Michael Hamar

Homophobic Hollywood - Where's the LGBT Outrage?

Filed By Michael Hamar | December 29, 2010 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, The Movement
Tags: coming out of the closet, Hollywood, internalized homophobia, living out and proud, Outfest, Richard Chamberlain

Over the weekwend I commented on my personal blog (as did many other LGBT bloggers) about Richard Chamberlain's Rock-Hudson_imagelarge.jpgadvice to gay actors that they should stay in the closet in order to protect their careers. Chamberlain's advice may sound practical, but it highlights what many - including myself - see as a double standard.

Movers and shakers in Hollywood have been great advocates for repeal of DADT, the overturning of Proposition 8 and gay equality in general, yet the Hollywood establishment allows a different standard for itself compared to what so many of its stars demand of the military and the public at larger. What makes the situation all the more disturbing is that some of those in Hollywood who are holding the closet door shut are gays themselves.

Are these advocates of the closet worried solely about box office revenues or is something else going on such as latent self-doubt and/or internalized homophobia? It's a question that needs to be asked.

Granted, there are few out major male stars, but coming out seems to have done nothing to harm the career of Neil Patrick Harris for example - who routinely plays a straight character. So what gives? Greg Gutfeld at Big Hollywood takes on the issue as does my friend Lyndon Evans at Focus on the Rainbow and as a community we need to ask Hollywood why it should not meet the same standards we have demanded of the U.S. military and other institutions.

First, this from Gutfeld:

Chamberlain's advice comes at a perfect time for people like me who need to write stuff: just days after the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell. How hilarious is it that, as the military now dumps that strategy, a Hollywood icon is imploring actors to embrace it!

Anyway, I wonder why we don't demand from Hollywood, what Hollywood demands from the military. I have absolutely no data to back this up, but I bet the percentage of gays employed in film exceeds those in foxholes. Which is why homophobia seems worse in Tinseltown. The fact is, the troops can handle gays; Hollywood can't.

Evans, a former broadcast newscaster in a prior career before he discovered the world of blogging, gives the issue a far more detailed analysis and even points fingers at some of gay Hollywood and asks some pointed questions. Here are some highlights:

While theater goers embrace actors and actresses who are openly gay and lesbian particularly on The Great White Way not so can be said of movie and television audiences, or so many in Hollywood would say. For the second time in as many years advice was given to actors and actresses, wannabees or actual, to stay in the closet as it can only hurt your career.

This of course is the shameful irony of Hollywood which for decades has been a champion through its films for the mistreated, discriminated against and persecuted. The idea that those in power who have the luxury to be out prefer the actors and actresses who without which there would be no movie, are told to lie, not be true to themselves and stay closeted until such time that every nickel and dime has been squeezed out of their performing years.

For all of the more read bloggers who are and write about LGBT injustice, I think I am one of the very few who has, and will continue to write about discrimination in Hollywood against gays, lesbians and bisexuals, not from the heterosexual powers that be, which of course is to be expected, but the ones who would have their own brethren stay in the closet forever.

If the audience knows the guy is gay, apparently it will kill the fantasy and no one will want to buy tickets. We hear it time and time again from the Hollywood power players and creative folks - both gay and straight - and we heard it again over the weekend at theOutfest Film Festival during a panel called Coming Out in Hollywood.

But it's hard to change things when an openly gay writer-director such as Don Roos (The Opposite of Sex, Bounce, Happy Endings) has issues with gays playing straight and vice versa.

At Outfest on Sunday afternoon, three-time Emmy winning and openly gay director Todd Holland told a small audience that he advises young, gay male actors to "stay in the closet." The remark came during a panel at the Directors Guild of America titled, "Taking It to the Streets: LGBT Directors Get Political." Outfest, which pushes the slogan "protecting our past, showcasing our present, nurturing our future," is one of the premiere gay and lesbian film festivals in the United States.

Holland, who was talking as one of the featured panelists, and who once worked as a director on the critically acclaimed HBO sit-com The Larry Sanders Show, explained that it's a necessary career choice if a gay actor wants to succeed in Hollywood. Fellow panelist and filmmaker Kirby Dick, director of Outrage, a 2009 documentary about gay politicians who stay in the closet to further their political careers, told Holland: "I know where you're coming from, but it's a regressive argument."

Those LGBT bloggers who are so quick to throw Obama under the bus and the activists who protest about DADT, if they would rally behind the discrimination against gays, lesbians and bisexuals in Hollywood, then maybe, just maybe change would come.

Evans' last comment is not directed at me in particular, but he does have a point and many of us in the blogosphere need to start asking hard questions of Hollywood. The double standard needs to vanish.

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Rupert Everett himself said that he advises leading men type actors to stay in the closet. If he'd done that he could have had a similar career as Hugh Grant or Colin Firth.

After talking to a director with connections to Hollywood, I think it would be funny if all gay actors came out-- there would be few straight leading men left.

The entire movie industry was the creation of Jewish immigrants, themselves an object of popular prejudice. They kept their religion out of the public eye as much as possible. With Hollywood what it is today, I can only assume that the policy worked for a long time and why it is still in effect for gay actors.

Re: Brad Bailey's comment.

Not the entire movie industry was started by Jewish immigrants.

While MGM, Warner Brothers, Paramount, Universal and Columbia were founded by Jewish immigrants or next generation, 20th Century Fox was founded in 1933 by Darryl F. Zanuck after he left Warner Brothers and he was a Protestant from Wahoo, Nebraska.

