The wonder of Kristin Chenoweth is that she manages to fit so much awesome into such a teeny tiny package. She sings. She dances. She acts. She fights for gay rights like a mama Grizzly bear protecting her cubs. Like I was saying, awesome. And if you ever had any doubt about the latter then please turn your attention to the very, very strongly worded letter she wrote to a recent Newsweek magazine article claiming that most out gay and lesbian actors can’t successfully play straight.
The article, titled “Straight Jacket,” is the latest controversial piece from the magazine’s arts and culture writer Ramin Setoodeh. In the past Setoodeh (who is gay himself) has argued that effeminate gay male characters on TV were hurting the fight for gay rights. And now he thinks that “the big pink elephant in the room” is that audiences simply don’t buy out gay actors as straight. In particular he strikes out at Chenoweth’s Promises, Promises co-star Sean Hayes, saying he “comes off as wooden and insincere, like he’s trying to hide something, which of course he is.”
But Cheno wasn’t having it. In a Tweet to fans she said she “couldn’t keep silent on this one.” What she unleashed in the story’s online comments section was a pretty thorough dismantling of Setoodeh’s article which she called “horrendously homophobic.” It reads in part:
This article offends me because I am a human being, a woman and a Christian. For example, there was a time when Jewish actors had to change their names because anti-Semites thought no Jew could convincingly play Gentile. Setoodeh even goes so far as to justify his knee-jerk homophobic reaction to gay actors by accepting and endorsing that “as viewers, we are molded by a society obsessed with dissecting sexuality, starting with the locker room torture in junior high school.” Really? We want to maintain and proliferate the same kind of bullying that makes children cry and in some recent cases have even taken their own lives? That’s so sad, Newsweek! 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!
I believe, on the playground, they call that getting served. (You can read the letter in full at our brother site AfterElton.com.) The Newsweek article also singled out Glee’s out star Jonathan Groff as coming off like “average theater queen” during some scenes with Lea Michele. It goes on to say that out lesbian actresses like Cynthia Nixon and Kelly McGillis largely had success playing straight because their fame came when they were still closeted. I know, where do we start?
Well, good thing Kristin knew exactly where to start:
Audiences aren’t giving a darn about who a person is sleeping with or his personal life. Give me a break! We’re actors first, whether we’re playing prostitutes, baseball players, or the Lion King. Audiences come to theater to go on a journey. It’s a character and it’s called acting, and I’d put Hayes and his brilliance up there with some of the greatest actors period.
Lastly, as someone who’s been proudly advocating for equal rights and supporting GLBT causes for as long as I can remember, I know how much it means to young people struggling with their sexuality to see out & proud actors like Sean Hayes, Jonathan Groff, Neil Patrick Harris and Cynthia Nixon succeeding in their work without having to keep their sexuality a secret. 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.
The fatal flaw in Setoodeh’s argument is that there is something so inherently alienating about being openly gay that no one could ever imagine that person as anything else. Well, rubbish. Now, many in the LGBT community have complained about Setoodeh’s oddly homophobic arguments before. But maybe now, thanks to the caliber of Tony winner Chenoweth’s well-worded fuss and her stature as a much respected entertainer, we can get some results.
At the very least, it gives us another reason to love every inch of Kristin. She may only be 4-foot-11, but she has the heart of a giant.