Jim Parsons has gracefully waded into the long-simmering debate over whether straight, cisgender actors should play LGBT+ people in film and television.
Parsons, 47, reflected in an interview with the Los Angeles Times newspaper on his role in TheBoys in the Band, the Netflix flick with an all-queer cast that centred on the lives of a group of gay men in pre-Stonewall-era New York City.
But how would the film have played out with a patchwork cast of non-LGBT+ and LGBT+ actors? Parsons offered a vastly pliable response to the issue of queer representation.
“There’s definitely this spectrum,” Jim Parsons, who plays Mart Crowley in the film, mused.
Jim Parsons: Filmmakers must ‘ensure that all parts are open to all actors’
“I think the fight, as it were, is not about having only gay people play the gay parts but to ensure that all parts are open to all actors.
“It’s important that gay characters are portrayed as well-rounded and completely human individuals.
“And there are plenty of straight actors who have played gay characters brilliantly.
“I think Brokeback Mountain is one of the most touching gay movies and love stories I have ever seen, and those two straight actors [Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal] were the best choices for those roles.”
The turbulent, decades-long trajectory of queer representation on the small screen has gone from flat one-episode secondary players to fully-fleshed characters central to storylines.
Indeed, the amount of queer characters on our screens has consistently hit new heights each year, according to annual reports by GLAAD.
But Hollywood has remained hobbled by how it, year after year, casts straight, cisgender people in LGBT+ roles, with the sluggishness of the film industry to change that routinely fuelling disappointment among queer moviegoers and film critics.
Seemingly typifying the anger against filmmakers giving straight actors queer roles was the move to cast James Corden, a professional straight man, to play Barry Glickman, an ailing gay Broadway star in Ryan Murphy’s The Prom.
Murphy’s casting choices have long been ribbed by viewers for being white, tall, often square-jawed men, but critics had little patience for Corden’s performance, branding it “gross and offensive“.
His performance drew the frustrated ire of critics for his overblown, camp portrayal of a gay man, with Erik Anderson, founder of AwardsWatch, dubbing it “gayface”.
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Colin Firth at the “Supernova” premiere in London on October 11, 2020 (Tim P Whitby/Getty/BFI)
Colin Firth has declined to weigh in on whether straight actors should be able to play gay roles, admitting it’s something he’s given “a lot of thought”.
Firth plays a gay man in his upcoming film Supernova, a tearjerker about a couple who embark on a road trip as one of them grapples with dementia. He also took on a gay role in in 2010’s A Single Man.
The actor was questioned on whether it was right for him to do so in an interview for December’s issue of Attitude, but said he remained undecided.
“I don’t have a final position on this,” he replied. “I think the question is still alive. It’s something I take really seriously, and I gave it a lot of thought before doing this.”
He continued: “Whenever I take on anything, I think it’s an insufferable presumption. I don’t really feel I have the right to play the character. That’s always the starting point. What do I know about this person’s life?
“How can I presume to set foot in this person’s lived experience, let alone try to represent it?”
His Supernova co-star Stanley Tucci, who also played a gay character in The Devil Wears Prada, added: “For so many years, gay men and women have had to hide their homosexuality in showbusiness to get the roles they wanted – that’s the problem here.
“Anybody should be able to play any role that they want to play – that’s the whole point of acting.”
Unfortunately, the question of whether straight actors should play gay characters is likely to remain an issue while access to film roles continues to be unequal across the board.
A recent GLAAD report found that although representation of white gay men is constantly improving in major studio films, representation of other queer people is dismal, and trans and non-binary characters were found to be non-existent in major studio releases from 2019.
An analysis of 118 films across eight major studios found that only 22 (18.6 per cent) included an LGBT+ character, and only nine gave LGBT+ characters more than 10 minutes of screen time.
When those few roles are given to straight actors rather than LGBT+ ones, it throws up an additional barrier to queer people being able to tell their own stories on the big screen.
I’m a bisexual nonbinary Asian who grew up in Asia and currently studying in Vancouver, where is the first time I’m surrounded by many white people my age.
I’ve recently found myself having a pattern of crushing on white guys (the cishet part is also assumed). I’ve had two crushes that did not go well. One led me on and the other I found out he had an aggressive incident in the past.
I’m currently crushing on another guy that I don’t know really well, but now I just feel burnt out on having crushes. I don’t have a lot of experience myself, I don’t know how to date and I come from a completely different culture. I’m just confused why I keep crushing on white guys. Please help.
Hello, fellow bisexual Asian!
I feel you hard on this one. First of all, you’re attracted to who you’re attracted to. As long as you feel safe in that attraction, you can let go of any guilt you may be holding onto. That’s just true across the board.
It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stop and think about why you’re attracted to the types of people you’re attracted to. It doesn’t mean that you can’t expand and push the boundaries of your worldview of what makes someone attractive. It definitely doesn’t mean you can’t make a conscious decision about who to actually date.
