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    The Prom, a movie starring Meryl Streep, James Corden, and Nicole Kidman, premiered on Netflix on December 11. The movie made waves, not so much for its intrigue as a film, but largely due to James Corden’s character, Barry Glickman, an out, gay Broadway actor. The snag here is that James Corden is not publicly queer.

    Many took to Twitter to air their grievances about James Corden’s performance, which a fair few deemed as ‘cliche’ and relying heavily on stereotypes about gay men, namely their supposed flamboyance. “I’m only 3 minutes into The Prom movie and this James Corden performance is already giving bad gay stereotypes,” wrote one Twitter user. “Everything about The Prom was perfect,” wrote another. “Except James Corden.”

    After watching the film, I can confirm that Corden is a little flamboyant; however, having seen him on his talk show and in other films, that’s arguably just his personality and acting style. The bigger question is, should he have been given this role at all, when there are gay actors who would kill for the exposure?

    Kristin Stewart, star of Netflix’s recent queer rom-com Happiest Season, was asked recently for her stance on heterosexual actors playing homosexual roles. She called the conversation a “slippery slope.” “I would never want to tell a story that really should be told by somebody who’s lived that experience,” the actress said. However, she added that if she was going to “hold everyone to the letter of this particular law,” it would mean that she “could never play another straight character.”

    It seems unfair to deny gay people the opportunity to play straight roles when straight people have been taking on queer roles for decades. Not to mention, those heterosexual actors who do take up queer roles are often rewarded for it, with critical acclaim and heaps of awards (just think of Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl). This is sending the implicit message that those who are taking opportunities away from queer actors are ‘brave’ for doing so, and should be rewarded for it. 

    People often defend heterosexual people taking on queer roles by saying that it is just acting, and as such, there should be no limitations on what perspectives actors explore. However, this fails to take into account the real damage that straight actors are doing by taking away roles from queer actors who may be struggling to find parts. Furthermore, we have already seemingly agreed that taking on different racial perspectives than one’s own is taboo, if the backlash to Emma Stone’s part-Asian character in Aloha is any indication. Why can we not do the same for another marginalized group that deserves the right to tell their own stories, especially when they have been denied that right for so long?

    Finally, there is another risk to consider. Maybe straight actors will do queer parts justice - or maybe they won’t. When in doubt, it’s likely that straight actors will fall back on stereotypes to portray queer characters, whereas casting an actual queer person will probably lead to a more authentic performance. 

    With all this in mind, it does seem like a misstep to have cast James Corden in a queer role. Hopefully Hollywood can learn from the backlash. As Stewart put it, “Fucking think about what you’re doing! And don’t be an asshole.” Well said.  

Sophie Gaddes

Williams '20

Sophie Gaddes is a senior and an English major at Williams College up in Williamstown, MA. She adores all things Austen, ASMR, and Adam Driver (don't judge). When not writing for HerCampus, she can be found reading up on pop culture news and re-watching Fleabag for the fiftieth time. She is passionate about helping young women in college campuses across the nation and hopes that her work, be it about wintertime fashion, the latest Marvel movie, or leading women in business, will do so.
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