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“It is 1992. A young actor named Will Smith, already a famous rapper and sitcom star, is nervous about his first big film role, as a gay con artist in Six Degrees of Separation. It’s a part that requires him to kiss a man, so he calls his friend Denzel Washington, who tells him: “If you don’t feel comfortable about it, don’t do it.” (That’s Washington’s recollection. Less charitable reports have him telling Smith squarely: “Don’t you be kissing no man.”) In the finished film, there is no kiss – at least not in full view of the camera – and Smith later says he regrets not giving his all for fear that it would harm his career.
How times change. Now a successful heterosexual actor can swear off gay roles for an entirely different and apparently noble reason. Last weekend, Darren Criss took home a Golden Globe for his performance as the gay serial killer Andrew Cunanan in The Assassination of Gianni Versace. When he bagged an Emmy for the same part last year, he announced it would be his last gay role. Far from being homophobic, this was his attempt to open up opportunities for colleagues. Having played several LGBT characters, he was keen “to make sure I won’t be another straight boy taking a gay man’s role”.
His decision comes at a time when there is a groundswell of opinion proposing that such parts should be given only to actors who identify as LGBT. Some voices in the debate, understandably agitated by the news that Jack Whitehall has been cast as a camp gay man in Disney’s Jungle Cruise, have even used the term “gayface” to describe straight actors going gay for pay, echoing the “blackface” of Laurence Olivier in Othello or Alec Guinness in A Passage to India.”
JJ Editor's Daily Picks
"After five years of war with the Islamic State, the biggest problem for the winners is coping with the losers. The aftermath has produced one of the world’s most perplexing postwar challenges..."
"What do we mean when we say that the “soul of the city” is under threat? Often, it’s really about politics, nostalgia, and the fear of community change."
"...the pendulum of history never stops moving. Indeed, one of the few constants of history is unceasing change. While we seem to be heading in one direction, we must remember that there will surely be pauses, turns, and reversals."
""Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé," premiered early Wednesday and it was the fulfillment of all the ancestors' hopes and dreams. Beyoncé also dropped "Homecoming: The Live Album.""
"Seven in 10 adults ages 18 to 34 received financial support from their parents in the last year, including more than half of those in their early 30s. Almost three in five millennials said they couldn’t afford their lifestyles without the support."
"Social media influencers have helped turn public lands into tourist-infested swamps. And one cantankerous man is fighting back."
"One particular myth that attached itself to Ledger was that his death was somehow a result of immersing himself in the character of the Joker."
"In 2018, for the second year in a row, American publishers released fewer translated titles: 609 books were published, down from 650 in 2017 and the industry high in 2016 of 666."
"Egg freezing had become so routine among my single peers that when I hit 35, I never thought twice. Here’s what I wish I had known."
"When it comes to Passover cuisine, most home cooks know to avoid wheat, oats, rye, and other forbidden ingredients. But what consumers might not realize is just how much cotton they eat during the holiday."
"A masked figure looms over your recumbent body, wielding power tools and sharp metal instruments, doing things to your mouth you cannot see."
"Passover is a holiday that commemorates the Jewish people escaping slavery in Egypt. It is often referred to as the “festival of freedom.” My Passover in prison was at a place called the Wallkill Correctional Facility..."