The Cultural Appropriation of Gay Men: Jessee Williams Plays Gay For Pay On Broadway in Take Me Out
There’s a Broadway Play right now that’s been around for a while. It’s titled, Take Me Out, and it stars a straight actor playing gay named, Jesse Williams. I think the most disappointing part of all this is that the author of the play, Richard Greenberg, is gay himself…at least I think he is. I did research it, but it’s not easy in this case.
With that said, Jesse Williams did an interview about playing gay for pay, which is something they all do lately in order to try to show how good and honorable they are while appropriating gay culture and gay men. And sadly enough, there are still many gay men who fall for it. And I “get” that. We’ve all been conditioned to believe that we’re not worth it and let the straight guy get his way.
Jesse is hoping that his work on this play is accepted in good faith. It’s almost as though he’s asking for forgiveness because he knows what many of us are thinking. I’m curious to know how Jesse would feel if I were to put on blackface and audition for a black role in a play. First, I wouldn’t do that. I would NEVER do that. Second, I don’t think Jesse would be so thrilled. So why is it okay for him to do that to gay men?
“This is a play that’s written by a Jewish man about a Black character,” he reflects. “Everybody’s involved in trying to make art and we have to have the ability to speak and express our interest and explore ideas beyond the limits of our own singular lives.”
Now he’s using the excuse of “art.” Well, no you don’t. Not in all cases. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should be doing it. It’s interesting that he mentions that a Jewish man wrote about a black character. Right now there’s an entire discussion happening about the cultural appropriation of Jewish content in TV shows like Mrs. Maisel. The entertainment industry just doesn’t seem to “get” it.
I also remember when I was in college I signed up for a “Theater Makeup” course to fulfill a fine arts elective. It was extremely disappointing because the professor, a former actor himself, forced us to dress up in yellowface during one session. He even taught us how to make our eyes look Asian. And I was repulsed by that class and I dropped it. This was long before we even became aware of cultural appropriation. I just knew right from wrong.
In short, I have no confusion about this. I know cultural appropriation when I see it. And no amount of double talk will change my mind. Here’s the rest. There are probably hundreds of openly gay actors on Broadway who could have played this part, and yet once again the straight guy gets it.