It’s been ages since I did a Gay of the Week post. Those were mostly tongue-in-cheek posts helping to spread gay rumors about otherwise straight – but damn we wish they weren’t – celebrities. Just for the fun of it. Except for the Jeremy Renner one. When your wife of 10 months divorces you on grounds of fraud, the jig is kinda up. I haven’t been posting Out This Week articles much recently either. It was getting too difficult to keep up with the constant stream of stars, musicians, wanna-be celebrities, and personalities that in reality don’t have one coming out of the closet. Announcing to the world that you’re gay just doesn’t have the impact it once did. And there’s a good chance your timing will be off and someone more famous than you will come out on the same day, kicking your rainbow debut right out of the spotlight.
The world has moved on. The media used to devote a good week to any celebrity coming out story, now they barely last for a 24 hour news cycle. ‘Cuz it’s the world of entertainment, and no one really cares. If a video clip of John Travolta sucking cock got posted to YouTube today, it wouldn’t even go viral. In fact, for all I know there’s already a video of John Travolta sucking cock on YouTube. But I, and the rest of the world, opted to watch the one of a cute kitten licking milk off a Rottweiler’s face instead. That a male star hasn’t really made it in Hollywood until he’s been rumored to be gay is pretty much a given these days. And if your dream is to host the Academy Awards one day, you’d better be an out celebrity or it ain’t gonna happen.
There’s still an age of stars who consider coming out a momentous occasion. Joel Grey just came out at the age of 82. You didn’t see much about that on the internet. Because most people don’t know who Joel Grey is. Nor do they care that he is gay. But some celebrities came of age in a Hollywood where being open about your sexuality meant the death of your career. So you can understand John and Tom’s continuing refusal to admit to what everyone else already knows. That’s no longer true. Today, tomorrow’s leading men come out early in their career. Or at least most of them do. Not so Jack Falahee, who plays the morally ambiguous gay character Conner Walsh on the hit TV show How To Get Away With Murder. Thanks to playing the hottest gay character on TV these days, Falahee is frequently asked about his own sexuality. Which he refuses to discuss. And Jack Falahee is no Kevin Spacey.
Or maybe he is. He’s just sat with Out magazine for an interview and declined to answer the question of whether or not he’s gay claiming “I don’t think answering who I’m sleeping with accomplishes anything other than quenching the thirst of curiosity. ” Even though that wasn’t the question; no one was asking for names, just whether there was usually more than one penis involved or not. And while many straight stars asked about their sexuality these days are honest enough to say no (but I love my gay fans, etc. etc., etc.) Falahee said the question – or maybe the answer – was ‘reductive’, adding, ““We still live in this hetero-normative, patriarchal society that is intent on placing everything within these binaries.”
Yes or no would have been a clearer answer. But then using a word like hetero-normative tends to do the same. And while Falahee probably thought that answer looked good on paper, if you are reductive about it his statement comes across as an argument in favor of bisexuality. So ‘both’ works too. At least until you hook up with Dustin Lance Black.
Out’s interview isn’t the first time Falahee’s been asked which team he plays on. “It’s a really bizarre thing in our culture that people want to know that,” he said during an interview with Buzzfeed last year, while nervously tugging at the sleeve of his T-shirt. It appears Falahee is nervous or anxious often for some reason. “You see these people in film and on television and you feel like something is owed to you to know the intimacies of their lives, which is… I dunno.” Falahee added that it could be tough for audiences to see him as another character if they’ve pored over every detail of his personal life. “Like Tom Cruise,” he suggested.
Bad choice of example, Jack. Bad choice.
In the more recent Out interview, Falahee finished he answer off with the thought that he hopes that in some future time the world will no longer be interested in the question of someone’s sexuality. A nice sentiment, but an ironic one all things considered. That world will never become a reality without the gay men of today owning up to who they are. To not do so says there’s something wrong with being gay. That there is too much to fear about coming out. It’s actors like Neal Patrick Harris – who still manages to land and be accepted in straight roles in big box office productions and hit television shows even though he’s out – who blaze that pathway. As for admitting that you are gay – or straight – being reductive, that’s only true if you fear what doing so may reduce you to. In your own mind.
