Yesterday, Glee co-star Chris Colfer gave an interview to USA Today wherein he half-heartedly took a step back into the closet. All at once, Colfer’s comments were confusing, inconsistent and, to me, maddening.
Let me backtrack.
For those unfamiliar, on Glee Colfer plays the designer label-wearing, “Single Ladies”-choreographing, gayer-than-Christmas character Kurt. Kurt is one of the funniest characters on the show — lovingly and sensitively written — and Colfer does a great job playing him. He’s totally flamboyant, but the character doesn’t come across as minstrel-y. All in all, Kurt is a great role model for flamboyant young kids.
So, being that Kurt is the gayest character on the gayest show on network television, one would be tempted to make assumptions about whether the actor playing the role is gay himself. Colfer has been asked about it before and publications like After Elton and The Advocate have matter-of-factly discussed him as being out. He’s said a couple times that he wasn’t out in high school because people are “killed” for it in his hometown.
So, it seemed bizarre and inconsistent that in the USA Today interview he decided to play coy. From the article:
Playing an openly gay kid means fielding questions about his own sexuality, which Colfer doesn’t address.
“I try to keep up a mystery. As much as I give away of my personal life, the less people will believe me as other characters. I try to be private about it. It is what it is,” Colfer says with a shrug.
This drives me nuts.
I don’t want to be too hard on Colfer. Even today, coming out is always hard and you have to remember that he’s basically just a kid (born in 1990, for the love of God). And I certainly can’t imagine coming out to the entire country when I was 19.
Still, this is the latest in a troubling pattern of behavior by gay celebrities. Whether you’re Michelle Rodriguez or Ricky Martin or Sean Hayes or Anderson Cooper, dodging the gay question has been a time-honored tradition. However, the idea of not only dodging the gay question, but actively aspiring to achieve a sort of glass closet mystique strikes me as willfully and actively dishonest.
The most recent high-profile case of this phenomenon was American Idol’s Adam Lambert, who danced around the gay question for ages despite the fact that he was pretty much openly gay before the show. There were photos of him, essentially, shitting glitter and neon glowsticks. No one was fooled, but it kept people talking. And then he had his big Rolling Stone article and the beaten dead horse of Lambert’s sexuality was finally buried.
Now, Colfer’s decision to intentionally obfuscate (and self-contradict) his sexual orientation is both disappointing and aggravating. It’s aggravating because it reinforces the idea that being gay is something that should be hidden. “It’s none of your business” is something you say when you’re caught cheating on your wife or if you’re trying to cover up a blemish with the law. “Yeah, I’m gay. What’s so interesting about that?” is the attitude that Lambert and Colfer should be expressing. No one would ever play coy about their national origin or religion (unless, maybe, you’re a creepy Scientologist).
As for his concern about getting roles — I can understand why actors in particular would be hesitant to discuss their homosexuality. Getting roles is a cut-throat business and casting directors are fickle. But, let’s face it, actors like Chris Colfer and Sean Hayes are never going to be the leads in heterosexual romantic comedies (Other actors like, say, T.R. Knight might be able to get away with it. It’s just a fact). No one is ever going to say “Well, we can’t get Gyllenhaal, somebody get Chris Colfer’s people on the phone.”
It may not feel good to be limited to certain roles and put in a specific box, but that’s all Hollywood is — boxes. Actors are typecast all the time based on their race, their age or their level of attractiveness. Steve Buscemi might want to get the same roles as George Clooney, but it’s never going to happen. (It’s not the end of the world, though. The rules are definitely bendable. Neil Patrick Harris’ role as Barney on How I Met Your Mother works so well because he isn’t traditionally masculine.) Colfer happens to be baby-faced, wirey and fey. Confirming or denying his sexual orientation isn’t going to change a thing.
I’m not advocating a witch hunt to “out” anyone in Hollywood (politicians, however, are a different story). Beating down an actor’s door to force them out of the closet doesn’t do anything but imply that they’ve been “exposed” as being gay. But as long as there people in Maine voting to strip away the rights of committed couples and a complete ban on gay people in the military, it’s important to for everyone to be out and unashamed.
This coy business isn’t cute. It’s counterproductive.