Lesbian sex and the Oscars: Are straight actors stealing all the good gay roles?

 
 

Women who love women have a lot of feelings about the Oscars this year. If you have any doubts about that, take a quick gander at the comments on Dorothy Snarker’s recent post about the nominations. We certainly are intense about our movies.

Of course, intensity is not surprising when at least two of last year’s most touted films have Sapphic sex scenes. And whatever you think of The Kids Are All Right and Black Swan, the fact that we have mainstream movies with lesbian content, name actors and decent production values indicates that something has shifted in the film world.

But one thing that has not shifted is that straight women have the roles. And, according to Guardian writer Vanessa Thorpe, casting Annette Bening, Julianne Moore and Natalie Portman as lesbian/bisexual women did not go over too well in lesbian Hollywood.

Some actors in gay Hollywood believe that well-known straight stars are happy to take gay parts because they know their careers won’t suffer. Thorpe quotes lesbian British novelist Stella Duffy: “It seems it is always fine for straight women to play lesbians – in fact, they quite often get Oscars for it.” (Dorothy Snarker kindly provided a list of women nominated for playing gay earlier this year.)

But getting ticked off at casting directors hardly seems fair, given the fact that many likely-lesbian actresses that could carry a movie lead are still closeted or barely peeking out. With actors like Rupert Everett and Richard Chamberlain advising that career-minded actors should stay in the closet, no wonder so many people do.

Jane Lynch told Thorpe that she understands the challenge facing casting directors. “This is a business of projection and desiring people from afar,” she said. “… the leading man and lady are the people we want [the audience] to fall in love with, and most of the audience is straight. So, for right now, we can only use straight actors.”

And until they say otherwise, closeted actors count as “straight.”

AfterEllen.com, via Great LezBritain columnist Lee, asked our favorite hot cop and musician Heather Peace for her thoughts about the Guardian article.

“Early in my career I was advised that I should not talk about the fact that I am gay or it would end my career — and that is terrifying as a young actor,” she said. “I decided that I would deal with it by never talking about my personal life at all so that I’d never have to confirm or deny. While I was in high profile TV shows I never really did tabloid interviews and I turned down a lot of magazines and TV interviews for fear that I’d be asked the question outright – because then I didn’t think I could bring myself to deny it.

“In all honesty,” Heather continued, “I’m not sure that things have changed hugely today, people still seem to have a problem accepting gay actors in straight roles — although the opposite is true for straight actors. But what I do know is that I’ve never been happier than since I’ve been out. I love the work that I’m doing on Lip Service, I’m enjoying the musical ride that I’m on and as I meet gay women of all ages around the country at my shows, it is apparent that my openness has made a small difference to them — and I feel really positive about that.”

As younger actresses like Amber Heard come out early in their careers, perhaps we’ll see them judged on talent, not sexual orientation. But for now, the reason out A-list lesbians/bisexuals weren’t cast in TKAAR and Swan is simple: Very few exist.

Check out the rest of Thorpe’s article and let us know what you think. Should Hollywood be more conscious about finding lesbians to play lesbian roles? Or does it matter? Do you think coming out is as much of a career risk for actors as it once was?

 
 

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