Newsweek Tries to Put Out Fire Lit by Ramin Setoodeh Article

In what Newsweek Culture Editor Marc Peyser calls "an effort to clear some smoke away from this fire" started by the Ramin Setoodeh article which said gays couldn't convincingly play straights, Peyser attempts to have a substantive discussion with GLAAD's Jarrett Barrios and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black about Hollywood and the closet.

Says Black: 

"Right now, in this atmosphere, [an A-list actor coming out is] something that would be difficult. And it is a challenge. When Jackie Robinson decided he was going to be the guy to step up and take on the challenge of being the first black player in the major leagues…there are many who could have done it before him. Was that easy? Of course not—that was a huge challenge. He had to suffer through the boos from the audience. He had to suffer through that and still perform well. And that's what this actor will have to do. This actor will have to suffer through articles like this in NEWSWEEK, these sorts of things being said that are negative. But I think in the end, what they'll be doing is paving this road toward equality in Hollywood where, yes, straight people can play gay roles and gay people can play straight roles. It will be work, but I think it's important that someone do it so in 10 years it's a given."

In related news…

Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin defends Ramin Setoodeh in the Huffington Post: "…with sincere respect to Ms. Chenoweth and the hundreds and hundreds of Internet posters who've crashed down on Setoodeh in the last few days — some understandably passionate and some unfortunately hostile — I don't think Setoodeh was being homophobic. Just wrong.

The problem doesn't have anything to do with sexual preference. The problem has everything to do with the fact that we know too much about each other and we care too much about what we know. In one short decade we have been reconditioned to be entertained by the most private areas of other people's lives."

Andrew Wallenstein of the Hollywood Reporter says Newsweek need not apologize to GLAAD:

"That an actor happens to be gay shouldn't define him or her. That's a wonderfully idealistic notion, but sexual orientation can distort a performance, and in more ways than one.

The first is that just knowing an actor is gay can color someone's perception of that actor's character. It's sad to say, but unrealistic to suggest everyone in the audience is as evolved as the next person. Just because GLAAD and its supporters wish that wasn't a possibility doesn't mean that if a writer points out that possibility, he's blasphemed.

The second way applies even if the viewer doesn't know whether the actor in question is gay or not. Politically incorrect as it might be to suggest, there is always the possibility that even the most brilliant closeted actor in the most incredibly scripted heterosexual role could fall short, especially in a romantic lead role.

As any producer knows, sexual chemistry onscreen is a delicate magic. Just because Rock Hudson was one such magician doesn't mean every gay actor can do same."


  1. Mike says

    Setoodeh is not homophobic, he’s anti-effeminate. The folks that defended him in Andy’s post above are obviously not familiar with Setoodeh’s history of bashing effeminate gay men.

  2. Andy F says

    Okay, this story has definitely outlived its usefulness. Now its just a bandwagon everyone feels the need to jump on, when in the end, what will be accomplished?

    Everyone has different ideas about how gays and openly gay actors will be accepted. Talking about those ideas isn’t anywhere near as important as actually putting down the damn magazine, getting out in the world, and just being open, so eventually nobody will waste their time writing, rebutting and critiquing articles like this.

  3. says

    It’s called entrenched heterosexism, and this is what it looks like. I believe it can be overcome, but it will take a long time. I suggest we begin by confronting our own heterosexist tendencies: Our love of stereotypes and sexual slurs, our impassioned defenses of staying in the closet, our tendency to define ourselves in terms of sex, etcetera.

  4. Mike says

    Aldo from the HuffPo piece:

    “Gay actors are in absolutely no danger of losing parts in Broadway shows, so if it were me, I’d re-direct my anger to the real problem. The honest-to-God, no kidding around, small-minded, mean-spirited, hysterically frightened, pig-ignorant bigots who don’t think homosexuals are fit to get married, adopt children or fight and die for their country. The ones who hold signs saying “God Hates Fags.” Those people aren’t in the backwoods of Idaho, they’re in Congress. Fight THEM. I’ll help. ”


  5. bobbyjoe says

    BTW, if GLAAD and other folks would point out Setoodah’s long history of writing homophobic articles, they’d shut down a lot of this talk about “Oh, I don’t think he was being homophobic here.”

    Even if someone tries to defend Setoodah’s most recent article, when you look at it in context of the many other articles of this stripe he’s written, I think people like Sorkin and Wallenstein wouldn’t be quite so ready or able to rush to his defense.

