could go on, but I assume these will be taken care of in your "Corrections" this week.
Finishing off the reply--which has gotten a fair amount of attention already--she strikes at Setoodeh himself:
No one needs to see a bigoted, factually inaccurate article that tells people who deviate from heterosexual norms that they can't be open about who they are and still achieve their dreams. I am told on good authority that Mr. Setoodeh is a gay man himself and I would hope, as the author of this article, he would at least understand that.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.