During an interview at the Rome Film Festival on Friday, Aussie actress Cate Blanchett made some comments in defence of straight actors playing gay characters.
Blanchett won numerous awards and received a Best Actress Oscar nomination for her role in Carol playing a lesbian engaged in a forbidden love affair.
Her case for actors playing beyond their own experience is valid, if only it captured the bigger picture.
“I will fight to the death for the right to suspend disbelief and play roles beyond my experience.” She said according to Hollywood Reporter. I think reality television and all that that entails had an extraordinary impact, a profound impact on the way we view the creation of character,”
“I think it provides a lot of opportunity, but the downside of it is that we now, particularly in America, I think, we expect and only expect people to make a profound connection to a character when it’s close to their experience,” she said.
While it’s true that actors should be able to play characters that are not necessarily an exact reflection of themselves, the status quo is that while queer actors struggle to be cast, straight actors usually land the queer roles, and get majorly applauded for doing so.
The same goes for able-bodied actors playing disabled characters, cis-gender actors playing trans-gender roles, actors wearing fat-suits to play fat characters or actors putting on fake noses to play conventionally ‘unattractive’ characters.
When we discuss actors ‘playing beyond their experience’, we need to acknowledge that for the privileged, playing certain kinds of oppression or struggle is Oscars-bait. They are applauded for taking on the challenge and congratulated with praise and awards.
52 straight actors have been nominated for Oscars for playing LGBTQ characters. Actors get lauded for gaining weight for a role (Charlize Theron: Monster), playing someone with a disability (Dustin Hoffman: Rainman) and playing a character who is transgender (Eddie Redmayne: Danish Girl).
But there’s as of yet little room in Hollywood for people who are openly queer, transgender, disabled, or not conventionally attractive by Hollywood standards, to star in films as characters that represent themselves or anyone else.
So the fact that Hollywood loves people play-pretending those characters but does not accept people who actually represent those characters needs to be part of the conversation.