20 thoughts on “ETHS 63 St. Joan of Idiot”

  1. How ridiculously pc to want gay roles played by gay actors! The majority of actors happens to be straight (or so they say), so for every role there will naturally be more straight contenders. Why not pick the best actor for the role? We would’ve missed Philip Seymour Hoffman as Truman Capote, for instance. In cases of other minority groups you get similar discrepancies. Should Borat be played by a real Kazachstanian actor instead of Sacha Baron Cohen? Was it disappointing that Ben Kingsley played Gandhi? Should Poirot be played by a real Belgium? Should all non-Italian Americans feel guilty about playing maffia roles? Does it really matter in any way that Columbo was played by a jew?
    No. Not at all. The quality of the acting does. Think about it.

  2. I’m stuggling to see the point in having people only play roles that corespond to their own sexuality.
    The essential role of an actor is the play the role of someone that is different in some way to themselves, if not then they’re not acting, they’re taking part in a documentary.
    The gay art scene is quite a closed-looped self-mastabatory thing, there’s are lots of art produced within it that’s put on show that can’t hold a candle to the art produced by the other 90ish% of the population.

    There are many goodgay actors, and there are many good straight actors. As the greater proportionof people are straight, if you put all good actors into a bag, randomly pluck one out then they’ll likely be a good actor, and will be straight, simply because ther are more straight actors in the bag.

    This real-life number imbalance means that the greatest actors will likely be straight, not because they’re straight, they’re great because they’re great, it’s because there are simply more straight people in the world than gay ones.

    If there’s a great story, and that great story needs to be told, that story can be best told by the greatest actors. There’s roughly a 90% chance those actors will be straight. Why hold back 80% of great actors from doing a great job simply because they were born with they the wrong sexuality?

    What next, men are going to be forced to stop playing women untillthey have their gender re-asigned?


  3. Madge said that her tranny barber friend illumined her about the issue of selfish voting. When her friend saw the old money bags talking about voting merely for the safety of their money, she realized they were selfish. Then she realized that gay people voting differently because of a difference in views, was equally selfish or similarly selfish.

    I disagree, because when the old money bags are voting they’re voting for their own gain. certainly, and obviously so; admittedly so. But it isn’t as obvious that a gay person is voting for their own benefit, although our rights may go up, that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re going to be in a better situation concerning friends, family, or discrimination. Furthermore, I think that it’s easy to see that voting for equality for ourselves is not a practice of selfishness, but a practice of elevating a virtue; a principle that goes beyond any one’s needs &/or desires.

  4. I don’t care if a straight actor plays a gay role – as long as he is hot 🙂
    But I can see both sides. A big name will get big attention AND Harvey Milk should have been played by a gay actor (out of emotional reasons for me) – but, after all, are we so sure about Mr. Penn’s preferences? ! 🙂 I am still in doubt about Jake and Heath – that kissing in Brokeback Mountain was pretty convincing to me 🙂

    I agree, voting for Barr, McKinney or Nader may be more congruent with your beliefs than voting for Obama – but realistically in the end it will only help McCain and Palin.

    Oh dear – I guess we have to accept a lot of things for the greater good, or better said, to avoid the worst.

  5. Wowie, I actually side with Auntie Vera on an issue! (much Love to Vera, especially “black” Vera) It is definitely much more important to have the story of Harvey Milk told in such a way that it elevates public awareness. I think I would feel differently if there were an out, gay, actor with star-power coming to my mind for the role, but as it stands I think Penn could probably pull it off and expand the audience.

    The story of Harvey Milk was something I stumbled onto online at a time when I was a young, depressed, closetted person coming to terms with my identity. Though I am a stone-cold agnostic for life, the particular article I read literally changed me forever and though I cringe to use the terms, it actually felt like an epiphany or divine intervention. Ug, it sticks in the throat.

    Anywho, w/o wanting to sound like a complete flake, I will say that it felt like an excerpt from Harvey’s tape recorded will, featured in the article, was a clear communication from the universe, assuring me that regardless of what my future held, things were going to be OK.

    That knowledge has been with me ever since and has made me the confident and happy person that I am today. I’m thrilled that this movie will be made. I hope that this story can reach others, gay/straight or whatever and impact our society with just a shred of the force that reading that article (written by a man named Bruce Mirken btw) had on my life.

    I guess my point is that yes, it is unfair and unfortunate that no one will care that the role will be played by a straight actor. Just like it is unfair and unfortunate that obama/biden will pander to small minded americans and deny equality in marriage just to win votes. These are the baby steps of progress and this queen will take what he can get.

    So much Love ladies, thanks for the great podcasts!


  6. There are a lot of good indie films about gay life that are very touching, and I’m not sure those films are playe by all gay people. But there’s a big element to it. It’s appreciated.

    My thoughts go to the Sean Penn and how he can connect to this character, and how acting gay is perceived. How does he as a straight actor connect, relate and envision Milk. The character is going through a straight persons filter. Futhermore, the way that ‘playing gay’ is handled in Hollywood as a gimmic or a easy street to an award is strange. There’s always horrendous coverage on how the guys say, kissing a dude was icky, I had trouble touching, I watched a gay threeway and it was weird, I made out for 15 minutes with a guy. Doesn’t that kind of spirit overshadow the message? Despite the meaingful script, isn’t the last thought at the end of the movie a little tainted?

