Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Best Supporting Queer

Knight, Harris outings a product of the times

This is one of many articles I've seen in just the last few days that turns the recent bevy of gay men in show business coming out of the closet and builds a trend story. But unlike this week's EW, which basically says, "Well, that's progress for you," this one questions where we're headed--and essentially questions the masculinity of its subjects. Just after calling the gay press bitchy, the article says:
Harris and Knight might appear to be challenging Hollywood's conventional wisdom that actors disclosing their homosexuality risk having their off-screen persona cloud audience perceptions of any roles they play onscreen. But a closer inspection of their current TV roles undercuts their significance.
Come on! T.R. Knight's character slept with Meredith Grey; Neil Patrick Harris's Barney has slept with every woman he could since How I Met Your Mother began last season. But the article dismisses the first as "one of the girls" and the second as "a caricature."

There is a point to all of this, though--one that annoys me even more:
Neither Harris nor Knight are in the mold of the traditional leading man, and that's a huge distinction. That type of role is predicated on an actor's sex appeal to the opposite gender. Absurd as it sounds, on some level viewers have to believe the object of their affection could somehow reciprocate their attraction.

Just imagine if "Grey's" resident heartthrob, Patrick Dempsey, who is not gay, had come out. Would McDreamy still be as popular, and would that affect the popularity of "Grey's?"
And it's hard not to grant the point. But the article goes on to imagine the day when a tabloid outs a "sexy lead actor." Will that dim his prospects?

I'm sure it's a valid question. But I'm equally sure that the writer of the article, Andrew Wallenstein, has a certain someone (or someones) in mind. He could probably rattle off a list of in-the-closet actors. Why is it OK for him to know, but not OK for us? And when will journalists stop accepting complicity in a lie?

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