Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Who plays us in the movies?

GayNZ.com, has put together a list of all the LGBT roles that were ever nominated for an Oscar. Now, we all know the Oscar's are...well, what they are. They are political (art is political) and not necessarily reflective of actual achievement. Anyway. It's interesting.

There are only two people on the list who I know to be out, both of whom are out gay men. Jaye Davidson (for his role as Dil in The Crying Game) and Ian McKellan (for his role in Gods and Monsters), and Jay was portraying a transwoman and not a gay man. So there seems to be a growing trend of non-LGBT identified actors playing LGBT roles (hmm, not so much B or T actually) and being nominated for their acting.

This is compounded with The L Word from two weeks ago (oh, don't even get me started!) where the character of Nikki Stevens said that playing "an ugly lesbian...or a retard" gets you an Oscar. The character proceeded to name Charlize Theron in Monster Sean Penn in I am Sam and Hillary Swank in Boys Don't Cry (where, in case the title didn't give it away...she plays a transman...not a lesbian).

But, despite the nastiness of her comment, it does ring true. Is it that to see a conventionally attractive actor whom we know to be straight go against grounds of cultural beauty and play a LGBT character we become convinced that the actor is really doing a good job as the transformation must be difficult? That they degraded themselves so deeply that we have to recognize it? Playing a character we know to be culturally different: being gay, being transgender, having a mental or cognitive disability seems to impress people - perhaps because non-LGBT/ally folks and able-bodied/minded people don't often see the intricacies of our lives and how normative they seem to us, contrasted with the imagined difficulty of outsiders.

This weekend, I read in the New York Times magazine a quote from Rupert Everett where he says (specifically in regards to MILK): "The paranoid moneymakers know that when the star goes to the first night with his wife, the public sees that. They’ll accept someone playing gay because they know he’s really straight."

On the flipside it seems that transgender actors have to play transgender roles (if they get a role at all). I haven't yet seen or known of a transgender person who played a man or a woman who didn't have a transgender history. I don't have a particular thought on this...I was just noticing the bombardment of discussion of LGBT representation recently.

3 comments:

nixwilliams said...

this is something i'd like to see more writing about! i've talked about the lack of trans actors in trans AND OTHER films with some people i'm interviewing for my PhD, but i haven't really seen any in-depth writing on the subject.

Mik Danger said...

Yeaaaaah...sorry! I don't have a lot of writing on it - but have you checked out stuff by Andrea James or Calpernia Adams? They run a transgender casting company - so maybe that might give you some resources?

туры в барселоне said...

In my view everybody must go through it.