Tag: Ramin Setoodeh

Playing Straight

by on May.09, 2010, under television

I wouldn’t have heard of this stupid, question-begging Newsweek article if Kristin Chenoweth’s skewering hadn’t lit up everyone’s Facebook page. Ramin Setoodeh argues that gay actors like Sean Hayes in the musical Promises, Promises and Jonathan Groff on Glee can’t convincingly play straight characters. Chenoweth writes in defense of her co-star Hayes, saying “yes he can” which is about all you can say to someone who, knowing that an actor carries the dreadful gay, can no longer suspend disbelief (what if he’d rather do me than little Kristin Chenoweth? Shudder). But the response still dignifies his argument far too much.

First, Groff on Glee. Speaking as a straight man experienced in the ways of high school musical theater, talented musical theater high school boys are pretty fucking queer. We haven’t quite learned the ways of conventional masculinity, which leaves us freer to express ourselves on stage but also never terribly persuasive as leading men. My h.s. drama apotheosis was playing Henry Higgins, who as an educated British man is queer enough. My other big lead role was as Nathan Detroit in Guys and Dolls, for which I played up my shrimpiness and probably put a little too much Yid inflection on So Sue Me. Frank Sinatra was a subtler Nathan. The romantic lead role, Sky Masterson, was played with much more convincing masculinity in that production by a boy who was out to a few friends even back in 10th grade.

Groff’s high school champion vocal stylist carries an ineluctable whiff of queer? We all did. Chalk a point for verisimilitude.

Missing from the article is any sense that a little queerness might give an actor some performance-inflecting insight into the crude construction of straightness. Missing is any nuance whatsoever into the last-legs binary of gay and straight at this fragile historical moment. America loves Glee, people. “Straight” is in decline. For the killing blow, look to the straightest man on television, How I Met Your Mother‘s Barney Stinson, played by America’s number one gay, Neil Patrick Harris. Harris’s Barney, a priapic epicure, is as much a straight man as the leads of Absolutely Fabulous were straight women.

This will be a hard lesson for the 27 members of Facebook’s Barney Stinson is NOT gay! group to learn. Their cri de coeur after the jump.

(continue reading…)

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