    But in our current media culture, I know everyone likes to pretend that nothing has ever happened in the world more than two or three days ago. But surely groups like GLAAD should know better, and make that point.

  6. says

    Aaron Sorkin’s use of the term “Sexual Preference” disqualifies anything he says after that.

    Sorry, but if you don’t realize that’s an outdated and incorrect term, then don’t issue a statement.

  7. esther blodgett says

    Why apologize to GLAAD?

    Perhaps the people to whom Setoodeh needs to first apologize are the editors and staff of Newsweek. He ought to be in meeting after meeting doing just this.

    Then sincere one-on-one private apologies to anyone even mentioned in the article no matter how favorably need to be made. The public does not need to know the how and what of these conversations. Sean Hayes, Jonathan Groff et al do.

    He then needs to apologize to his own foot which he damn near shot off.

    If Sedoodeh is a victim, he is his own perpetrator.

  8. bobbyjoe says

    Yeah, the “sexual preference” thing was weird, particularly from Sorkin, who at one time wrote one of the most in-your-face takedowns of the religious right’s anti-gay bigotry I’ve ever seen on television, when President Bartlett on “The West Wing” started throwing verses from the bible back in the homophobe’s faces.

    Some of what Sorkin says here is interesting, but some of it is stupid. This isn’t about increasing “voyeurism” and the tabloid-like culture. That part of his argument is way off-the-mark. If Setoodah had chosen a different minority and griped about performers that were “too black” or “too Jewish” to convincingly play non-traditional parts, would Sorkin chalk that up to “voyeurism”? It’s be a pretty idiotic argument.

    Of course, if Setoodah had chosen a different minority and written that performers were “too black” or “too Jewish,” it’s hard to imagine either Sorkin or Wallenstein writing about it in the way they did here. The gay double-standard, you know, always applies.

  9. Josh says

    Ramin has a long history of targeting effeminate gay men….

    Not only did he write this piece disparaging gay actors who play straight roles…

    Not only did he write a piece that blamed effeminate gays and actors for hurting gay marriage….

    Not only did he go on O’Reilly to do a hit piece on Adam Lambert last season on American Idol (where he depicted Kris as a good straight Christian and Adam as a godless heathen gay even though it was known that Adam was Jewish)…..

    But he also blamed that 8th grade kid (Lawrence King) that was murdered by his classmate (who shot him in the head in class) for his own murder because he dressed effeminately at school and therefore was flaunting his sexuality.

    As others mentioned Vanity Fair has more about Ramin’s problems with effeminate gays…

  10. StillMarriedinCA says

    With sincere respect to Aaron Sorkin, he is dead wrong. The fact that he uses the term “sexual preference” is the first clue that he doesn’t get it.
    This IS about homophobia… and stereotypes and narrow minds.
    We knew that Martin Sheen was not actually the President but we went with it anyway. It’s called willing suspension of disbelief and if the audience member can’t manage it….you can’t always blame the actor or knowledge of the actor’s sexual ORIENTATION. Sometimes the viewer needs to look within at his own bigotry.
    Mr. Setoodah can’t seem to accept any gay man playing straight yet has no problem accepting straight men playing gay–no matter how bad they are. He gave props to Tom Hanks in “Philadelphia” when he was on Joy Behar’s show. I can hardly think of a less convincing portrayal of a real live gay person than what Mr. Hanks did in that film.
    Setoodah completely ignores hundreds of great performances by gay actors in straight roles (Kevin Spacey in “American Beauty” comes to mind immediately….then there is David Hyde Pierce in “Frasier” who came off as an anti-macho heterosexual fop…but then so did the straight actor Kelsey Grammer…and their uber macho ex-cop dad was played by the gay actor John Mahoney….and on and on.)
    When confronted with the success of Neil Patrick Harris as a womanizer on “How I Met Your Mother”, Setoodah brushes it off with comments about how it’s just an over-the-top comedy and nobody is expected to really buy into it. He will come up with a million excuses before admitting that he has internalized homophobia. And, unfortunately, a keyboard.

  11. TANK says

    ramin is a flaming homosexual with gayface, and out, apparently. I’m so sick of allies who are heterosexual but still don’t get it…and yet act as if they do…stridently telling gay people how they should react and feel and what’s what…esp. when they just don’t get it, and never will. It’s getting to be a real problem.

