‘The Prom’: James Corden sparks ‘should straight actors be cast in gay roles’ debate with ‘offensive’ portrayal
Corden's Barry is, as many put it, 'very gay' and so understandably, his casting hit a wrong nerve as people are to watch a straight man perform in a role that should have been played by a gay actor
'The Prom' is an upcoming musical feature film directed by 'American Horror Story'' Ryan Murphy and has A-listers of Hollywood such as Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, Andrew Rannells and Kerry Washington starring in it. One of the stars is also late-night host James Corden who will be playing the role of Barry Glickman, a Broadway performer who describes himself to be as "gay as a bucket of wigs." The movie is highly anticipated but before its release, there has been much outrage over Corden being "offensive" in playing the part of a gay man, when he himself is heterosexual. The queer-positive Broadway musical was made sure to be released during the holidays just as Murphy wanted it, but it turns out that that this outrage over Corden playing this character wasn't expected.
The movie is about a teenager Emma (newcomer Jo Ellen Pelman) in Indiana who ends up being banned from her prom by her school after she had said she wanted to go to the dance with her girlfriend. After this becomes big news, Broadway veterans decide to help the girl along with restoring their reputations as part of better PR. This adaptation came to be after Murphy watched the production in NYC in 2019 and in April of that year, it was announced that he was to adapt the production into the Netflix movie that will air on December 11, 2020. While the other cast members seem to have won a golden ticket by being part of the movie, Corden's casting didn't sit well with the target audience of this production.
According to reports, Corden's Barry was shunned by his parents when he had decided to come out as gay and he steps up to take a liking to Emma whom he coaches to get past the rejection due to sexuality. With the lack of any better way to say this, Barry is, as many put it, "very gay" and so understandably, his casting hit a wrong nerve as people are to watch a straight man perform in a role that should have been played by a gay actor. There have been many that have spoken out about this including the founder of AwardsWatch, Erik Anderson who said that Corden's role was "offensive" - "the worst gay-face in a long, long time. It’s horrifically bad," he added. Even worse was Richard Lawson from Vanity Fair who called out Corden's “flitting and lisping around in the most uninspired of caricatures, misses all potential for nuance.” Some were even upset at how Corden's delivery of flamboyance may have been a little too much as Ian Sandwell from Digital Spy said that it was "to the point of being regressive and offensive, hitting every gay stereotype along the way.”
Of course, everyone watching - part of the LGBTQIA+ community or not - will have different views on Corden's delivery and whether the criticism is harsh or not, one question still stands - is it okay for straight actors to play gay characters? This isn't a question that would lead to a yes or no answer, but it does bring up another question - are opportunities being taken away from gay actors that are perfectly capable of playing the role of a gay character? This is not to say that straight actors have not excelled in roles of gay characters - examples would be Robin Williams in 'The Birdcage' or even Eric Stonestreet in 'Modern Family' among many others. But, it is important to point out that it's funny when the cliches are minimal but it could be offensive if it's looked at in plain context.
Unfortunately, Corden's casting as Barry is being seen as tone-deaf to many critics and audiences alike, so much so that The Guardian published an article with a harsh headline that read "James Corden proves why straight actors should think twice before playing gay." Many users took to Twitter to also call out Corden with one user tweeting, "James corden being in the prom is lesbophobic because i’m a lesbian and i don’t liek it" with another replying, "James corden being in the prom is biphobic because i'm bisexual and i also don't like it." Some took it a notch higher with another user tweeting, "Not to get out my gay pitchforks and start more “straight people can’t play gay characters” discourse but james corden as Barry in the prom is a hate crime". Another one added, "@JKCorden thanks for ruining The Prom with your shitty, offensive interpretation of a gay man. A**hole."
james corden being in the prom is lesbophobic because i’m a lesbian and i don’t liek it— bee ♡’s lis²⁸° (@LESBIANL0UIS) December 10, 2020
james corden being in the prom is biphobic because i'm bisexual and i also don't like it— ada🎄THE PROM TOMMOROW!!! (@dabbydaddyned) December 10, 2020
not to get out my gay pitchforks and start more “straight people can’t play gay characters” discourse but james corden as Barry in the prom is a hate crime— alyssa cassese (@AlyssaCassese) December 10, 2020
@JKCorden thanks for ruining The Prom with your shitty, offensive interpretation of a gay man. Asshole.— TransDaddy (@TBaldwin14) December 9, 2020