Entertainment Mindset

Is It Okay For Straight Actors To Play Queer Characters?

Is It Okay For Straight Actors To Play Queer Characters?
Cate Blanchett as Carol

The recent push to increase the visibility of LGBTQA+ characters in film and television. It has been a popular topic among many critics, with emotions running high on both sides. Some argue that casting straight actors in queer roles is “heteronormative”. While others argue that it is offensive to straight actors who want to be part of this movement.

Therefore, this blog post will explore these two points of view. And provide an overview of whether or not they can co-exist peacefully.

boy smiling in poster
Nick Robinson in Love, Simon

It’s not easy being queer on screen. It doesn’t matter what you portray, there will always be those who have strong and distressing opinions about how you ought to “really” be.

To many, straight actors playing queer characters on-screen is an example of a cis man appropriating a “queer” role. But for others, who do not have any specific problem with the character as a whole, may simply ignore the character’s queerness if they see that it doesn’t affect their enjoyment of the film.

Carol and Controversy

This dilemma has been highlighted by many recent controversies. They are surrounding popular movies that feature actors portraying queer characters. For example, many viewers were angered by the casting of straight actors in the 2016 film “Carol”. Carol a biographical drama about lesbian artist Carol Atherton.

two woman sitting on the floor behind table
Carol- Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara

Many critics have argued that it’s offensive to queer people to see straight men portraying queer characters. The claim is that they are often portrayed with unflattering stereotypes. The characters center on “queerness as deviance and perversion.”

As opposed to letting LGBTQA+ people showcase their true identities. And, in a way that is authentic and respectful of their identities. These critics claim that these films often cast straight men in the role of “perverse queers” for the sake of being controversial. Rather than just because it is an opportunity for a unique portrayal.

The controversy surrounding “Carol” has drawn some lines in Hollywood. According to Gus Van Sant in an op-ed for the New York Times, only out gay actors should portray queer characters. Van Sant goes on to explain that using straight or closeted actors instead of openly gay ones is “an insult” to the larger community.

However, he also argues that if an actor is out, it should not matter whether or not they are playing a role as a queer person. The only exception should be if the character’s queerness is a part of their identity in the film.

So as long as the actors are respectful in playing the characters, we think that actors playing queer characters are okay. But as filmmaker Gus Van Sant said, queerness has to be a part of the character and their identity.

Also read: 7 Queer Black American Performers You Should Know