It just means you can’t necessarily control for whom your heart thumps faster. Such is the central plotline of every lesbian romcom.
Let’s get into the white boy crush thing. It makes perfect sense that you’d be attracted to white guys if you’re living in a place that’s predominantly white. It’s who’s in your dating pool. Additionally, we’ve all been socially conditioned to feel feelings for white guys..or at least know that we should be having those feelings.
Regardless of where you live in the world, the image of the attractive white, cis, straight man is a prevalent symbol of power. White men own everything. White male actors are popular all over the world. There’s no question about whether white men are considered universally attractive. Even if you, like me, generally find most white straight guys annoying, if you’re attracted to men, you’re probably sometimes attracted to white guys.
On top of that, bisexual folks may find themselves in situations where they’re in relationships with straight partners. Heteronormativity is a real thing and it’s frankly quite easy to run into attractive straight people, most of whom will presume you’re also straight and cis, literally anywhere. Straight men are just out in the world approaching women or those they perceive to be women all the time. Some of them are decent, dateable humans, too.
Having crushes on white, cis, straight men may be about proximity more than a pattern. That’s OK. What I read into your question, though, is a concern about what it means to be attracted to straight white men for a queer Asian person. As well as an observation that these potential dates so far have turned out to be not-so-great people and, like, what’s up with that?
A lot of us deal with a personal history of internalized racism. I sure did and do. Growing up, I didn’t just want a white boyfriend, I wanted to be white. I always saw myself through a white lens of beauty and, thus, assumed white boys weren’t attracted to me and also was very, very naive whenever a white boy was attracted to me.
This may not be your experience, growing up in an Asian country. However, you should know this is the way that many white boys in Canada grew up, with racist stereotypes about Asian women, with fetishized ideas about Asian women rooted in colonialization and violent histories, thinking that Asian women are doll-like and passive and being attracted to that imbalance of power. Not all straight white men are gross predators with so-called “Asian fetishes,” but all straight white men were brought up in a white supremacist and racist culture that imbued them with these ideas about Asian women.
You’re not imagining that the dynamic between white people and Asian partners is uncomfortable. Regardless of gender and sexual orientation, there are a lot of white people who fetishize their Asian partners. Whether someone has a gross self-proclaimed Asian fetish or not, there’s always a worry that they’re interested in what you represent, not who you are. Even when you’ve met a really good, honest, kind white person who doesn’t have a history of fetishizing Asian partners, that worry’s still there.
Enter you, a nonbinary, bisexual Asian person who’s suddenly getting heart flutters for straight, cis, white men. There could be a lot of things going on. It could be that you are being hit on by white men who are, on a conscious or subconscious level, attracted to Asian partners for racist reasons. It could be that you’re just meeting a lot of white straight guys because they’re literally everywhere around you and it’s cultural pressure that’s making you feel weird about it. It could be that you have some internalized racism or internalized homophobia or internalized transphobia to work through and that has drawn you to see cis white men as super attractive status symbols. It could just be a random occurrence that you have had three crushes on three hot straight guys in a row and maybe your next three crushes will be on hot Asian queer folx.
There’s nothing wrong with you for being attracted to white men. There are things you should watch out for to protect yourself from getting hurt by the wrong kind of white men. Watch out for things like race-based compliments, a history of dating only Asian partners, a history of intimate partner violence, and any sexist or racist behavior.
I don’t know what your queer community looks like for you in real life, but I’m also going to throw in this final bit of advice. Consider seeking out and immersing yourself in queer spaces as often as you can. If there aren’t queer Asian spaces available to you, look for BIPOC queer and trans spaces. You may find your crushes become more varied when you have more options to crush on. Not that racism can’t happen in BIPOC spaces, but you’re less likely to have nagging anxiety around white supremacy. I know finding those spaces in a new place can be hard. If you are still seeking out your queer community, you can start small-ish. Join an online community. Follow more queer and trans Asian folks on social media. Attend a virtual meet-up. You’ll definitely make some new connections and, just maybe, find some new cuties to crush on.
When a woman posted a series of photos to social media of her fiancé and his best friend last week, she had little idea how they would strike a chord with so many.
“How hilarious is this session?” said Kait Lewis, who recently launched her photo portrait service: Honeybee’s Photography. “My fiancé’s bestie came to town so I jumped at the opportunity to capture their *unique* friendship!”
The two men are both straight and have known each other since eighth grade. Lewis’ fiancé, Devon, is the one with the beard.
The men were photographed wearing similar clothing, holding hands, and pouring beer into each other’s mouths. Lewis added a lighthearted suggestion that beer company Busch sponsor the photos.
Within a couple of days, the photos had prompted thousands of reactions and comments.
Most applauded the shoot.
“This is definitely hilarious and I love it,” said one well-liked comment. “Don’t get caught up in the haterade — you don’t need their money and they wouldn’t give it to you anyway. Well done!!! BFFs are well worth documenting and your shoot production is spot on.”
