There was recently some controversy regarding whether a gay man can play the role of a heterosexual man, when Sean Hayes was attacked in a “Newsweek” article. Of course, there was no suggestion that the authors heterosexist biases were at play, this was simply the result of bad acting and an unrealistic akin to asking a 65 year old man to play the love interest of a 30 years old woman (note: this happens all the time and viewers regularly buy this nonsense). Hayes decided to answer his critics:
Wasn’t all of that tongue exciting?
The problem with this little performance is that it occurred. It is absolutely ridiculous that Hayes had to get on stage to swap spit with a woman on camera so that critics could see that he is able to pull off a believable lip lock with a female. I mean really people, is that what we have been reduced to? Do you think that any of those straight actors engaged in those hot and steamy love scenes are really getting their groove on? It’s called acting for a reason.
I think that it is sick that Hayes was forced into this position. Do you remember Jake Gyllenhaal or Heath Ledger having to get on a stage and kiss other men to prove they should have had the roles of Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar in “Brokeback Mountain”? Why were their performances automatically accepted but Hayes is up for debate? This is yet another example of a dominant body (read: heterosexuals) setting a standard for a marginalized body and moving the goal posts so that the status of “other” is continually re-enforced.
This is not the first time that this conversation has occurred. When Anne Heche was dating Ellen, reporters openly questioned what a lesbian relationship would do to her career. It was suggested at the time that because of her relationship with Ellen, people would not believe her if she took on the role of romantic female lead opposite a male star. It never became apparent to many that if doubt occurred, it was not because of who Heche was fucking, but because of the rampant homophobia in society. In a New York TImes article entitled “Anne Heche is Playing it Normal Now” (kind of says it all doesn’t it?) Alex Witchel writes:
Then, at the 1997 Vanity Fair Oscar party, lightning struck and she fell madly in love with Ellen DeGeneres, becoming half of the most famous lesbian couple in America. Because she had never given any indication of being gay, Heche was pilloried as both publicity hound and career opportunist — though in retrospect, given her experience with her duplicitous father and homophobic mother, it could seem that her attraction to DeGeneres had less to do with acting than acting out. The romance actually destroyed her prospects as a leading lady; the deal for “Six Days, Seven Nights” was the last one made as the affair became public, and no more were offered.
Did you catch that? Her relationship was “acting out”, despite the fact that Heche has repeatedly said that her feelings for Ellen were genuine. Why even bother to listen when gays in lesbians speak because their experiences center them, and not the ridiculous heterosexist agenda. Asserting that a gay actor is not believable in the role of a heterosexual is meant to force them back into the closet. None of this is really homophobic, people just don’t want the GLBT community to flaunt their love, meanwhile, straight people swap spit wherever they want in broad day light. This is the insidious side of heterosexism; the same people that would avoid using the words f@ggot or dyke have no problem using their power to perpetuate heterosexual hegemony. Once again, mission accomplished heterosexist society, you got a marginalized body to jump though hoops in a bid for acceptance.