Darren Criss’ career is a phenomenal thing to have witnessed as someone who first became familiar with him through A Very Potter Musical and has seen him go from Harry “Freakin'” Potter to an Emmy winning actor. It’s a remarkable growth from a fan to an icon in his own right. However, a huge part of that has been Criss working in and playing gay characters in gay spaces. That is something the star seems aware of and wants to change.
“There are certain [queer] roles that I’ll see that are just wonderful,” Criss explained during an interview with Bustle, “but I want to make sure I won’t be another straight boy taking a gay man’s role.”
Criss was launched into the mainstream public eye by playing Blaine Anderson on Glee, the love interest of Kurt Hummel and one of the biggest gay couples online. Even if you disliked the couple, there was little question that it gave representation for a lot of young gay teens growing up in that era (the double-edged sword of being a young gay Glee fan. *Cries in Britanna*). Following that, Criss went on to play Hedwig in Hedwig and the Angry Inch and most recently, he gave an Emmy award-winning portrayal of Andrew Cunanan in American Crime Story: The Assassination Of Gianni Versace that could potentially turn into a Golden Globe win as well.
The question of whether cis-straight people should be allowed to play cis-LGQ people is one that comes up regularly these days because while there are more out actors in media, it does not erase that, for a majority of Hollywood’s and elite film/television history, being an openly gay actor was seen as a deterrent to your career. Those who have succeeded have done so in spite of that and often shy away from playing gay themselves or coming out at the height of their fame. Ezra Miller is one of the rare leading men who has been able to be the face of a franchise while being openly queer, but we still have yet to see him as a romantic lead despite how half the internet is in love with him.
Pointed out in the BBC’s coverage of this piece were the statistics about straight people who have won awards or received accolades for playing LGBTQ people while no openly gay man actor has won an Academy Award for Best Actor, despite there being gay roles nominated for those awards.
No openly gay man has ever won the Academy Award for best actor, while straight actors have taken home the prize for playing LGBT roles. Tom Hanks won it for Philadelphia in 1993, while Sean Penn scooped it for Milk in 2009. In total, 52 straight people have been Oscar-nominated for playing gay characters.
Despite opinions on Ruby Rose’s acting skills, it is still nice to see a genderfluid lesbian play a lesbian character on television with Batwoman. It’s refreshing to have a queer cast on Carmilla, complete with gay writers, involved with crafting their own representation. When openly gay actors and straight actors can both be seen as viable candidates for the same roles, then we can talk about how “it shouldn’t matter” because if being out means losing on opportunities because of how people will see you, then it really isn’t all about “talent.”
So while I do get people being skeptical of Criss saying this after just winning an Emmy, at the very least, he is bringing this conversation forward once again.
(via BBC, image: Fox)
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