I'm sure while not meant to sound that way, your first sentence smacks of being anti-Jewish (as in those who say "Jews control everything"), perhaps it could have been worded differently.

In any case while some, if not all, studio heads during the days of the "studio system" may have kept their religion low key and for instance celebrate Christmas, so did many others in the United States of the Jewish faith in the 20's, 30's, 40's, 50's and perhaps even in parts of the 60's.

Keeping out of the public eye has more to do with box office sales, ergo profit to the studios (and even television for that matter which the studios produce product for).

The irony as I wrote in my posting at "Focus On The Rainbow" is that while there are studio executives who are out and proud, they expect their "players" to remain in the closet for the sake of the box office.

Not only is this a cruel irony but dispicable in this day and age.

The days of Louis B Mayer and his like who kept tight control on studio players including their personal life are long over.

It's time for Hollywood to break the chains and let those who wish to come out, do so and be emancipated.

The time has come to finally end the old studio system when it comes to controlling the personal lives of the actors and actresses who make the money for the studios.

And as far as control they don't even do a good job at that for some of the antics that "players" make in headlines and gossip rags.

If the studios can't control their "players" who cause embarressment to the studios because of their antics, why should the studios continue to deny an individual to be honest, truthful and without hesitation when asked and if they choose to say "yes".

It's not the actors and actresses who need to change and take that giant step forward to come out, it's the studios who need to let the step be taken without fear of not getting coveted roles or work in general.

We are in the 21st Century not the days of the silent picture.

While I'm not crazy about Richard Chamberlain's comments, I do think he has some good points. And, the man has certainly been in the business a very long time, so he has a better working knowledge of the industry than you or I. Personally, I'm STILL waiting for the major Hollywood star with the box office clout (sorry, Neil Patrick Harris, Nathan Lane & Chris Colfer) to come out of the closet. It's beginning to look like that will not happen in my lifetime. 'nuff said!

Whenever huge sums of money are involved, the politics of the bottom line will aways figure prominently into any company policy. And for what it's worth, the first sentence in my last post was taken virtually word for word from an AMC 3-part series on the history of Hollywood. The wording is theirs, not mine.

I think a lot of gay people miss the point of the "stay in the closet" statements made by actors. They want to blame Hollywood and blah blah. It's not Hollywood's fault. It's America. Hollywood is strictly a supply and demand industry. Meaning, whatever a film subject or topic, will it make money?

This includes films with openly gay actors for leading men.

Actually I'm really glad this subject came up again because this is not the first time an actor has advised that.

And I'm glad it came up again because gay people get to realize that politics is not always about moral obligation. There's some things you're not going to make happen simply because its "imbalanced" from a moral or equality perspective.

Instead it's something time will have to change as the public becomes more open to gays across the board.

Hollywood is a numbers town. Gay actors in lead male roles don't make Hollywood money. And Hollywood can't make any money so far in such films with openly gay actors because the American public won't accept a gay men in such a role. It's been tried before. Hollywood being more Wall Street than Wall Street when it comes to dollars and cents responds to that like the business that it is.

So it's really the American public who determines gay actors success in such roles. And we more than likely will find that out via an independent filmmaker when the public's tastes shifts before any studio takes the financial risk.

But yea, there's an integrity there, in terms of business first, that I think is good for the gay community. Particularly for the writer of this post who's coming from a moralistic "should" perspective. And that's just not reality in relationship to the business of making motion pictures.

Sorry folks, there's no White House or Obama in Hollywood. Just good lawyers and a ton of accountants.

Most of the commenters on this page and bloggers for the LGBTQCA community are intelligent. We accept people for who they are. We also acknowledge an actor/actress is playing a role and the role most likely has nothing to do with the actual actor/actress.
It is true, money is the bottom line. It became that after the movie studios had to get financing to bankroll higher wages, epic, CinemaScope movies. Banks for the most part are conservative financiers.
Additionally, the majority of the movie going public for the generation who finance movies; read the rags and see the doctored photos of celebrities and believe them. They are also the more homophobic population and the most to follow what Rita Heyworth said about her husbands going to bed with Gilda, but waking up with Rita. They cannot separate the role from the actor/actress.
In a decade or so, the youth graduating college or recent grads will be in charge. They accept people of all faiths, genders, race, ethnicity, orientation. Inter-racial couples are de rigueur. Gay friends, lesbian friends, are normal parts of their everyday life.
They will change the framework of film, finance and perception of actors/actresses.
Like DADT, we are there, and have been there. Soon, we will be accepted for who we are and it will not affect the roles actors/actresses play.
I remember seeing the movie "Shelter". I loved it. I looked up the actors. Brad Rowe married with a kid. Trevor Wright recently broke his engagement. I thought, WTF both leads are straight guys?!!! I had an expectation at least one would be gay.
But I changed my perspective as soon as I remembered Montgomery Clift, Rock Hudson AND Chamberlain playing straight roles. I still believe Harris IS Barney when he plays in his sit-com.
So, maybe they stay in the closet. But one foot in and the other outside. Patience, things will change. As the character Brian Kinney said in "Queer As Folk", "It's not a lie if they make you lie." Sooner or later there will be no lying.

Mr. Chamberlin and I are in the same age group. Yes, this was true for actors when we were of the "hunk" age. But his advice is dated.

As my son said, "These are different times."

Now, no one really cares. "To thine own self be true."