November 20, 2005

Acting Gay is the New Acting Ugly

Not long ago, the fast track to big shiny acting awards was "uglying up" for the camera.

Think Nicole Kidman, who was given a prosthetic nose and some plain shapeless clothing, which diminished her natural luminosity by .45%, and therefore increased her talent by 97%. Result? Oscar.

Think Charlize Theron, who gained 15 pounds and stopped touching up her roots to pass for Hollywood's version of ugly. Her reward? Oscar.

Now the hot trend is gay roles. Sort of a gimmick, some might say. The theory seems to be that nothing proves a performer's talent and dedication more than macking all over another a dude onscreen, especially when their natural orientation is trumpeted across the universe as anything but actually gay. Of course, this "brave" choice of roles is usually accompanied with a blaring PR campaign to remind the public that the actor in question is, in fact, unstoppably heterosexual. Ragingly, screamingly heterosexual.

Sort of like when Hilary Swank won her Oscar for "Boys Don't Cry" a few years ago, playing the transgendered Teena Brandon. The media blitz following her nomination and subsequent win was peppered with ultra-femme photos of the lovely actress, and some of the articles actually included the phrase "Hilary Swank, who is actually a woman," in case the moviegoing public was too naive to understand that an actor is not her character. It was lip gloss, fuzzy pink sweaters, and cleavage for Hilary for quite some time after that.

From the New York Times:
There has been an explosion of Oscar-baiting performances in which straight actors play gay, transvestite or transgender characters. Philip Seymour Hoffman melts into the role of the gay title character in "Capote," while Cillian Murphy plays a transvestite in 1970's Ireland in Neil Jordan's witty, endearing "Breakfast on Pluto." Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger play lovers in "Brokeback Mountain" (set to open Dec. 9), already better known as "the gay cowboy movie" and already a Letterman joke.