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12 Nov, 2020 20:13

Social justice warriors whine about Selena Gomez playing a gay mountaineer. So should gay actors never play straight characters?

Social justice warriors whine about Selena Gomez playing a gay mountaineer. So should gay actors never play straight characters?

Woke critics are outraged that straight actress Selena Gomez will be playing a gay woman, mountaineer Silvia Vasquez-Lavado, in a biopic. It proves, yet again, that they do not understand the concept of acting.

The casting choice already has the support of Vasquez-Lavado, whose upcoming memoir ‘In the Shadow of the Mountain’ will be the basis for the movie.

In an Instagram post celebrating the announcement of the film, the American-Peruvian mountaineer, who was the first openly gay woman to climb the Seven Summits, called Gomez “bold, talented, and brilliant.”

Despite this support, some have still questioned the hiring of a straight woman to play a gay character.

“But Selena isn’t gay. I wish they would give unknown LGBTQ actors a chance at playing such a defining role,” one Twitter user wrote in reaction to the news. “I love Selena I just wish this casting straight actors in LGBTQ roles phase would end! Love Simon, Brokeback Mountain, and so many more good films using straight actors.”

Spoiler alert: Gomez is also not a mountaineer. 

The argument that only gay performers should portray gay characters is nothing new. It has become a trending topic of discussion recently, with the portrayal of openly gay icons in films like ‘Rocketman’ and ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’.

The argument is that a straight actor playing a gay character is comparable to performers changing their skin tone to play characters of other races – the most extreme form of this being blackface, an act long considered racist.

Some actors, like ‘Star Wars’ cast member Richard E. Grant, have thrown their support behind the idea of only gay actors playing gay characters.

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The morality around casting roles has become quite blurred as angry woke critics have gotten more influence, with industries beginning to respect mob opinion more than common sense. 

Scarlett Johansson was set to play a transgender character in the movie ‘Rub & Tug’ but stepped away after massive protests. Halle Berry also walked away from a trans role following a similar uproar.

We’ve even reached the point where casting critics sometimes don’t even have a basic understanding of what they are looking at. Take, for example, this year’s ‘The Tax Collector’. Shia LaBeouf was continually accused of ‘brownface’ because critics assumed he was playing a Latino character. This was not correct. He was playing a white man based on real Los Angeles gangsters, according to the director. The explanation, however, did nothing to stop the wave of criticism.

It remains to be seen if protests over the Gomez movie will actually gain enough traction to lead to recasting or the cancellation of the project altogether. As an outspoken liberal, Gomez is likely safe for the moment, but the pushback is an extension of growing ignorance veiled as a push for inclusion.

Arguing that only gay actors should play gay characters is highly damaging not only to storytelling, but to anyone who is LGBT – because if only a gay actor can portray a gay character, then why should the opposite be different? If that logic is to hold true universally then gay actors cannot portray straight characters, which axes a lot of potential roles out of their careers and is offensive to their abilities as performers. 

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Storytelling has the ability to widen our perspectives and understanding of the world. And film, as the late Roger Ebert once said, is a “machine that generates empathy.” Acting is part of this machine, and actors themselves have the ability to portray all kinds of characters and personalities foreign to their existence. It is this ability that is literally the definition of acting, a word some people seem to need an entire class on to even begin to understand. 

Woke critics who think a person is incapable of portraying someone with the opposite sexuality will never be satisfied until we just cancel acting altogether, as it’s a concept too complex and nuanced for them to wrap their minds around. A world where actors can only play characters that align with every aspect of their person is a reality where acting doesn’t exist, and storytelling suffers. That is the flavorless, simple-minded world these social justice warriors are arguing for. 

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.