Saturday, February 15, 2014

OPINION: On Ellen Page...

So, this weekend, Ellen Page purposefully outed herself at a conference for LGBT teens, and the response was generally positive but I have to admit I don't think I've seen a single person express surprise over it - less so because it's becoming normalised, and more I think it was akin to the situation with Jodie Foster, and with celebrity followers (fans, the paparazzi, etc.) hounding every single breath of famous people, a lot of people put two and two together and came out with an answer somewhere in the (now) correct region.

What I have seen a lot of, however, are comments along the lines of "Good for her but it doesn't affect me". I've gotten quite annoyed over these, even when from people I respect. Why? Because it isn't about *you*. Ellen Page did not come out for you. She came out for herself. It is something she has done, on her own terms, for her own peace of mind - something I believe was essentially stated in her talk, but I've not listened to it so I must confess I'm going off reports here. I don't think she even came out for the hundreds and thousands of QUILTBAG teens, but I'll come to that later. It's a selfish yet selfless act, yet to say "it does not affect my life" is really annoying... especially as it seems to generally come from straight people. Sorry, guys and gals, but this really isn't about you and never has been. In fact, it's that behaviour itself that is part of the problem.

See... Ellen Page has taken a huge risk here. No, that sounds stupid. She's opened herself up - by being honest - to a lot of ignorance, hatred and professional issues. She's starred in blockbusters, in highly successful indie films, she's voice acted and even had the lead role in one of the most unusual and ambitious video games of the soon-to-end current console generation, Beyond: Two Souls (by Quantic Dream). She is now not just an actress, but a gay actress. Yes, she certainly can find success and support - and considering her frequent performances in indie or less 'corporate' movies - it's likely she will continue to be a very visible, popular actress (and she IS great, too), but stand back for a moment and tell me some A-list Hollywood stars who are out. Give me a list of blockbuster, named-on-poster stars who are gay. You are really going to struggle with this, especially if we go the extra step and ignore British actors. See? This is kinda part of the problem.

The other part of the problem, as mentioned above, is the attitude towards her. It doesn't affect me. Well, not directly, no. Chances are you'll never be in the same room as her, let alone meet her. Even then her sexuality is irrelevant. But it *does* affect her, and by saying it doesn't matter, you're hand-waving it and dismissing it as a triviality. Hollywood has very little 'true' QUILTBAG representation in its top stars, and a gay actor or actress may very well be seen as less desirable to cast than a straight one - yet at the same time a gay actor or actress may very well end up as typecast. I don't think it's so much a Gay People Playing Straights or Straights Playing Gays (though the latter is something Hollywood - and the media in general - could perhaps look to address) issue, but the casting of QUILTBAG actors does seem to be limited.

Another benefit of Ellen Page's coming out is just the fact she's a visible role model now, but also a voice of QUILTBAG people in the public eye. It's important to younger people (in particular) to see people of different groups - not only to provide a good range of experiences, but it gives QUILTBAG children and teens someone to look up to, to point to and say "They're like me". It's similar to the famous quote from Whoopi Goldberg about seeing Uhura from the original Star Trek, how that single woman changed the lives of countless young black girls by showing them that they too can be intelligent, confident, etc., etc. It's hard to explain to those who are straight and/or white, because that's the overwhelming majority from the media. It's Men & Women, not Men & Men or Women & Women except for specific shows.

I guess I lost track a little bit, but what I really what to say is that Ellen Page should be applauded and supported in her coming out, and I know I have gained even more respect for her for doing so, but also that whilst it may not affect your day-to-day life specifically, it is something that *does* matter, and for many reasons. As said in a tweet that appeared in my feed whilst writing this - her coming out matters to the many QUILTBAG people who live closeted and in fear of not just what they are, but also how people - and society - will react to them.

So yes, it does matter. It matters a lot.

1 comment:

  1. I've been saying ( essentially ) this since she came out. Agreed!!!