Newsweek Writer Keeps Digging That Homophobic Hole Deeper
By now, you’ve probably heard about the brouhaha over Newsweek writer Ramin Setodeh’s column in which he asserted that out-gay actors aren’t believable in straight roles. The opinion, both in the extensive comments attached to the original article and all over the Internet, has been perhaps the first such case of unanimity.
Not "near unanimity," but unanimity. Setodeh actually managed to get the fractious online world to agree on something: that he is an irresponsible idiot.
Now, I don’t normally throw around words like "idiot." I came from an educational background that taught one to attack ideas, not people. But Setodeh has proven himself incapable of consistent thought - or of real thought, for that matter. That makes him, in my book, an idiot.
After his article blew up in his face, Setodeh’s line of defense was that he was only picking up on a veiled comment on how Sean Hayes’ sexuality influenced his performance in the Broadway revival of the ’60s musical comedy Promises, Promises in a New York Times review. "His emotions often seem pale to the point of colorlessness," he quotes from Ben Brantley’s review. "His relationship with [his costar Kristin] Chenoweth feels more like that of a younger brother than a would-be lover and protector."
Well, OK! Let’s take a look at some of Mr. Brantley’s comments about another well-known and very out (way more out and way longer than Hayes) actor, Cheyenne Jackson.
Here’s Brantley on the recent revival of Finian’s Rainbow: "She is well paired with the easygoing charmer Cheyenne Jackson as the local boy Woody, who is snared almost as soon as he sets eyes on Sharon." Gee, sounds like Brantley swallowed the Kool Aid on that one, huh?
Here’s the review from the same paper of the Encores! revival of Damn Yankees, again starring Jackson. (Note: reviewer Charles Isherwood is a gay man.) "The show’s score contains a couple of lovely if lesser-known ballads, mostly sung by Mr. Jackson’s Joe Hardy, who has no sooner become a slugging sensation than he begins to regret in melody leaving the good wife and the comfy armchair behind."
Again, Isherwood on Jackson in Xanadu two years ago: "Cheyenne Jackson, the star of ’All Shook Up,’ the forgettable Elvis jukebox musical, [EDGE note: where Jackson also got a rave - and was believed as a hopelessly heterosexual Elvis] plays him beautifully as a big slab of prime beefcake in tube socks and denim cutoffs."
I don’t think I have to go farther back to make the point. Setodeh takes a criticism out of context of one actor in one role and assumes that it’s a code. If he’d read the dozens of reviews of trés out-gay actors on Broadway in the Times (and elsewhere), he would have seen that reviewer after reviewer found them perfectly believable.
Now, however you find Hayes’ in Promises, Promises (for the record, I thought he was terrific - and entirely believable as a love-sick schlub), to extrapolate from this that gay actors aren’t believable is laughably, well, stupid.