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  • Topic: Gay and Transgender in the movies

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    • April 17, 2008 12:27 AM BST
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      Forgive me if this or a similar thread has been posted before because it does pose a rather obvious question. However, one I think worthy of consideration. Why are gay and tv/ts characters nearly always played by straight actors? The examples are obvious ones so I won't detail them here. But it does seem that the more overtly straight and masculine the actor is the more likely he is to be cast in a gay or transgender role. Just in case anyone may be uncertain as to the movies intentions. Indeed, even in TransAmerica the transsexual character was played by a biologically born female. Is this done out of fear, is it so that regardless of the story they are telling or where there sympathies may lay, they can in some way distance themselves from it, or is it so they can still continue to ridicule and laugh at the community they are producing a representation of? Or does it, as the movies so often do, accurately reflect societies attitude. Transgenderism and homosexuality in all its forms may be more open and in the public domain but is still considered little more than a freak show to be mocked, abused and feared.
    • April 17, 2008 8:24 AM BST
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      I don't believe it is that simple, Meredith. I don't doubt that the actor's involved find it both fun and a challenge to mince about in a dress and be as convincing as possible; and I'm sure in interviews they say all the right things. After all, they are hardly likely to say I hate queers and only did it for the money. But it is not the actors who cast the movie, find the money for its production, or have the responsibility for its distribution. You are right to point out that tg people regularly appear in films. But not as the lead character, and that's the point. They are often there to lend the credibility that the central casting lacks, as adornment, as a distraction, or as the focus for humour. This is even the case in the films of Pedro Almodovar, lauded as they are for there understanding of women, the result of a gay sensibility, apparently. After all, what was the selling point of To Wong Foo? That it was a fascinating insight into the lives of drag queens, their relationships, their loves, their hopes, their desires, in the form of a humorous road movie? Or merely the opportunity to see Patrick Swayze and Wesley Snipes camping it up in a dress? and it's safe because we know they are 100% heterosexual. As Anne says why can't a lesbian, a gay man, a transsexual play these roles. After all, it would be perfect casting. How many openly transvestite actors are there? To admit to such would be career threatening. Even those actors and actresses who have openly admitted to being gay have taken a great risk. That they will become more well known for their sexuality than admired for their work. There is no such thing as the limp wrist in an iron glove. And all this in supposedly liberal Hollywood.
    • April 17, 2008 9:59 AM BST
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      Porscha,

      Just as a slight deviation from the "core" of your thread, but which I think may have a relevance to your question about the casting of gay/TG actors/actresses in those roles.

      If you remember, when Jaye Davidson was nominated for an Oscar for the film "The Crying Game",
      at first, the selection committee couldn't decide whether the nomination should be for "Best Supporting Actor" or "Best Supporting Actress".
      They had 2 dilemmas to consider ...........................
      1. As Jaye Davidson was playing a girl (pre-op TG), was the part female or male?
      2. As Jaye Davidson would, at the time, neither confirm or deny, that he/she was Transgender, they didn't know whether to treat him/her as an actress or actor!

      Whilst I'm not saying that this is a factor in the thought processes of a Casting Director, it is an interesting "side-effect" of the situation.

      Hugs,
      Angela. xx.
    • April 17, 2008 5:15 PM BST
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      My two cents
      Porscha - In my humble opinion, I think you're perceiving a conspiracy which possibly exists but more than likely doesn't. If you hear the actors, directors and producer in interviews, there is so much going on to get a movie or stage show up and working that to nitpik over who's straight and who's not would be very minor.
      I've always been amazed about the newspeople getting excited when someone comes out ot the closet - or rather used to. Many actors and actresses now a days don't make a big deal over it and the public appears to understand that these people need to live their lives in their own fashion. That's excluding the nonsense magazines.

      Mere - it's surprising how many people can't read.
      hugs
      Gracie
      ____________________________________

