Straights Playing Gays In Movies Are Rarely Funny And I’ll Tell You Why

Exhibit A – “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry” with Adam Sandler, a film so unfunny that I would think it would be best used as some sort of cinematic torture for terrorists. Now Andy Samberg, also of Saturday Night Live is being featured on Out magazine’s cover for his new film, “I Love You, Man” where he plays gay for the cameras too except he’s assuring us it’s going to be funny this time. I’m going to hope this one is funny (for all our sakes) but most likely it won’t be and there’s a reason, straights playing gays in movies are rarely funny and I’ll tell you why… - Don’t Get Me Started!

Before all the straightees out there start sharpening their pitchforks and lighting torches, allow me to explain. It’s not that I don’t think straight actors can’t be convincing in gay roles (see examples such as Tom Hanks in Philadelphia and Greg Kinnear in As Good As It Gets) but when it comes to comedy they flit more than they hit on anything that is funny for anyone who has ever known someone who is gay. (And let’s face it, more and more people know at least one gay if not fifty of them today.) Truth be told, the gays don’t get it right in movies all that often either.

So why is it so hard to be gay and funny in movies today when it used to be all you had to do was loosen your wrist and let your backbone slip? I think it’s because as more and more regular Joes and Janes come out of the closet, people are discovering that the gay stereotype is an act, something that was “put on” for the reaction of the people around them and not who gays really are when they’re emptying the garbage or just being themselves. I also think (and know from personal experience) that the gay stereotype is an excellent way to provide self-deprecating humor to insulate you from what you think the reaction will be from a crowd of people who don’t know you. Somewhere in your unconscious mind you think the more flamboyant you get the more people won’t pick on you because you’re so obviously gay that where would be the fun in it for the straight asshole that would normally tease or beat you? You make yourself too easy of a mark. (This is not always done with a high level of success and eventually is so exhausting for the gay that it feels as though you’re in a bad stock production of Nicholas Nickelby, which was created in something like four segments where you had to go back two days in a row to see it all and they gave the audience lunch breaks because it was so long)

For me, comedy is usually only funny when it has a trace of truth in it. I had a friend once who always said that when you joke there’s always a little truth in it (as for me, they were right). So when someone is a flouncy gay without any reality base to what they’re doing, they don’t seem funny at all. Or they’re funny for a four minute sketch (see any of the “Men On…” sketches from In Living Color) but to sit and watch it for two hours is exhausting and usually not funny at all.

I know that I thought I had an answer when I started this blog but now having re-read it I discover that I’m not sure that I do (which kills me as I try so desperately to always live up to my self-appointed Gaytriarch title). And maybe these movies ARE funny to some people who think Jerry Springer is the same as Oprah or are uncomfortable with their own sexuality. I don’t know. I just know that on the whole gays are really funny so why it doesn’t translate seems a shame for gays, straights and anyone who wants to go to the movies to laugh.

 

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Comments 13 comments

Direxmd profile image

Direxmd 7 years ago from Sonoma County, California

THIS is a good hub. I couldn't agree with you more. Philip Seymour Hoffman played an awesome gay guy in Boogie Nights (what was his character's name again? crud I forget.)

Thanks for the read :)


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma

I agree with Direxmd - this IS a good hub. Every comedy writer, producer, etc should read it. Straights playing gays for laughs is sooo *not* funny because it's *contrived*, and only those with the IQ of a Tootsie Roll will laugh, obviously the audience such movies are made to appeal to in the first place. You're so right - 4 minutes of flouncing is humorous, but 2 hours of it is just plain tedious!


Pam Roberson profile image

Pam Roberson 7 years ago from Virginia

AGREED! Jama already said it so well. All I can add is that there is one exception for me...The Birdcage with Robin Williams, and I'm not a fan of Robin either, but for some reason his role in that movie was hysterical to me. Wait, is Robin Williams gay? =O

At any rate, good read and good hub. :)


Elena. profile image

Elena. 7 years ago from Madrid

Right on. And the stereotype get SO old SO soon! There is this one movie that I can't help LOVE, The Birdcage, and I can't help but laugh when I think of Nathan Lane impersonating John Wayne, when rehearsing to pass as manly. I guess I could think up of other exceptions, but mostly -- DUH!


Mighty Mom profile image

Mighty Mom 7 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

I'm not here to defend the practice of making gays into stereotypes in movies. To me, it's just like any other stereotyping -- designed to appeal to unimaginative, unthinking,and more than likely bigoted people to reinforce their already narrow/skewed views. Don't know how you feel about "Birdcage" specifically, but despite its popularity, I find it stupid and uncomfortable.


LondonGirl profile image

LondonGirl 7 years ago from London

I agree with a lot of this hub, and it's really well-written.

Overall, though, I think it's not so much a problem of straights playing gays for laughs, more laziness in the film and TV worlds whereby people still think that there is comedy in "gayness" in and of itself.


earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 7 years ago from Melbourne Australia

I enjoyed this interesting hub, and agree that straights playing gays seldom work.

I am with Mighty mom on this. I do not see many movies that stereotype gays that are not cringe inducing! LondonGirl's comment is spot on as well. Pointless comedys that rely on gayness itself to provide so called humor display the film maker's attitude more than they entertain me.


issues veritas 7 years ago

I don't find Adam Sandler funny, period.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks

I thought the gay character in My Best Friend's Wedding was funny. Was the actor gay or straight?


goldentoad profile image

goldentoad 7 years ago from Free and running....

aya katz- he's really gay in real life

I think most comedies out of hollywood are lame, only maybe one or two a year are actually funny.

gays or straights in hollywood are equally unfunny.


somelikeitscott profile image

somelikeitscott 7 years ago from Las Vegas Author

Okay, wow thank you so many for offering your insights and comments. I post about five days a week and this is the one that gets all the comments, interesting...very interesting to me.

I agree with most all the comments except I thought Birdcage was just as lousy as any of the others. If you really want to see something funny, see the original French movie Birdcage was based on, "La Cage Aux Folles" where very prominent straight actors play the two leads and are hysterical (unfortunately they did I believe two sequels, neither one living up to the first).

GoldenToad, you are correct about Best Friend's Wedding, it's Ruppert Everett, he's gay, currently on Broadway but is on my nerves. He has come out (more than once) stating that he should have a bigger leading man movie career but its because he's gay and out that he doesn't get offered the prominent roles. I believe some of that is true but I still believe that perhaps his shall we call it, "talent" isn't up to the task?

Thanks everyone for the great comments!


AEvans profile image

AEvans 7 years ago from SomeWhere Out There

I have gay friends and love them to death," Chuck and Larry" was not funny as it didn't have the pizzazz that some of my gay friends have a way with, I can't explain it but I know you realize what I mean so you are on the right track and bravo on this article!!!:) Big Hugs :)


Professor Pazuzu 7 years ago

And please don't forget "Strange Bedfellows" which starred reportedly straight actors Paul Hogan and Michael Caton: the Australian version of “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry”. Actually its release preceeded the Adam Sandler film. It was a story about two older men in an Australian conservative country town who pretended to be a same sex couple on their tax return to gain benefits. The unfunny story focused on their pretence and "learning of how to appear gay" before the tax inspector arrived. Yet another example of cinema that purported a message of pretending to be gay was okay and actually being gay was a problem. Bottom line: the movie sucked and was unintelligent, unfunny and insulting.

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