    Also, some theory: when acting is an actor copying what gay people do, actions, words? Or becoming (being) gay? A straight man doing what he sees gay people doing. As opposed to a gay actor being the role… just some thoughts.

  7. I’d like to know your opinions, ladies:
    Is it as upsetting to you to see a gay actor playing a straight character?

    I feel that if you’re going to be alarmed at seeing a straight man portray a gay man, it ought to be equally alarming to see the roles reversed.

    Maybe I’m way off the mark here, but I would never even consider taking Neil Patrick Harris aside on the set of How I Met Your Mother and saying that he should’ve left that role to a straight man. That would be, to me, entirely homophobic – to assume that someone’s sexuality negatively affects their capacity to do something. I understand that How I Met Your Mother is so far below the scope of “Milk” and am only loosely drawing upon that for a comparison, but it just seems to me that what’s good for the goose ought to be good for the gander here, and it’s just plain not.


    That being said, wonderful show. I can always count on you grandiose gaggle of gays to get my proverbial gears a-turnin’ (PALIN MOMENT!) , and I’m truly grateful for that.

    All the best,

  8. Hello… Thanks for the mention, Madge. Wrong gender & coast; V.V. is male and in Massachusetts; not a pastor – I’ve worked in HIV since ’99.

    Scary that PEP and nPEP aren’t as well known, particularly in LGBT community. This goes to show just how much more work on Prevention & Education needs to be done.

    On other news… Did you hear that another former Goldman Sachs exec has been tapped to head up the Office of Financial Security (OFS); this department will have the responsibility to manage the $700 bailout plan.

    And… A day after the news broke about the $400,000 lavish resort trip to California by AIG, the feds are preparing to give the company another loan to keep it out of bankruptcy.

    Apparently there are no consequences for such reprehensible behavior.

  9. I had the EXACT same response to Biden and Palin talking about gay marriage. I felt like I was in high school again and getting kicked around while everyone watched with no remorse. It was quite painful.

    BUT, I know that I have to look at the big picture here, and obviously voting for Obama “wouldn’t hurt”, while not voting for him certainly could. I can’t imagine how fucked we would be with a McCain Admin.

    But that doesn’t matter anyway.

    Barrack will win.

  10. I agreed with Auntie Vera on this one and thought Madge and Wanda were being selfish and narrow-minded. Expecting gay actors to play gay characters is type-casting. Plus, it’s unfair to second guess a director as skilled as Gus Van Zant. He has never shied away from controversy in the interest of commercial success. I think he would have cast a gay actor if he knew of one who could play Harvey Milk more convincingly than Sean Penn. It is demeaning to Mr. Penn to implay that he is not “entitled” to play this role. This is not the same as Black actors playing Black characters. In that case, having the appropriate physical appearance is crucial to credibility. I agree that Gay is the new Black, but race and sexuality are just not the same issue, in spite of their similar social justice implications.

  11. THANK YOU, Madge, Wanda and Vera for a wonderful and thoughtful discussion. I was really moved by the conclusion that sometimes it’s best to think of the big picture, the forest for the trees, and not think TOO selfishly about having one’s way ALL the time. There’s no possible way any candidate would satisfy all our opinions and positions and any actor would perfectly reflect reality. I personally wear teeth guards at night so I don’t grind my teeth to stumps due to the frustration I feel sometimes with the world.

  12. I think some of you may be missing the point. I don’t want to speak for anyone else, so I’ll stick to my personal feelings about the subject. I advocate gay actors playing gay roles, but my advocation has nothing to do with a gay or straight person’s _ability_ to play a part. Straight people have convincingly played gay roles for quite some time. Overwhelmingly, straight actors (or at least presumably heterosexual actors) are awarded gay parts.

    My fear is that Hollywood brass believe gay men are “unbelievable” in straight roles. As a result, coming out of the closet tends to ruin mainstream careers. There are exceptions to the rule, but those exceptions are few and far between. NPH and GA’s Knight, for example, enjoy mainstream success but came out of the closet after their show shows were hits and “picked up” for additional seasons.

    Two points to consider:

    1) I am an advocate of gay men playing gay parts, because most Hollywood producers, directors, and casting agents discriminate against gay men. This discrimination is perpetuated by 2 myths. First, gay men aren’t “believable” in straight roles. Second, gay men don’t have box office mojo. I think most in this forum would agree that the first myth is a crock of shit. The latter argument is self-perpetuating and won’t be challenged until more gay actors are given parts and famous, closeted gay actors have the strength to come out of the closet.

    2) A previous poster intimated that the pool of straight actors is much larger, so, naturally, more straight actors are cast in big roles. I think the pool of viable straight actors has more to do with industry discrimination than it has to do with talent. Broadway, for instance, is much less discriminatory in terms of gay talent, and, not surprisingly, the supply of gay and out actors is more visible in New York.

