For some reason, whenever someone has a smear campaign agenda against a famous person, it is mostly more successful when it goes on about people from the entertainment industry rather than about politicians.
Case in point with the recent mishaps of one Matt Damon. You might have heard of him, he has been in a couple of films.
You might’ve also heard about the alleged “white privilege” statements he came up with, most recently the statement about how homosexual actors shouldn’t come out publicly as such. Only that he never said such a thing, ever. It is incredibly frustrating when the same thing keeps on being drilled into people’s brains, article after article. I mean, it is in the Guardian, so it must be right, right?
Let me tell you something about modern media. They rely a lot on the amount of clicks and shares their articles will accumulate. Every online-based media has a massive use of click-bait articles they share on their Facebook page, or hope that the vocal minority will share them on their Facebook newsfeeds. I say “vocal minority” because a lot of those pieces have mass-appealing, populist titles and undertones. Some of them won’t even reflect the majority of the actual content of the rest of media, but hey-ho. Mo clicks, mo money.
But let’s get back to Mr Damon’s case. The article that “triggered” me (and I am a white cis female, so I am always triggered, according to some) was one comparing James Dean’s short-spanning career and his constant silence about his personal life to Matt Damon’s statement that it would be better if artists didn’t share their personal life and sexuality. The issue with this comparison is that is full of shit, but the lovely writers round at Salon.com decided to go with the Damon-ising flow instead of using some analytical skills and realise that of all comparisons they could go with, that one is exactly the one that supports Damon’s statement.
Let me explain.
The direct quote that he used that is very much misquoted by this point is “You’re a better actor the less people know about you period. Sexuality is a huge part of that. Whether you’re straight or gay, people shouldn’t know anything about your sexuality because that’s one of the mysteries that you should be able to play.” Now I don’t claim that if you are a 12-year-old Tumblr-fuelled straw feminist, you won’t see a problem with that statement. But leaving these people aside, what Damon is actually saying, and by that I mean actually, literally taken from his mouth is that we live in day and age when people still pay attention to your personal life if you happen to be somewhere on the relative scale of fame. Unfortunately, many people do get typecast regardless of whether they want to or not. Steve Carell is a very good example for this. He is a brilliant comic and many don’t know he is also a brilliant dramatic actor.
Same goes for sexuality. You get someone like Neil Patrick Harris who everybody knows as that raging womaniser in How I Met Your Mother – but also as a fabulously gay person in real life. His other infamous heterosexual role is in American Horror Story: Freakshow. In both series his characters’ sexuality is enhanced by abnormal circumstances. He either has female issues or “Mommy” issues. In short, in either cases he would’ve been Sigmund Freud’s favourite subject to study. While this is certainly not a case only with gay actors playing straight characters but certainly raises questions about a the characters’ sexuality.
James Dean was the rebel without a cause. Back in the 50s, when everybody was cis and white, he was openly avoiding being labeled as such – albeit all the public relationships he was in, and even though he never revealed anything about his sexuality. Even now, whenever someone comes out as a LGBTQI, it immediately reaches the news. It is a thing for a while. People start associating you with it, and especially if you are male. And again unfortunately, 60 years ago a revelation like this would’ve been a disaster. A career breaker and potentially, a life ruiner. I am willing to argue with anyone that nowadays James Dean would have been asked questions, and he would have answered with the modern viewframe of someone living in 2015. And maybe it won’t be the dealbreaker that it would have been more than half a century ago, but stereotyping is still ingrained into our culture. Asians are always smart. Katherine Heigl will always be in a dumb romantic comedy. Dwayne Johnson will always be The Rock, even when in a silly babysitter film.
This is what Matt Damon is getting at. If actors are not constantly pressured into having to reveal their sexual preferences, if someday this society turns into one where no one really actually cares about the type of genitals people want (or don’t want) to look at. In that day actors will be performers. They will play whatever role they can master, stretching their skills to whichever level they can and want. And of course, if now you want to “come out” as gay, lesbian, macho, reptile or a brony, please – by all means do. But don’t pretend that this won’t put you in some stereotype by people whose entire industry is supported on stereotyping anything that is perceived as The Other, ie a non-fair skinned cis male.
Finally, I have one question to all of you. All you know about Matt Damon is what he has stated in interviews, that he is married and has children. Can you for all certainty claim that he is in fact a straight male?