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The Problem With Gay Actors For Gay Characters

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Russell Davies is getting rather with it and hip in a dangerous manner here:

Gay roles should be given to gay actors, Russell T Davies has said, on the same basis that “you wouldn’t black someone up” in 2020.

Let us reserve certain roles for people with certain characteristics. Match roles and characteristics. Well, what’s the effect of doing that? If gay roles are to be played only by gay characters then clearly het characters should only be played by het actors. Sauces for geese and ganders after all.

Or, we can go to that more detailed argument being used here:

The gay characters are played by gay actors, and Davies said that was the only way to guarantee authentic performances.

He told Radio Times: “I’m not being woke about this… but I feel strongly that if I cast someone in a story, I am casting them to act as a lover, or an enemy, or someone on drugs or a criminal or a saint… they are not there to ‘act gay’ because ‘acting gay’ is a bunch of codes for a performance.

OK, something about being gay means that only those who are can portray being gay. But this then carries over to that reverse as well. If we’re arguing that the innate characteristic is necessary to be able to portray it then that’s true of people who prefer front bottom activity too. Gay actors may not play straight characters.

Which, given the variance between the preferences of the acting profession and the character set usually portrayed is going to leave an awful lot of gay actors resting by waiting tables.

This is the same as those insistences by trans activists. If trans roles can or should only be played by those who are trans then cis characters can only or may be played by those cis. Which does rather back those trans actors into something of a niche, doesn’t it?

We’ve even seen this in books. Writers may only write about – should – their own lived experience. Whites should not write about being Hispanic being one recent example. Shrug – but that means that anyone Hispanic cannot write about the white experience. And so on and on.

It does seem weird that the same people shouting about bakers and wedding cakes wish to make a much greater distinction on the same grounds.

This seems the only reasonable response to such demands:

In Cucumber, Davies’s acclaimed 2015 series exploring gay life in Britain, the lead character was played by Vincent Franklin, a straight man.

In an interview at the time, Franklin referred to his previous role in political satire The Thick of It and said: “I played a Tory party spin doctor for five years and nobody said to me, are you really a Tory? But as soon as you play a gay character, people want to know if you’re really gay. It’s all just acting. What I do is pretending to be other people. They’re never me.”

Quite so.

Think on it. Davies has written a bunch of stuff, a goodly portion exploring that gay experience. OK, that’s fine, by the standards he’s putting forward here. But he’s also done a lot of Dr. Who. A strict adherence to Davies’ rules, as expressed, would mean that he shouldn’t have done that. Tsk.

But then that’s not what he does actually mean, is it? Nor any of the other people shouting about this issue. It’s always more niches and privileges for me but don’t you go asking for the same.

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11 COMMENTS

  1. So complete and utter cwnts should only be played by complete and utter cwnts, to scripts written by – well, you know.

    Sums up the theatrical profession nicely, don’t you think? Especially on the BBC.

  2. It will mean that any drama with murders will have difficult recruiting. Or will we let people who have not killed anyone play the part of the murderer?

    • Pity Leslie Grantham isn’t with us any more – he’d be the busiest actor on TV.

      If we’re really striving for authenticity, we should only be using real dead people to play the part of the victim – for that real dead-experience.

  3. If gay men can’t play straight parts, that’s music theatre pretty much dead in the water. (Who said “Good”?)

    On the positive side, I’ll never be asked to play Hamlet, because I’m not a Danish prince.

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