Monday, July 21, 2008

Gay Men and Soaps: The Actors

Lynn Liccardo and I had a brief exchange that actually veered briefly into the unpleasant...for which I am deeply apologetic.

She did a blog post in which she happened to mention that one long-standing actor on a soap was openly gay, and had been discussed as such in two celebrity autobiographies. A commenter on her website took her to task for the "outing", and promptly listed--unfounded--the names of other actors and actresses he thought were also GLBT.

I was upset, and said so on Usenet, because: (a) the actor Lynn spoke of has never (to my knowledge) given a public statement on his sexuality, and (b) letting that comment stand may have further outed a host of others.

Outing can be painful and injurious. While I wish we lived in a world where everyone just wanted us to have someone to love...and didn't care about the gender of that someone...we don't. There may be powerful consequences for outing.

But, here are a couple of interesting outcomes of the discussion:

(A) First, I was wrong to accuse Lynn of outing...since she has source material that put the material in the public domain...and I publically apologize;

(B) in the ensuing Usenet discussion, it became clear that MOST of the regular posters there were not aware of the actor's sexuality. Which raises the important reminder that "outing" is not an absolute concept, but a relative one. In the case of this actor, the autobiographies were likely read by a different audience than soap viewers.

I don't know what to do with that "relative outing" idea, except to urge caution to all of us. Before you spread the tale, make sure there is a need to spread it. In the end, what purpose is served? I haven't figured that out.

(C) I contributed to the outing (and likely continue to do so here--despite my attempt to be indirect--because some folks will now visit Lynn) by quoting the whole thing on Usenet. At this point, I'm putting this all out there because I'm interested in the opinions of others. Am I too hung up about this outing thing?

(D) Then, at the bottom of it all, I get angry. Why does this matter? Why is this an issue? Still? Will it ever NOT be an issue?


Anonymous said...

Thank you for broaching this topic. I believe that it is a really difficult one; one with no easy answers.

I was pretty much out for a large part of my adult life -- out in my neighborhood, at my job, etc. However, I moved to another area (and had never given it any thought whatsoever) and suddenly found myself back 'in' -- not because I made a real decision to be, but because that was the perception (of course, I chose not to rectify the situation with most people because I feel like sometimes it is a non-issue).

I also think that sometimes it is much more of an issue for the individual (me, in this case) than it is for those around us.

Just my two cents!

James said...

The soaps are about selling a fantasy. Romantic fantasy. Well, at least they used to be about selling romantic fantasies and should still be. They hire beautiful actors and actresses to play the parts that help feed the audiences fantasies.

And for better or worse, part of that fantasy (not just for soaps, but for movies too) is the belief that if by chance you were somehow to meet the actor/actress in real life, there might exist a possibility (even a tiny one) of a sexual encounter.

And since the majority of viewers are heterosexual, it is important that the actors project an image of heterosexuality. This is why actors go to such great lengths (including jumping up and down on sofas on talk shows) to convince people they are straight.

Why are people so obsessed with an actor's sexual orientation? Why waste that sexual fantasy energy if the actor is not sexually avaiable in real life?

Most gay actors can play straight characters very convincingly. However, not all of them can. Especialy the younger, less experienced ones. There tends to be a falseness, however slight, in their performances.

Viewers aren't dumb. They can tell if there's something false about a performance. And once they sense that falseness, they want to verify their perceptions.