LGBTQ+ actors should be prioritized for LGBTQ+ roles

February 11, 2021 — by Chris Chen

Barry Glickman, played by James Corden in the trailer for Netflix show “The Prom” lifts his arm and sings.

 

From Kurt Hummel in the FOX show “Glee” to James Corden’s Barry Glickman in “Prom,” Hollywood is far from innocent when it comes to using token gay charcters to earn extra diversity points. In too many films, LGBTQ+ characters are caricatured to fit a limited definition of sexuality.

Thankfully, this practice is rightfully being denounced, and some productions, like the “Love, Simon” movie series or the TV show “Schitt’s Creek,” have started to prominently feature  LGBTQ+ characters who are not defined solely by their sexuality or gender identity. But with increased representation for these characters, a new question comes to light: Should such characters be played by actors who are LGBTQ+ in real life?

My take is that LGBTQ+ actors should be given priority for these roles. LGBTQ+ actors face discrimination in the industry and may not be able to find other roles, so they should be given LGBTQ+ roles to counteract these difficulties. Additionally, LGBTQ+ actors are more likely to give more genuine and three-dimensional renditions of LGBTQ+ characters than most cisgender actors.

Actors like Rupert Everett and Ryan Cassata have stated that after coming out, they have difficulty finding any roles. Everett, who is openly gay, advised career-minded actors to think twice before coming out.

“The fact is that you could not be, and still cannot be, a 25-year-old homosexual trying to make it in the British film business or the American film business or even the Italian film business,” he told the Guardian.

There’s clearly no shortage of available LGBTQ+ actors, given that they already struggle to find roles because of discrimination. It might seem problematic to favor them for LGBTQ+ roles, but considering the discrimination for them elsewhere in the industry, it’s a necessary step.

Additionally, Non-LGBTQ+ actors may not understand the difficulties LGBTQ+ people face and they may play into harmful stereotypes. Recently, critics panned James Corden’s performance as Barry Glickman in “The Prom” (a Netflix musical) as for playing a “typical” sassy and feminine gay man.

It’s not necessarily bad for a gay character to embody feminine traits or a lesbian character to embody masculine traits, but a lot of the criticism comes from not having any other character traits — the character is reduced to a trope, without any other nuance. 

These tropes create a skewed image of the community in general, and often a negative one. For instance, in some movies and TV shows, bisexual women are stereotyped as being overly sexual and hitting on everyone, and it’s resulted in the bizarre thought for that every bisexual is incapable of being monagamous.

LGBTQ+ actors are generally more cognizant of these issues and bring an understanding to the issues LGBTQ+ people face, something that straight actors cannot do without sufficient research.

Nevertheless, there are still great performances of those characters by straight and cis actors. For example, Nick Robinson’s portrayal of Simon Spier, a gay teenager, in “Love, Simon” was applauded as realistic, and the film was received well in general. As long as those actors make sure to research their roles properly and avoid stereotypes, I don’t think it’s problematic for them to perform those roles. After all, it’s like playing any other role — it’s not like actual wizards were hired for “Harry Potter.”

While diversity in the characters of movies and TV shows is a step in the right direction, diverse casts are important as well. It’s not necessarily wrong to have LGBTQ+ roles played by straight actors, but LGBTQ+ actors deserve to have their talent recognized and can provide more compelling portrayals based on their own experiences. 

 

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