Even though Netflix’s “The Prom” tells the story about an LGBTQ teen defying the traditional values of her small-town neighbors with the help of some New York Broadway veterans, comedian James Corden’s performance as Barry Glickman has sparked outrage for his “stereotypical” portrayal.
According to IndieWire, several critics and entertainment journalists have criticized director Ryan Murphy and Netflix for casting Corden (a straight-white-cis male) in the role of a flamboyant gay man.
“Opinions differ on how acceptable it is for straight actors to play gay roles, but few straight actors could get away with a gay character like this, a role that would feel stereotypical in an ’80s sitcom and here feels offensive,” lamented Newsweek critic Samuel Spencer.
“After all, it is not like we have a shortage of actual gay actors who could give the role more pathos,” Spencer added. “Was Titus Burgess busy? Was Nathan Lane on holiday? Andrew Rannells is even in this movie, so we know he was available, and though he has fun as the out-of-work actor who wants everyone to know he went to Juilliard, this film would have been better had he been given the bigger role.”
David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter agreed that James Corden was miscast in the role of Barry and wished that an openly gay actor like Nathan Lane had been given the part.
“Perhaps aware of the potential minefield for a straight actor playing a flaming gay stereotype, Corden channels the mannerisms without the joy. It’s a flat performance without much heart,” said Rooney.
Tim Robey of The Telegraph seemed confused that Corden got the part when considering the abundance of openly gay actors featured in the movie.
“In a cast full of talented queer actors in the younger parts, it’s a massive problem to have Corden in gay-face front and center, trying his utmost to own Barry’s tragic experience of leaving home as an unloved 16-year-old,” wrote Robey. “When he grabs Emma’s hand and whisks her to the mall for a makeover, it’s an insult the film doesn’t even consider, stereotyping the young lesbian as fashion-clueless and the gay man as a bustling Queer Eye nightmare who made this reviewer embarrassed to be batting for the same team.”
“Corden, flitting and lisping around in the most uninspired of caricatures, misses all potential for nuance, and thus never finds even a hint of truth in the role,” wrote Richard Lawson in Vanity Fair. “And this is in a movie that’s supposed to be about empowering queer people!”
Actor Viggo Mortensen recently addressed controversy over his decision to play a gay man in the movie “Falling” despite his being heterosexual. Speaking with The Times, the former “Lord of the Rings” actor said he does not think it’s fair for an actor to have to divulge their sexual preferences when seeking a role.
“Look, these are the times we’re living in, and I think it’s healthy that those issues are brought up,” Mortensen said. “The short answer is that I didn’t think it was a problem. And people then ask me, ‘Well what about Terry Chen, who plays my husband in the film, is he a homosexual?’ And the answer is I don’t know, and I would never have the temerity to ask someone if they were, during the casting process.”
Mortensen added that the critics are also assuming elements about his own life that they do not fully know.
“And how do you know what my life is? You’re assuming that I’m completely straight. Maybe I am, maybe I’m not. And it’s frankly none of your business. I want my movie to work, and I want the character of John to be effective. So if I didn’t think it was a good idea I wouldn’t do it,” he added.