A star of the forever-running soap ‘Neighbours’ has been forced to publicly apologise after comments he made on a UK chat show were accused of being damaging to the queer community.
Aussie actor Matt Wilson, who identifies as straight, plays gay character Aaron Brennan on the show and has been taken to task over his appearance on Channel 5‘s ‘The Wright Stuff’ in which he described his ‘Neighbours‘ character as designed to “act straight and act normal”.
Asked on whether he felt he had taken a role away from a gay actor, Wilson responded by saying:
We’ve had this argument come up a couple of times. There are a lot of people who think you should have a gay actor playing a gay character, but that’s like saying you should get someone in a wheelchair to play a character in a wheelchair.
Uhh yeh by which you of course mean it’s a legitimate debate surrounding the vitally important notions of representation and equal oppurtunity right? Oh, nope…
“I think it’s important that we are expressing it. We specifically designed the character to act straight and act normal. When I say ‘normal’, I mean he’s not like the characters on ‘Modern Family’ where they are flamboyant and camp and they walk around tiptoeing. That creates separation – that’s us and them. It shouldn’t be like that. It should be all equal and no-one should have a problem with that. The way other characters act around my character is that there is never a problem at all.”
Hooooo boy, where to start. Just allow me to rub my temples and groan into my desk for five minutes before I dig into this…
Wilson’s comments, which he has since admitted
were poorly chosen, posits the existence of some notion of a “normal” homosexual who he seems to think is characterised by their ability to “act straight” and thus the abnormal homosexual must also exist, here defined by the “flamboyant and camp” characters such as found on ‘Modern Family
Straight acting gays, such as the one Matt so bravely portrays, supposedly lessen the “seperation” between homos and heteros and don’t cause any “problem(s)”, assumingly due to their ability to fit in, or “pass”, and not cause a fuss with all their limp-wristed poofery.
I’ll only say this once: gay and queer people populate a big, beautiful, kaleidoscopic community of different types, colours, sizes and personalities. There is no “normal” or “right” way to be queer and in a perfect world people of all spectrums would find themselves represented in the culture they inhabit.
Suggesting that gays with more traditionally masculine characteristics are more normal than others is such an incredibly damaging take and enables not only homophobic thinking amongst the wider community and a furthering of gay people as “others” but also fosters internalised homophobia in questioning or closeted young queers, still trying to figure out their place in the world.
Wilson has apologised in a since-deleted Tweet
, albeit in the responsibility-shunning approach we see so often in these situations of “apologies if it came off as offensive”.
Matt has in fact deleted his entire Twitter account due to the backlash and whilst I don’t encourage pile-ons and believe Willson should be given the chance to shed his ignorance, as a heterosexual portraying a gay man the responsibility of at the very least learning up a bit on the community he gets to play pretend in, is his alone.
Guess what heteros, we ARE different to you. Sometimes heaps, sometimes just a bit. But I fail to see how femme or not we act makes us any less deserving of being treated with the same level of respect as anyone else.