Newsweek's Article on Gay Actors Raises Hell in Hollywood

Newsweek story about Sean Hayes, "Glee's" Jonathan Groff, raises hackles.

May 12, 2010 — -- It's 2010. Celebrities are coming out of the closet left and right. Over the span of a few weeks, Ricky Martin, Chely Wright and Anna Paquin declared themselves as gay, lesbian and bisexual, respectively, and the entertainment-watching world barely batted an eye.

But late last month, one writer broached a question that brought the gay vs. straight in Hollywood debate back to the 1950s: Can an openly gay actor convincingly play a straight role?

Ramin Setoodeh has raised hell with his Newsweek article that argues that the answer to the above question is a sound no. "While it's OK for straight actors to play gay (as Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger did in "Brokeback Mountain"), it's rare for someone to pull off the trick in reverse," Setoodeh wrote, calling gay actor Sean Hayes' portrayal of a straight ad man in Broadway's "Promises, Promises" "wooden and insincere," and gay Broadway star Jonathan Groff's turn as a straight glee club leader on Fox's "Glee" "so distracting."

Kristin Chenoweth shot back at Setoodeh, who is openly gay, in a letter to Newsweek, calling his article "horrendously homophobic." (Read her full post here.)

Tuesday, "Glee" creator Ryan Murphy jumped into the fight, asking for fans to boycott Newsweek until the magazine issues an apology for Setoodeh's article. (Setoodeh, for his part, responded to the criticism in a follow-up article Monday in which he maintained that "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?")

Below, check out Murphy's open letter calling for a boycott of Newsweek:

I would like to join my good friend Kristin Chenoweth on her condemnation of a recent Newsweek article written by Mr. Ramin Setoodeh, in which Setoodeh basically says that out gay actors should go back into the closet and never attempt to play straight characters. This article is as misguided as it is shocking and hurtful. It shocks me because Mr. Setoodeh is himself gay. But what is the most shocking of all is that Newsweek went ahead and published such a blatantly homophobic article in the first place…and has remained silent in the face of ongoing (and justified) criticism. Would the magazine have published an article where the author makes a thesis statement that minority actors should only be allowed and encouraged to play domestics? I think not.

Today, I have asked GLAAD president Jarrett Barrios to stand with me and others and ask for an immediate boycott of Newsweek magazine until an apology is issued to Sean Hayes and other brave out actors who were cruelly singled out in this damaging, needlessly cruel, and mind-blowingly bigoted piece. An apology should also be issued to all gay readers of the magazine…steelworkers, parents, accountants, doctors, etc…proud hardworking Americans who, if this article is to be believed, should only identify themselves as "queeny" people (a word used by Setoodeh in the article) who stand at the back of the bus and embrace an outdated decades old stereotype.

Mr. Setoodeh has recently Twittered that he is a fan of Glee, the show I co-created with Ian Brennan and Brad Falchuk…the show on which Mr. Groff plays the straight love interest to Lea Michele, a casting choice embraced by fans and critics alike which Mr. Setoodeh has taken issue with.

I extend an open invitation to Mr. Setoodeh to come to the writers room of our show, and perhaps pay a set visit. Hopefully then he can see how we take care to do a show about inclusiveness…a show that encourages all viewers no matter what their sexual orientation to go after their hopes and dreams and not be pigeonholed by dated and harmful rhetoric…rhetoric he sadly spews and believes in. Hopefully, some of the love we attempt to spread will rub off on Mr. Setoodeh — a gay man deeply in need of some education — and he not only apologizes to those he has deeply offended but pauses before he picks up his poison pen again to work through the issues of his own self loathing. Give me a call, Ramin…I'd love to hear from you. I'll even give you a free copy of our Madonna CD, on which we cover "Open Your Heart," a song you should play in your house and car on repeat.


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