      Gracie

    • April 17, 2008 6:34 PM BST
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      Porscha.
      I believe the main thrust of your question was why are well known (box office generating ) actors and acteesses used to play the various Gay/TG/TS roles. I would have thought the answer was obvious. That the studio bankrolling such a movie/film wants to ensure that it gets its money back from investing in said films.
      The result no doubt is that many who would not ordinarly consider going to see such films will do so because their favourite GUY is playing a role that they would not have expected to see him play.
      The reasons on top of that may be curiosity,inquisitivness etc.
      For the actors as has been mentioned they get to do something, a role that they would net get the chance to do often in their career so showing their versatility to casting directors.
      For the big studios they get a return on there investment so are more willing to consider deleoping and then putting into full production a fim touching on areas of society that the majority would most likely never encounter.
      To me it does not matter too much if some find it titilating,a laugh or even if they get to poke fun bu watching such films. What is important is such subject matter gets aired to the masses may get them talking about such issues may even get them sympathetic to certain sections of society they may not have known much about.
      If such films were not made by the big major studios who would make them ? the independants who may never get any major national screenings in any country. Another film left up in some archive some where.
      I wish I could remember the title of a film but one that was made by british film makers staring Julie walters and based on the true story of a city of london stock broker who was having issues about his gender think it was called "Gerald or Geraldine" was actualy very moving and delt with the subject in a non sensationalist way was just a very personal story that was given total dignaty and respect considering the subject matter.
      The more exposure given to such subject matter does lead to both greater exposure which leads to more discussions about such subjects between those who go and see the film.
      Once years ago I used to get upset at total misrepresentations in various fims TV dramas etc. Now I am not so sensitive about such Films and believe in the long term such exposure will lead to more films being made over time that move with the times and reflect societies aceptance of such diverse groups as Gay, Transvestites and transpeople. Just compare how such material is handled now compared to say the 40's when such subjects was in there for the humour factor.
      So I say long may the subject be covered in fims,TV,Plays,Novels biographies etc.
      If these subject matters was never covered or aired by such mass media (exclude the tabloids here please) we would still be underground undercover and bigger jokes than I see such communities now seen.
    • April 18, 2008 10:12 AM BST
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      Most of the points made here have been excellent and the arguments espoused entirely valid. I must state that I'm not remotely uptight about this neither do I perceive a deliberate conspiracy of exclusion. I do, however, think that the movie industry reflects societies attitudes, and it is that which is interesting. For example, would Brokeback Mountain have won the Oscar if the two leading actors had been openly gay, would it have got the publicity, would it have got worldwide distribution, would it have been made at all? Having heterosexual actors playing gay roles, masculine men playing transvestite and transgender characters etc removes the element of danger. The fact that people assume they know they are not really like that makes it acceptable to the public at large. Those many men ( and I know a few ) who went to watch Brokeback Mountain at the behest of their girlfriends and felt decidedly uncomfortable throughout, would never have gone at all if the actors had been gay. It would have been like watching pornography. We have famous cross-dressing characters here ( an integral part of British popular culture ) who are quick to deny that it is anything but an act. Though their personal history shows this to be otherwise. Because whilst the act is acceptable the reality is not, and that's the point really..
    • April 18, 2008 5:45 PM BST
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      HI All,
      Interesting thread. One thing that we need to remember. The movie industry is a high risk consumer industry, where a single film can go from 10's of millions of dollars to hundred's of millions of dollars to produce. That fact alone ends up filtering many decisions made in the business side of the movie industry, especially when attracting investment money. I'm glad that the industry is at least making films with characters who's gender orientation or sexual preference is different than society at large. As casting decisions are made, it is usually more about finding recognizable talent that has the skills to portray the Role AND has Box-office draw. Unfortunately this has a tendency to eliminate lesser known talent and Transgendered Actors/Actresses fall into this category (for now).

      A breath of fresh air is that the Independent Filmmakers ARE willing to take risks!!! My hope is that the Entertainment Industry, as a whole, expands its portraying of alternate lifestyles in a manner that is not a stereotype, but represents the real people nature of our community.

      Hugz,
      MichelleLynn



    • April 17, 2008 4:50 AM BST
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      There is a simple explanation for this - "straight" actors/actresses like to do these roles because of the challenges involved. Remember, these are artists and always looking for ways to expand their craft. Playing characters that society does not usually accept helps them to both understand us, and, as I said, to hone their craft. I have read interviews with actors that have said this specifically.

      By the way, there were TGs in "TransAmerica," including Calpernia Addams.
    • April 17, 2008 1:53 PM BST
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      I see your point, Porscha, but I also stand by mine. Actors are looking for new challenges. Take that recent film about Bob Dylan, and how many different actors/actresses portrayed him, including the great Cate Blanchett. Not using a TG person as the lead in "TransAmerica" didn't bother me as I thought Ms. Huffman did a great job.

      By the way "Wong Foo" was nothing but a remake of "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert." For some reason American film studios make "American" version of foreign films so as to market them better to U.S. moviegoers, only to find out that Americans would have preferred the original version. Unless in subtitles, of course. A lot of people don't like to read.
    • April 17, 2008 6:21 PM BST
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      Hi!

      Movies for the most part are fiction and aren't really meant to mirror real events or real people. Why aren't there transsexuals playing transsexuals? Well, one reason might be how many TS actors/actresses there are to cast in the first place. I guess not that many.
      Maybe transsexuals aren't portreyed in a way that reflects the every day TS but I also think that a lot of people can make the same argument. I don't think people base their entire view on other people based on what they see on TV. If they did, they'd think that:

      The average person working in a crime lab look like a supermodel, does car chases and shoots criminals a few times a week.
      The average african American is a criminal, selling drugs.
      There are aliens out there and most of them speak English.
      The biggest interest in a gay mans life is skin care and fashion and they all act like Carson in Fab5.
      The average doctor is under 30, saves 10 lives a day and has random sex with their colleagues, just like in Greys Anatomy.
      There average woman is under the age of 35 and wakes up in full makeup. If she IS over 35, she is likely evil.

      If they make a movie of an average day in a TS life (like today in my life) it would contain something like this:
      Wake up (after snoozing), have breakfast, get ready for work, go to 2 meetings, read e-mails, have lunch, go to another meeting, write document, shop for groceries, cook dinner, watch movie with BF, go to bed.... The End.
      Realistic? Oh absolutely! Blockbuster? Well, you decide.
    • April 18, 2008 7:22 PM BST
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      I may be in the minority here but I really don't care who plays the roles as long as they play them well. The movies are about entertainment and that is how I see them. For example, I love the Bond movies, and I don't give a hoot about realistic they are or aren't, I just want to enjoy a good film.

      If a TG/gay/lesbian actress or actor is right for the role then fine, but if not, give it to someone who can 'act' (since that is what it is all about) better and do more justice to the part.

      Nikki
      ____________________________________

      Nikki x

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