“This is amazing!” said another woman. “My husband and his best friend would totally take photos like this because… surprise! They love each other and are comfortable in their sexuality.”
Related: Father and son go viral dancing to ‘Frozen’: “This is what healthy masculinity looks like”
Some questioned why Lewis had added a ‘viewer discretion’ warning at the start of her post.
“I LOVE these photos!” said one gay man. “It’s important to show two men can have a friendship like this and it be completely okay. Disappointed in the “viewer discretion advised”. I saw that you said you’re a family-friendly business, but if this were a male-female couple, or two female friends the advisory wouldn’t be there. As a gay man, I’m disappointed because it only perpetuates male physical contact as inappropriate which encourages fragile masculinity and homophobia.”
Comments like this prompted Lewis to add a clarification to her original posting.
“The viewer discretion was added because I am a family-friendly photographer and the sexual posing and alcohol needed to be warned to AVOID offending people. It has nothing to do with the genders.
“Everybody’s interpretation on what is sexual and what is not is very different. TO ME, some of the photos are out of my normal comfort zone, and that’s all that matters. I stand by the advisory and will not be removing it. I wasn’t anticipating this post to reach 6,000,000+ people in a matter of 2 days.
“This photoshoot was meant for fun. His bestie lives five hours away and we only see him a few times a year. We wanted to have a good time while he was visiting.
“If you are offended by ANY of this (the photos or the caption), feel free to keep scrolling!”
Some people began to post their own photos of straight men hugging or showing affection to their besties.
Lewis is based in the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia. She told Queerty she’s only been taking photographs for the past month.
“My fiancé and I are having an elopement-style wedding on top of a Mesa in Utah, and in looking for a photographer of our own, it sparked an interest for me! A few years ago I bought a DSLR as an impulse Black Friday buy but I never used it until now. After 23 years of having absolutely no talent, I think I’ve finally found my niche.”
Related: Straight men share “gay” things they enjoy doing and you almost feel sorry for them
She says she met her fiancé a year and a half ago and, “fell in love immediately. We’ve since traveled most of the USA and plan to continue our life of travel for as long as we can. We have two dogs and a beautiful little home with a great view of the mountains. We just got engaged on June 12th, 2020, and are getting married on April 10th, 2021.”
She says she was “shocked” when the post went viral, but that she and her fiancé have enjoyed reading all the comments (over 13,000 at the time of writing). She believes it’s important to capture moments like this between friends and loved ones.
“I never anticipated so many people seeing Devon in daisy dukes. I mainly posted it to give our friends and family a good laugh. When the numbers kept rising and rising we were just in awe.
“We wanted to show that it’s perfectly okay to show intimacy with your best friend, regardless of your gender… and have a good laugh, because it was fun to do so!”
“Some objections of the photos included my caption in giving a “viewer discretion advised” warning. I have since edited my caption to explain the meaning behind this but I stood my ground, still believe it is necessary, and will not be removing it.
“People initially thought I added the advisory because the photos were of two men, which is not the case. I added the advisory because I am a family-friendly photographer. Some of the photos suggest oral sex positions, as well as include alcohol. I posted it to avoid offending anybody who may not want to view that. Since I’ve said this, people are still unhappy, saying that they don’t think some of the photos are sexual. To me, that is subjective … For the most part, the LGBTQ community has been so loving and supportive over the post.”
Unlike some photographers, Lewis also wanted to reassure people she’d be very happy to shoot same-sex couples and weddings.
“Absolutely!” she told Queerty. “People who refuse clients for any reason regarding who they love is beyond me. It’s baffling, disgusting, and downright ridiculous. The sex of the people getting married makes no difference to me.”
Let’s face it: We’ve all had a crush on a straight girl at some point in our life. Sure, sometimes we convince ourselves that she’s not really straight, or that we’ll be the exception, or any number of things we tell ourselves so we feel just a little bit better.
But, to be clear, if she tells you she’s straight… Most likely, she does identify as such, and pushing her to give you a chance is a jerk move even if she is questioning. Trust me. If she wanted to question things right now, she’ll ask – but until then, respect her identity.
All disclaimers aside, let’s move onto the 15 truths of falling for a straight girl, as told through Tumblr posts.
Cupid, can you just… Not?
Straight girls, can you just not either?
But, then again, we could be totally awesome together.
But, she’s probably going to wait until it’s too late.
And we’ll probably feel like this once we say it’s too late:
Maybe we’ll just be friends.
… or not.
“I’m so gay for you!” … Yeah, right.
It would be kinda funny, if it wasn’t also super sad.
Most of us have Googled “how to get over a straight girl.”
But this is what we end up doing instead:
Rest assured, you’re far from alone.
And it’s not really the straight girl’s fault (usually).
All in all, though, it’s best to avoid it as much as you can.
But you can’t, because life is cruel. No Tumblr for this one, just some cold-hard truth!