    Calling for gay talent to play gay parts, for me, is a call for the gay community to ask Hollywood producers, directors, and casting agents questions about their casting practices. We live in an age when gay people are not afforded the same opportunities of representation as straight men and women. This discrimination is prevalent in diverse cultural arenas, ranging from Hollywood to U.S. history that involves gay themes (i.e., Stonewall) being labeled as “gay history” and vilified and dismissed as “gay indoctrination.” In this VERY SPECIFIC moment in U.S. history, gay men and women deserve representations of gay people that are grounded in and have an investment in self.

    It saddens me that many of the smart, brilliant minds who comment in this forum (and I say that will all sincerity) would rather defend Hollywood’s discriminatory behaviors.

    Sean Penn is great! He’ll make a riveting Milk; and Hoffman made a fantastic Capote; Huffman, a wonderful trans woman; Swayze, Leguizamo, and Snipes made glorious drag queens; Kinnear embodied a heartbreaking and moving gay man; Kline acted a convincing queen; Williams, a hilarious butch; Ledger and Gyllenhal (sp?), soul-crushing and ill-fated lovers; Swank, a convincing trans man; McCormack tickled me with his Will Truman; Hanks won Gold for his Beckett; Theron kissed Oscar for her psycho lesbian.

    My issue has nothing to do with talent; my fears are a response to an almost categorical denial of gay ability in an industry that has no problem exploiting gay history and public figures to make a quick buck.

    When the playing field is level or at least a bit more equitable, I’ll happily and wholeheartedly agree that the most talented actor should win the day. Until then, I encourage some of you to share the “talented actor wins the part” reasoning with one of the many outrageously gay actors who is routinely denied roles because of his or her sexual identity.



  13. Regan: If you want to have it mandated that only gay actors can play gay parts, then you must accept the reciprocal of that argument which is that only straight actors can play straight parts. This ridiculous situation would then greatly reduce the acting prospects for gay actors.

    Vera is right – it shouldn’t matter who plays the role so long as they are credible in the part.

  14. Completely disagreed with Wanda and Madge regarding the acting discussion. Totally agreed with Vera.
    But completely and totally agree with what Ragan wrote above.
    The thing is that much of what Ragan stated was never discussed in this episode. If it had been, I think everyone would be in agreeance. So as far as this show went, Wanda and Madge lost the debate and Vera is the winner. She’s like the New Sarah Palin! Vera for VP! Just leave Eve alone!

  15. Cygnet,

    I don’t advocate a mandate. I call for gay people to ask tough questions of Hollywood power players. I ask that we encourage producers, directors, and casting agents to be more self-reflexive in their decisions regarding gay talent (of a lack of it) on their sets. If the current cultural moment were one of reciprocity, I’d buy your argument. I 100% agree with your point that the most credible actor should play the role. As I said in my initial post, I encourage you to share that sentiment with the thousands of TREMENDOUSLY talented gay men and women who are routinely denied roles because of their sexual identity.

    History has shown us that discriminatory practices call for interventions to “level the playing field.” I ask that we look closely at the specific moment in history in which we are embedded. We are in the midst of a civil rights movement that is premised on visibility and identity politics. To ignore or, worse, justify discrimination of gay actors in Hollywood does nothing to push our movement forward.

    Again: I’m not saying only gay actors can play gay parts. I’m simply calling attention to an almost categorical denial of gay acting talent in Hollywood, Moreover, exceptions to the rule (i.e., McKellan in Lord of the Rings) don’t minimize the import of systemic homophobia.

    We can both support gay-themed movies AND ask complex questions of Hollywood. The positions aren’t mutually exclusive.

    I hope this post clarified my position, Cygnet.



  16. I really like Ragan’s second comment on this — that the two arguments are not mutually exclusive.

    I think we can be pleased that stories like “Brokeback Mountain” and “Harvey Milk” are getting told in ways that reach lots of people — and make no mistake, hearts and minds were changed by “Brokeback” and probably will be changed by “Milk” — in spite of the fact that straight actors are playing gay roles. But we can also challenge the overall decisions that continue a system that discriminates against gay talent in a broader sense.

    Given that there is a lot of closeted talent in Hollywood, I think — like in many other aspects of our society — that coming out, individually, will make a huge difference. In some ways its a “chicken-and-egg” problem. More out actors would prove that you can be out and be a box office draw, but actors are afraid to come out because they are afraid of not getting work because of the system that is in place.

    I believe once a “critical mass” of out actors is reached, the discrimination will fall. And I think that time is coming.

  17. Yes, there is defenitely a lot of homophobia in Hollywood, but I don’t think it makes sense to advocate gay roles being played by gay actors just because of that. The logic just isn’t there. It’s a red herring (sorry, Ragan). Like treating a viral infection with antibiotics, the intention is good, but it doesn’t solve anything in the end. It might even complicate things more, as it could be quite stigmatising in practice.
    To tackle discrimination, to be critical, to address the facts and figures of this inequality, yes, that would work. The focus shouldn’t be on gay actors portraying gay characters, but on gay actors portraying ANY character, and be comfortably gay at the same time.

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