Should Queer Roles Be Reserved for Queer Actors?

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Whether or not queer roles should be given to straight actors or remain reserved for queer actors is a highly complicated question.

One that results in many opinions and contains several different arguments. 

For some, this is an easy and resounding "no," end of discussion. While others, including the actors that portray these characters, have other perspectives.

Tom Hanks

The initial concern is that if straight actors are limited exclusively to straight roles, then queer actors should be limited to queer roles. 

And certainly, queer actors don't want to be pigeon-holed into only portraying queer characters.

That is where the problem lies. It's a fact that there will never be a shortage of straight roles, resulting in queer roles as the forever minority. 

If we replace "queer" with "racial minority," there would be no question that people of color should always portray their own stories.

Emma Stone

Especially with the recent backlash of Emma Stone and Scarlett Johannson cast in roles playing people of color. 

But when it comes to people of color portraying traditionally white roles or characters it's entirely acceptable.

Therefore, when it comes to majority characters anybody of the minority should be able to play those characters, but when there's a limit on the number of minority characters, majority actors should take the backseat. 

Cate Blanchett

According to Oprah Magazine, only 12.8 percent of movies in 2017 featured LGBTQ+ characters.

Following recent nominations and wins of straight actors for major Golden Globe, Oscar, and GLAAD awards for their portrayal of groundbreaking stories of queer characters, light has gotten shed on the disparity of actual queer actors who are acting in these roles. 

Darren Chris announced his resignation from playing any other queer characters in his future career, stating he "won't be another straight boy taking a gay man's role." 

Darren Criss

He made this proclamation after accepting his 2019 Golden Globe for his work in The Assassination of Gianni Versace, where he played Andrew Cunanan, a gay man. 

On the flip side, an actress like Cate Blanchett, who doesn't identify as LGBTQ+ and played a lesbian in the film Carol, argued that she "will fight to the death for the right to suspend disbelief and play roles beyond my experience."

Although queerness isn't an experience, it's an identity. It's not someone's full identity, but a large chunk of their identity. 

Cate Blanchett in Carol

Simply reducing queerness to an experience is faulty and brushes aside the severity of the oppression people of the LGBTQ+ community have and continue to overcome. 

Albeit, in its purest form, acting is the ability to give a promising and affecting performance making a character come alive.

A performance that thoroughly convinces the audience in believing whatever story is getting told. 

Sean Penn Milk

But the entertainment industry isn't out there to produce acting in its purest form. 

The industry, as its name suggests, is a business. A huge business that puts millions of dollars toward its films and therefore needs to make millions more than what was originally spent.

An easy way to drive and increase profits is by casting A-list actors.

They not only help audience members find comfort in recognizing familiar and favorite faces in films, but they typically drive stronger performances. 

Scarlett Johansson

Scarlett Johansson pulled out of a role after receiving extreme backlash. She was set to star as Dante "Tex" Gill a transgender man in the upcoming film Rub & Tug. 

Her initial reaction was to defend that all artists should be considered equally and fairly for any given role. 

Since then she has revised her thoughts and told Out Magazine, "Our cultural understanding of transgender people continues to advance, and I've learned a lot from the community since making my first statement about my casting and realize it was insensitive."

Defaulting to A-list actors is an easy cop-out. There's absolutely no shortage of strong queer actors ready to portray their own stories. 

Ellen Page

As Ellen Page put it, she would be 'thrilled' to exclusively play queer roles for the entirety of her career.

Most of the directors and writers of these stories are straight and are making large profits off of stories that aren't theirs to tell and bringing in actors to make money off of stories that aren't necessarily theirs to bring to life. 

In a Vice article, Peppermint, a drag queen from RuPaul's Drag Race stated, "Hollywood has a terrible history of creating movies and making money off the experiences of marginalized people, without letting them have any input in the process."

Peppermint RuPaul's Drag Race

At the very least, casting directors should not only consult queer people throughout the creative process but should also put strong consideration into casting a queer actor.

Producers have free reign to do what they wish with their own creative process. 

It's already immense progress seeing any sort of LGBTQ+ storylines on the big screen.  

Actors in queer roles

There are many valid arguments for and against this challenging question, but ultimately it becomes a judgment call. 

We don't live in a black and white world. **Here would be the perfect place to input an LGBTQ+ rainbow joke, but unfortunately, I'm drawing a blank.

Eventually, the question becomes where do we draw the line? We could make the same argument for any minority.


Films and TV shows are inherently art, and therefore shouldn't be super regimented.

Here is hoping that in the future directors and writers take more time in contemplating their casting and story writing and stay more sensitive to how the stories they are producing are going to affect their audiences. 

Now is where I ask you to take your opinions to the comments.

Do you feel strongly for or against any given argument provided?

Let me know where you stand on the issue. 

Inga Parkel was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She left the organization in June 2020.

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