  12. Don says

    There was a time when an African American or woman couldn’t be considered “believable” playing the role of POTUS, or a military commander, or even the head of a corporation. The word for this inability to suspend disbelief is “bigotry”. The question should not be “can he” or “can’t she” but “how well does he?” and “what qualities does she bring to her portrayal?” Any argument that begins with the notion that a class of individuals are unsuited for something solely on the basis of their gender, sexual orientation, ethnic background, age, etc. is immediately suspect.

  13. StillMarriedinCA says

    @Mike: You are right, I just read the quotes on here before my previous post. I just read the entire article. I stand by what I wrote.
    Mr. Sorkin says some lovely things in our defense, but he is wrong about Mr. Setoohdah being on the “side of the good guys”; he is wrong about Mr. Setoohdah’s article not being homophobic; and he is wrong about knowing “too much” about an actor’s private life.
    We accept actors in all kinds of roles that we know are far from the reality of that actor’s life. Knowing too much is not the problem.
    Being too bigoted to get past that knowledge is the real issue.

  14. Edward says

    There’s something smarmy about the guy (Setoodeh). I caught him on Joy’s show. That half impish, half idiotic grin he wears that seems to suggest, “I’m passably good looking and I’m enough a part of the industry that at least some people will deludedly lose track of their values and come to my defense.” Let’s let this thing die. Macho-man Ramin will turn up at the next National Magazine Awards with Carrie Prejean on his arm and then he’ll probably disappear after 15 minutes …for good.

  15. Taylor says

    Homophobia is homophobia whether you carry a sign saying “GOD HATES FAGS” or write a homophobic article for NEWSWEEK. There is no difference. Neither should be ignored…and they should both be called out for exactly what they are.

    This isn’t the 1st time Setoodeh has written a homophobic article. He should not get a pass on this, call it what it is, hold his feet to the fire, and make him explain his views.

    I don’t want an apology from him…I want an explanation.

  16. Mike says

    Screw Sorkin and the HR. Anyone who uses the words “sexual preference” doesn’t know what he is talking about anyhow. Old sterotypes are hard to break in Hollywood where $$, not artistic integrity, reigns supreme. If that is the case then no hetero gets to play gay anymore. Hear that Tom Hanks, Sean Penn, Jake etc. Nevermind your Oscars and various awards won for playing gay – you can’t do it right!

  17. Dan says

    I really like the piece from because after so all that’s written – finally someone unveil the core of the problem: this is an issue about effeminacy, not sexuality. I think the Setoodeh’s article is absolutely abhorrent on so many levels – and he remains too dense to realize what those problems are.

    1) Gay people aren’t all effeminate (and straight guy aren’t all masculine/ macho). His article basically extrapolates and generalizes from one case that he didn’t like. In turn, he just merely plays on and reinforces stereotypes – ignoring all the diversity and the depth of this community.

    2) His work is basically supporting discrimination based on sexual orientation. Let’s break it down —> So, the moment a person declares their non-straightness, nothing else matters – they are doomed because his/her sexuality defines everything that is the person. e.g. his point: actor pre-coming out = ok, but post-coming out = fail. If that’s not discrimination, I don’t know what is.

    3) Don’t blame it on the actors – it makes no sense. Actors bring whatever tools they have to the job – it’s up to casting, producers, and directors (amongst others) to put the show together. If a show isn’t working – I’m sure there are other things that needs work, not how the gay actors can’t play straight. Plus, he could have explored why casting/ directors/ producers want them for the role!?! But he didn’t…

    4) It’s just a weak article – with very little supporting facts. His arguments stem from Hayes’s performance but after that his examples fail to substantiate his point – e.g., I’m sure that many people would disagree that Jonathan Groff is less of a heartthrob because he’s gay.

    If Setoodeh intends to ignite a debate audience perception and industry mentalities and standards – then he should have written THAT – in a clear, specific, and concise fashion. That’s not what he wrote – but he’s too [insert your own word] to admit it. Now’s he’s back-pedaling, trying to mount some kind of defense by grandstanding about the real intentions of his article and how he’s misunderstood and attacked. Well, that is just sad – he’s a bad freelancer and yeah is right – Setoodeh is a sensationalist – not a smart writer that he thinks he is.

  18. walter says

    enough already this is more discussion than newsweek has had in ten years let the idiot magazine die and its writers with it.more important things have to get doesn’t matter who plays gay in film it all
    who hollywood the real homophobes want in the film.

  19. Pete says

    I cancelled my Newsweek subscribtion on Kindle, two take a hit. Newsweek and Amazon…pow pow, upper cut! Eh, just $1.99 a month, but now I can buy a small coffee from Starbucks. Go meh!

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