Hollywood has a long history of whitewashing actors and characters. They also have a long history of keeping LGBT+ people in the closet. Although there has been a recent boom of seeing POC, LGBT+, or people a part of both communities on screen, I think we can do better. Billy Porter, Indya Moore, MJ Rodriguez, and Hunter Schafer have all been vocal about the specific types of roles that exists for POC or LGBT+ actors. Gay men, specifically gay black men usually have to play characters that are sassy, fabulous, and oh-so very flamboyant. The same exists for trans women as we usually only see them in roles where their character is a sex worker. None of those are bad qualities, but it is just an archetypal character that portrays a community of people based on a few stereotypes. I’m sure many of you are familiar with the Scarlett Johansson controversy in which she was casted to play an Asian character. Many people believed the film should have casted an Asian actor to play the role. Now we have the infamous quote from ScarJo herself, “I Should Be Able to Play Any Person, Tree, or Animal”. You can read more about that here. She did not choose her words correctly, but she does have a point. Actors are trained so they can play a variety of roles. The problem is Hollywood does not have a even playing field and excludes different communities from playing specific roles in TV and film. In The Hollywood Reporter’s Drama Actors Roundtable, Billy Porter explains his experience as a gay, black actor:
“You know it’s a double layer. The layer of actually being a person of color in this industry and then the other layer being a queen. Nobody can see you as anything else. If flamboyantly dot dot dot wasn’t in the description of the character, no one would see me, ever, for anything”. You can watch the clip here.
In this interview with MTV, Indya Moore and MJ Rodriguez discuss how cis actors can portray trans people, but rarely do we see trans actors portray cis people. MJ explains, “If this is a way to challenge yourself as an actor then I think you should let us challenge and play some cis roles. We’ve been asking about it for a very long time. It’s something we have always been able to do because we understand the experience of a woman.”
Hunter Schaffer, star of HBO’s Euphoria also talks about this double standard, but realizes her privilege as a “passing” trans woman. Unlike Billy Porter’s or Indya Moore’s character on Pose, Schafer’s character on Euphoria does not completely follow the archetype of a trans woman. In this interview with MTV, Schafer states:
It was really cool to witness a young trans girl, realizing that she does not have to be attached to this certain route of receiving affirmation. . .Jules’ arc is also something that I haven’t really on TV before in the way that we’ve done it on Euphoria”.
I agree with Schafer’s statement. Euphoria’s deception of Jules does not rely on her being trans, but one of a teenage girl trying to figure out her sexuality and overcome typical growing pains. Maybe this is the first step to see a more inclusive form of Hollywood. I’m hoping that shows like Pose, aren’t just a trend and viewers will be able to see more storylines of LGBT+, POC characters and allow them to be human. Often we see gay characters being objectified into accessories for their straight counterpart or as a sassy “queen”. Trans characters are also sexualized and media tends to focus on their physical bodies more than the actual characters. Hopefully with shows like Pose and Euphoria it will open some doors for LGBT+ actors and one day we will be able to see LGBT actors play cis or heteronormative roles.