Before it went down the tubes, the leftist commentary website ThinkProgress posted a typical piece (that is, so crippled by bias and a progressive agenda that it was useless as advocacy unless the reader already agreed with it) bemoaning the fate of LGBTQ performers in Hollywood like Kristen Stewart. Stewart, once a rising young star with the “Twilight” Saga films, now approaching 30 without a clear career path.
You’ll get the article’s point of view from the kick-off:
“In an interview with Harper’s Bazaar UK, actor Kristen Stewart, who has been romantically linked to model Stella Maxwell since 2017, said, “I have fully been told, ‘If you just like do yourself a favor, and don’t go out holding your girlfriend’s hand in public, you might get a Marvel movie.’ I don’t want to work with people like that.” Stewart has said publicly she does not identify as bisexual or lesbian, and doesn’t want to choose a label for her sexuality. In the same interview she added, “I was informed by an old school mentality, which is — you want to preserve your career and your success and your productivity, and there are people in the world who don’t like you, and they don’t like that you date girls, and they don’t like that you don’t identify as a quote unquote ‘lesbian’, but you also don’t identify as a quote unquote ‘heterosexual’. And people like to know stuff, so what the fuck are you?’”
Although it may, at times, appear as though LGBTQ representation and participation in Hollywood has achieved some semblance of parity, Stewart’s experience is far from unique. Several young, openly LGBTQ actors such as Ellen Page and Ezra Miller have talked about how their gender and sexuality have affected how people talk to them about their careers.”
Well, of course it does. When people deliberately and courageously (or stupidly) ignore basic realities of the business they are in, they should expect the predictable results. They also have nobody to blame but themselves. Hollywood, and show business in general, is about escapism, suspension of disbelief, and illusion. Even though the acting profession has always been dominated by gay and bi-sexual performers, the entertainment business has understood the reality of the art-audience relationship.
Any personal aspects of an actor’s life that might intrude on audience members’ consciousness sufficiently to interfere with their ability or willingness to accept that performer in the role they were playing are handicaps, and thus undesirable and to be avoided at all costs. Such handicaps jeopardize box office receipts and profits, and this means that no matter how nice it would be to encourage all of those gay stars to emerge fabulously out of their closets, the consequences of doing so would be catastrophic and irreparable.
Cary Grant, Paul Newman, Randolph Scott, Rudolf Valentino, James Dean, Steve McQueen, Spencer Tracy, Robert Taylor, Walter Pigeon, Montgomery Clift and many other actors who routinely played heterosexual heroes were bi-sexual, gay or (in Clift’s case) asexual, but producers and directors didn’t need those images going though moviegoers’ heads. Romantic lead actresses like Katherine Hepburn, Greta Garbo, Barbara Stanwyck, Joan Crawford and even Marilyn Monroe also had letters in the LGBTQ array. Nobody in Hollywood cared, unless the secrets got out and the reality created one more hurdle to the audience’s acceptance of them in their roles.
It has always been thus, and the reason is purely practical. Nor is sexual orientation the only aspect of a star’s personal life that a prudent performing professional needs to keep under wraps as a matter of survival and common sense. Alec Baldwin, for example, is a fine actor, but he spends most of his time now hosting game shows and playing President Trump in repetitious Saturday Night Live skits. This is because he is an asshole, to be blunt, and has failed to hide it. There are plenty of assholes in Hollywood, maybe even a working majority, but most are smart enough to understand how the cognitive dissonance scale works. If an actor or actress is dislikable, then it will be harder for a moviegoer to enjoy the film that actor or actress is in. This isn’t rocket science; it’s how human beings think. Mel Gibson killed his career the same way. Sean Young.
Once again I will reference my late friend Bob McElwaine, a renowned Golden Age Hollywood publicist who spent a substantial portion of his professional life making sure the public never knew what a mean, bitter, angry and hateful man Danny Kaye was. Kaye also didn’t like children very much. Bob got Danny the job of being the public face of UNICEF.
Back to Stewart and others: proclaiming one’s sexual preferences and proclivities in public may be a courageous choice, but its an ignorant one if the actor or actress doesn’t think such information won’t limit their career options going forward. The fact that it will doesn’t mean the Hollywood community, which is substantially gay as well as progressive, is hypocritical. It means that business comes first when you are running a business. Such calculations are responsible, and thus ethical. Nobody in Hollywood will hold it against an actor if he or she is gay—the stories of how kind and compassionate the industry has been to openly (in the industry, that is) gay performers like Raymond Burr are legion—but they will hold it against you if audiences won’t accept you in a role and your film bombs….as they should.
As in every other profession and occupation, it is an actor’s ethical responsibility to make certain his or her personal conduct doesn’t undermine their value to their employers. This principle isn’t new, it isn’t going to change, and it shouldn’t change. Kristen Stewart’s whining and ThinkProgress’s misplaced finger-pointing displays willful ignorance and ethics confusion.