Tuesday, 8 January 2008

An Very Good Point Mr Fry

"Actor Stephen Fry has lashed out at the way straight actors are praised for playing gay characters.


The QI host was speaking about the single status of his latest TV character solicitor-sleuth Peter Kingdom.

Fry, 50, said: "I think the fact that I'm so well known to be gay makes it very difficult to have a convincing relationship with a woman on screen.

"Straight actors can play gay people and they're rather congratulated on it. People say 'Ooh, how brave of you'."

But Fry, 50, added that no one says to a gay actor who plays a heterosexual person: "'How brave of you to kiss that woman, that must have been very difficult for you'."
He said: "It wouldn't be at all difficult for me to kiss a woman - I'll kiss a frog if you like. And why should it be difficult for a man to kiss another man?"

Fry added: "It's difficult to ride bareback backwards while unicycling, but to kiss someone isn't difficult."

As per usual, the genius that is Stephen Fry (can you believe he's only fifty?!), has made a very shrewd perception about the still unspoken perception in society about the way all things gay work.

For example (and the rather perceptive Hannah Mcelvenney picked up on this at the weekend) several months ago I bought a sandwich from a shop. When someone asked me where I bought it from, I told them. They replied with "Oh someone I know works there, he's gay, you'd probably like him." Because if two people are gay, they have no choice but to leap all over each other.

Another example, when people say "I can't believe you've never kissed a woman" or "Have you never fancied a woman?" ALL (read ALL) gay men have been asked this question at some time or another. My usual reply (if it's a guy) is: "Well, have you ever kissed a man?/Have you ever fancied another guy?" The answer is always a resolute no. So, if it's obvious that a straight man would never fancy another man, why isn't it similarly obvious that a gay man would never fancy another woman? (And the bi/curious people that are the exception to the rule fall into both catergories).

Here's another good one; the gay marriage debate. I find it laughable that any group of people in the straight community could have the nerve to say that two men or women getting married to one another in a private ceremony is an affront to the "sanctity" of the institution of marriage when they prostitute their "institution" on such fantastic shows such as Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?, Farmer Wants a Wife, The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, Joe Millionaire, Married by America, or Who Wants to Marry My Dad?

My point here is that despite having the beacon of "tolerance" shoved down our throats every single day, despite being told every day that we're a more diverse, celebratory society that loves and encompasses everyones differances, the truth is that it's just simply not true. The above anecdotes prove that.

It's not just homsexuality that falls victim to the quiet finger pointing of the 'They're Different' crowd. Take for example the vast amount of people who will say "I met this really nice ASIAN guy the other day." Do you ever hear anyone say "I met this really nice WHITE guy/I met this really nice guy with a broken arm" Why do you need to point out the ethnicity? How many times have I been introduced to people (behind my back) "That's Miles... He's gay." Why point out the gay thing? I don't introduce people as straight. I don't bring their sexuality into it (unless someones about to make a foolish pass at someone).

Think back to Stephen Fry's quote above. Would any white man ever get praised as being "brave" these days if they blacked up? I don't think so. Why do you hear praise for a guy kissing another guy then? Because sexuality is still the last great sociological taboo of our time. I bring up the black face example because we can see how far we've moved on from those depressing, unenlightened days, and I'm not saying that straight actors should never portray gay men, far from it. As the eminent Mr Fry pointed out, portraying a guy that fancies another guy, or kissing a member of the same sex is not difficult and is not brave. So why the hoopla?

Because there is still a very very quiet, unspoken bigotry that runs in society, gay people being the most high profile victim. However much people are told they are become more loving and tolerant and diverse they still do not agree with it. A lot of white people still see asians as different. A lot of straights still see gays as different. A lot of able bodied still see the handicapped as different. And they are, but only when you bother to pick that point out. How far we have come in fifty years; from segregation, through civil rights to society. Albeit a society that still points out the skin colour, sexuality or physical capability of minorities first, and then judges them as a human being second.

Gay people are the last major minority in society that has to battle with accepted prejudice on such a day to day basis. While ethnicities or the handicapped may see it flare up every now and then (the accepted racism agaist arabs following 9/11 or 7/7 springs to mind), homosexuals still get it on a constant basis; would you ever see someone say "Oh he's black he'll be just right for you" to a black woman? Would you ever see "The handicapped should not be allowed to marry" in a church newsletter? There would be uproar. But "disagreeing" with homosexuality is still tolerated. Would disagreeing with interracial marriage, or with disabled access to be buildings be tolerated? It's still okay to discriminate against gay people, because there are still enough public figures in society that openly stand against it. I don't want to turn this into a rant against religion, but that is a major cause, because it promotes the notion that homsexuality is a choice. It's not, and the science is on my side to prove this.

So what is my point? Mr Fry made an excellent one, but mine runs a little deeper. Mine is that while it is no more corageous for a straight man to play a gay man than it is for a gay man to play a straight man, it is the very idea that the majority pretending to be a part of the minority is corageous. It can be offensive, it can be contraversial, it can be funny. But it is not corageous. In fact, it is nothing. All it does is highlight that the quiet stance against the tolerance of diversity is still in effect. Remember, no matter what our masters in Government tell us, this is far from being an equal opportunity society. People still see colour, they still see physical capability, they still see gender and they still see sexuality. Courage doesn't come from pretending to be something you're not, courage comes from being who you truly are, whether it be gay, black, paraplegic or a bigot.

It's 2008, all the closets should be empty by now.

P.S. Why is it that when men are gay it's corageous or horrible, but when women do it it's just 'hot'?



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Eugene said...

You know what, it never did occur to me but now that you (and Mr Fry) have pointed it out I have to agree! Why does this work only one way? Why do straight guys win Oscars for playing gay men and pretty girls win Oscars for going plain and/or ugly?

Should white people who play black characters also be rewarded? Its not only biased, its ridiculous!