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Newsweek's Setoodeh Responds to 'Straight Jacket' Backlash

As BroadwayWorld has previously reported, in a recent Newsweek article, Ramin Setoodeh posed the question: "Heterosexual actors play gay all the time. Why doesn't it ever work in reverse?" 

Setoodeh went on to state that Sean Hayes, currently starring in the Broadway revival of PROMISES, PROMISES, cannot come across as straight in the role. He writes "Hayes is among Hollywood's best verbal slapstickers, but his sexual orientation is part of who he is, and also part of his charm. (The fact that he only came out of the closet just before Promises was another one of those Ricky Martin-duh moments.) But frankly, it's weird seeing Hayes play straight. He comes off as wooden and insincere, like he's trying to hide something, which of course he is. Even the play's most hilarious scene, when Chuck tries to pick up a drunk woman at a bar, devolves into unintentional camp. Is it funny because of all the '60s-era one-liners, or because the woman is so drunk (and clueless) that she agrees to go home with a guy we all know is gay?"

The comments have drawn the wrath of many, including Hayes' PROMISES co-star Kristin Chenoweth, who authored a strongly worded response.  Writes the actress: "I was shocked on many levels to see Newsweek publishing Ramin Setoodeh's horrendously homophobic "Straight Jacket," which argues that gay actors are simply unfit to play straight. From where I stand, on stage, with Hayes, every night -- I've observed nothing "wooden" or "weird" in his performance, nor have I noticed the seemingly unwieldy presence of a "pink elephant" in the Broadway Theater."

 Cheyenne Jackson and Michael Urie - openly gay actors themselves - weighed in at a Temperamentals Talk back, afterelton.com reported, calling Setoodeh an outright "asshole" and "unconscionable."

Said Jackson, "It was infuriating on so many levels. Not only does [Setoodeh] say that a gay man can't play straight, he got personal, picking on Sean Hayes in Promises, Promises, [pointing out] certain scenes where he thinks [Sean] is stiff and uncomfortable...It was very veiled self-loathing. Really upsetting...Everytime we go forward, some asshole like this takes us back a bit." 

Added Urie: "We're all actors, and the audiences get it. When I saw Sean Hayes in Promises, Promises, it was a full house and everyone was completely in love with him...And to attack, to quote Ugly Betty, someone [like Groff] recently 'hatched from the gay egg' is unconscionable and he should strung [up]. [Groff] made everyone want him in Spring Awakening. And Cheyenne was f*cking Elvis in All Shook Up. He was sexy and hot. He's always playing straight. And people buy tickets to see him. No straight critics accuse Sean Penn of not being able to play Harvey Milk or [criticize] Tom Hanks in Philadelphia."

Setoodeh has just released a response on Newsweek.com in defense of his original article:

"I wrote an essay in the May 10 issue of NEWSWEEK called "Straight Jacket" examining why, as a society, it's often hard for us to accept an openly gay actor playing a straight character. You can disagree with me if you like, but when was the last time you saw a movie starring a gay actor? The point of my essay was not to disparage my own community, but to examine an issue that is being swept under the rug...

But what all this scrutiny seemed to miss was my essay's point: if an actor of the stature of George Clooney came out of the closet today, would we still accept him as a heterosexual leading man?...

I realize this is a complicated subject matter, but the Internet sometimes has a way of oversimplfying things. My article became a straw man for homophobia and hurt in the world. If you were pro-gay, you were anti-NEWSWEEK. Chenoweth's argument that gay youth need gay role models is true, but that's not what I was talking about. I was sharing my honest impression about a play that I saw. If you don't agree with me, I'm more than happy to hear opposing viewpoints. But I was hoping to start a dialogue that would be thoughtful-not to become a target for people who twisted my words. I'm not a conservative writer with an antigay agenda. I don't hate gay people or myself."

To read his full remarks in Newsweek, click here.

 

Photo Credit: Walter McBride/Retna Ltd.



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