Zachary Quinto’s decision to come out last year, while played down by many in the mainstream media, was truly a watershed moment in the history of the movement for gay equality. It was the first time ever that a gay movie star (yes, there have been character film actors who have come out in the past, but nobody quite as big as Zachary) had opened up about his sexual orientation, and immediately there were those who came out and criticized him, and said that his career would never recover and would suffer as a result.
The naysayers were proven wrong, however, when Zachary’s film Margin Call was released in theaters soon after. Not only did the film do well critically, but it far exceeded financial expectations and became one of the breakout hits of 2011. For a small independent film with hardly any promotional backing, it went far and beyond what most industry pundits were anticipating, probably in part because of the positive attention and buzz that Zachary had attained when he came out just prior.
Margin Call served as evidence that the old myth that the establishment has perpetuated for years on end that somehow an actor being honest about his true self would be a detriment to his mainstream viability was completely false, and based in nothing but outdated stereotypes. This should, however, have been realized long before Margin Call came out, as there are plenty of big actors who’ve come out in all mediums, especially film and TV, and have not only not suffered but have become even more successful than they were before.
Neil Patrick Harris is one of the most prominent examples of this. Since coming out, his TV sitcom How I Met Your Mother has increased in it’s ratings, and he has also starred in several major films and hosted the Tonys, Emmys, and appeared in a musical number as part of the Academy Awards. Jonathan Groff, who started out as a Broadway actor, came out in late 2009 and has since been a major guest star on Glee, as well as making appearances in such prominent films as Ang Lee’s Taking Woodstock and Robert Redford’s The Conspirator.
Alan Cumming, who started out largely as a theater actor in England, saw his career skyrocket after he came out as bisexual in 1998. He starred in 2003’s X2: X-Men United, and has since appeared on major TV shows such as Sex & The City and The L Word; he is currently a regular on the series The Good Wife. These men are just three out of the many who have come out and seen their careers grow because of it. Coming out only makes an actor even more popular and visible, and gives them a distinct persona that sets them apart from all the other actors out there.
After all, this is 2012, not 1962. America has moved on, and it’s time that Hollywood caught up with our culture. Zachary Quinto sent a clear message that he was not going to allow cynicism or fear to control his life or career, and it’s time for the rest of the closeted actors in Hollywood to follow suit. That’s not to say that they must come out, because that’s obviously a personal decision that they will make on their own. But coming out is, without a doubt, the right thing for these actors to do, because by doing so they will be giving hope and courage to the millions of LGBT youth out there who need it.