Movies.uk.msn.comBeing Gay : Hollywood’s Biggest Taboo ? (buffy mention)
Friday 30 March 2007, by Webmaster
Hollywood legend Rock Hudson: tall, dark, handsome, muscular. One of the last major stars under the old studio system; every woman’s fantasy in the 1950s and 60s thanks to his beefcake physique and romantic leading roles. And so far in the closet, he could have had tea with Mr Tumnus in Narnia.
Unless you were around in 1985, it’s impossible to convey the shock felt on both sides of the Atlantic when Rock Hudson issued a press release announcing that he was dying from AIDS and that he was gay. Cue stupefaction from a public struggling to take it all in. Rock Hudson...gay? But he was one of the guys! But he had been married! But he was a ladies’ man! But he was always chasing skirt! But women loved him!
Never an actor of Oscar-winning calibre, Rock Hudson’s best performance was off-screen, living a 40-year lie as a straight man. The film industry, of course, was fully aware of his sexuality; it had been an open secret for decades. He died on October 2, 1985; outed not by choice, but by illness.
In the 20-plus years since his death, we’ve seen amazing innovations such as DNA fingerprinting, the mobile phone, the internet, the MP3 player and CGI. Culturally and socially, Halle Berry became the first black woman to win the Best Actress Oscar; Sushmita Sen was India’s first Miss Universe in 1994, and a glut of gay-themed TV shows and films hit the mainstream: My So-Called Life, Bound, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, My Own Private Idaho, Will And Grace, Capote, Queer As Folk, Philadelphia, The L Word, Brokeback Mountain...
It would be tempting to assume that we, as a society, have moved forward. For the most part, we have. In all areas save one; Hollywood’s gay A-list movie stars, especially the male ones, are still in the closet. And they’re not budging unless dragged out kicking and screaming.
Personally, I don’t blame them. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that if they can get away with it, and if they prefer to, they should remain there. Why expose their private lives and potentially ruin hard-earned careers for a world that still struggles to wholly accept them?
"If you’re an actor it’s very important that you appear to be heterosexual, because that’s the majority of this country [America]," said Jill Abrams, a producer for CNN’s Showbiz Today. "That’s where the dollars are coming from." It’s an opinion that could’ve come right out of Hollywood’s golden age rather than the ’liberal’ late 1990s, but it’s a view shared throughout an industry built on fantasy. In the same way that it would take a huge suspension of disbelief to accept Woody Allen as a heroic action hero, audiences just might not be able to find it in them to buy an openly gay star rolling around on a bed with someone of the opposite sex - bang goes the career.
Despite more gay storylines on TV series (there’s even been a gay mobster on The Sopranos - gasp!) and an increasing array of straight movie stars playing gay characters (Tom Hanks, Russell Crowe and Charlize Theron, to name a few), the climate that would allow major A-list American stars to be open about their sexual preference still doesn’t exist; it’s a sad fact that Hollywood’s last great taboo is alive and well. And so is the closet.
Conversely, Brits such as Sir Ian McKellen, Rupert Everett and Alan Cumming are able to work and live their lives openly because actors on this side of the pond tend to acknowledge their sexuality before American success follows. Perceptions haven’t been built up, and so they don’t have to be knocked down. And yet for all that, would Rupert Everett win romantic leading roles if he was up against Jude Law? Would he heck.
There’s no question that opening up about being a lesbian hurt Ellen DeGeneres; 36 million Americans watched the 1997 art-imitating-life coming out episode of her sitcom Ellen. A year later, the show was cancelled due to falling ratings. I’ll bet my house and my Arsenal collection that her fellow gay peers observed, took stock, and put an extra lock on their closet doors. Thankfully, Ellen resurrected her career, completing her comeback by becoming the first openly gay person to host the Academy Awards.
However, the one hole in the cunning closet plan is that it doesn’t kill the rumours, especially in this information age of internet chat rooms and e-mail. Not a day goes by without an "is he/she gay?" debate.
Take Academy Award-winning actor Kevin Spacey, for instance. He has repeatedly denied that he is gay. Personally, I think it’s rather sweet that he often takes his mother to functions and parties as his date (she was with him at the Oscars the night he won). What’s more, his assertion to police that he was ’mugged’ in a South London park at 4.30am while walking his dog - a claim he later withdrew - is perfectly reasonable. It’s happened to all of us, hasn’t it?
Gossip relating to Tom Cruise’s sexuality has been around for years, and the Cruiser has filed several lawsuits over such allegations. He’s so relentless that infamous South Park episode Trapped In The Closet, which depicts the outing of a famous star, was not broadcast on the UK’s Paramount Comedy Channel for fear that Tom Cruise would sue. But he’s not the only star to have been at the centre of rumours as idle chit-chat about the likes of Queen Latifah, John Travolta, Jodie Foster and Richard Gere demonstrates. It’s just another part of the price of fame; the truth will out in the end. Even if, understandably, the stars won’t.