A new study has revealed that an actor’s sexual orientation does not affect how an audience views them. According to research from South Carolina’s Clemson University, gay actors can play convincing straight roles.
“Early research showed that people tend to perceive a direct connection between sexual orientation and established gender roles, especially in the entertainment industry. However, these new findings indicate that knowledge of an actor’s sexual orientation doesn’t necessarily cause their performance to be perceived in light of stereotypes about gays and lesbians,” said Clemson University’s Psychology Professor, Paul Merritt.
The study surveyed 400 college students. Researchers also discovered that being openly gay doesn’t have any negative effects in relation to popularity. The researchers orchestrated a scenario in which the students would judge a male celebrity’s imaginary Facebook page with basic info that included his orientation.
Three years ago, the media was not as LGBT-friendly to openly gay actors. In a 2010 Newsweek article, the magazine claimed that audiences weren’t ready for an A-list gay actor.
Last year, Bret Easton Ellis commented that openly gay actors like Matt Bomer and Andrew Rannells are “absolutely ridiculous” when playing straight roles.
Actor Rupert Everett advised gay actors not to come out as they rarely gain success, though straight actors can play gay roles with acclaim.
“The structure of Hollywood, the whole of Hollywood…I’m also talking about theatre. The theatre owning community is another fairly right wing organization,” Everrett told BBC’s Stephen Sackur earlier this year. “Since Reaganism, it becomes possibly worse for an actor to come out. The mainstream actor has had to become straighter and straighter.”
Now, the trend seems to be shifting. Actors have gained success in Hollywood after coming out.
“I haven’t stopped working, I’ve only worked more since I came out,” said Zachary Quinto in an interview with British talk show host Jonathan Ross. “If people don’t want to work with me because of my sexual orientation, then I have no interest in working with them to begin with. It doesn’t really put me in a position where I feel like I’m limited.”
Like Quinto, Actor Russell Tovey felt the same.
“Every character I play is straight, which is unique, my agent says, because it’s not really been done before that someone who is completely out is able to play straight roles,” Tovey said in an interview with the Independent. “So for me to play gay it has to be something special, because it might actually be more of a risk. So I’m waiting for that role – I want it to be something that moves things forward.”