Can Openly Gay TV Stars Play Straight?
In recent days, People Magazine was used for the third time this year as a 'coming out' platform for a gay celebrity who decided to come clean about their sexuality.
It all began in July when following months of speculation and the so-called 'outing' on celebrity blogs and gossip sites, namely the trashy Hollywood blog perezhilton.com written by a gay man himself, Lance Bass of boyband sensation N'Sync decided to reveal he was gay and in a relationship with the Amazing Race star Reichen Lehmkuhl.
Then came the Grey's Anatomy set incident and T.R. Knight a.k.a. McCuddly George O'Malley also came out to the viewing public. Enjoying his new-found freedom, the actor was snapped by paparazzi strolling while shopping and sharing sandwiches on the beach with the Canadian actor Luke MacFarlane of "Brothers and Sisters" who appears to be his boyfriend.
Now, the man who plays Barney on "How I Met Your Mother", one of the most heterosexual characters on television today, Neil Patrick Harris, still known to audiences across the world as wunderkind Doogie Howser, M.D. followed suit following allegations by a Canadian website that he helped his boyfriend, fellow Broadway actor David Burtka land a gig on the CBS sitcom last year.
The latter two revelations are however posing a question: can an openly gay TV actor, who unlike his big screen counterparts comes under public scrutiny week after week, survive playing a heterosexual character and be successful and adored by masses?
Gays like Rock Hudson ('Dynasty') and Richard Chamberlain ('The Thorn Birds') have portrayed straight characters for many years. But they had never spoken about their sexuality before their work on TV ended.
Also, straight actors are often applauded for taking on gay roles, as if the message was it was more difficult for a straight actor to play a gay role than vice versa. Will there be equal praise for homosexual actors?
Finally, will these announcements create a more encouraging climate for other allegedly closeted gay celebrities like Sean Hayes ('Will & Grace'), Matt Dallas ('Kyle XY') and Wentworth Miller ('Prison Break') to come out?