Many gay men will tell you the most liberating thing about their coming out was being freed from a life of fear. Fear makes you do strange things. Like using the word reductive. And as many gay men will tell you the response they received to their coming out was often of the ‘Thanks, we were just waiting for you to tell us’ variety. Because there are differences between straight and gay men beyond what they do in the bedroom. While gay guys can ‘act’ straight (even actors) they seldom can think straight. And it always shows.
The choice for most straight guys in preparing for the role of a wannabe lawyer would not be by watching Legally Blonde, as Falahee says he did. And straight guys don’t spend a year telling interviewers that they are currently reading The Feminist Mystic. They may pick up a copy, check for pix of lesbian action, and then carry it around to pick up chicks, but only a gay guy would think about reading it. Even though since its about vagina that’s like an American trying to read War & Peace in Tolstoy’s native tongue. Straight guys don’t generally use ‘biatch’ to caption a photo on their Instagram account, and few answer the question posted on thier Twitter account of whether he would ever consider doing drag with, “I’ve gone drag before.” But then few straight guys get asked about doing drag in the first place.
Falahee says the years he spent in acting school never prepared him for fame, that the public’s thirst for knowing more about those who they’ve elevated into the spotlight is not something he was prepared for. Even though that’s been the paradigm in Hollywood since its conception and Falahee, like all celebrities, has a publicist to accomplish just that goal. It’s that degree of interest, which the Hollywood machine actively stirs, that means the difference between being cast in a blockbuster movie and sitting at home updating your own Wikipedia page. And when you share every bit of minutia of your daily life on Twitter and Instagram, it’s a bit disingenuous to claim questions about which team you play on are beyond the public’s ken.
In an age when you have to be suspicious of motives when you hear Bruce Jenner is transitioning into a woman – and doing so on a reality television show – and hear not only did Whitney Houston’s daughter do a suicide homage to her late mother but the family is planning on finishing her off on the anniversary of the late diva’s death, pretending that publicity isn’t what fuels the celebrity life-style is, at best, naive. So while it’s noble to claim every gay man has the right to come out at the time of his own choosing, when your choice is a career of fame and fortune dependant on the public’s interest in you, that horse has already left the barn.
Lance Bass – who also has a reality television show to promote – has recently been whining about the mean bloggers who outed him years ago. While failing to mention that’s what put his stardom back on the map and saved him from a career of pushing Bosley hair restoration memberships like his ex-band mate Joey Fatone. And you can assume when you are playing an openly gay man on a hot television series and sit down for an interview for a publication called Out, there’s a good chance the question of your sexuality will come up. Just like your publicist said it would. ‘Cuz he or she authorized that subject in advance.
Falahee’s is the break-out role in an ensemble cast that includes many fine actors and actresses. If it wasn’t for Viola Davis’s powerhouse performance as the professor-mastermind, Annalise Keating, 21 million people would not have tuned in for the premiere. But it’s the arrogant, manipulative, sexually predatory, and totally irresistible Connor character responsible for those fans tuning back in to the show again and again.
Falahee’s Cheshire Cat smirk, demonstrating just how much Connor savors every ounce of duplicity while he unapologetically uses his sexuality to bend men to his will and manipulate everyone blocking his path to career advancement, is what has made that character into the one fans can not stop talking about. It’s a gay archetype not previously seen on American television. Ditto for the hot man on man sex the show has become famous for. Gay or straight, whoever was lucky enough to land that role would have to have known at some point people would want to know just how much of Connor was a part of that actor. And would have prepared for it better than Falahee has.
It’s not just the never seen on broadcast television before openly gay – and extremely hot – sex that has set the show and the Connor character apart. It’s also the rest of the cast’s reaction to his sexuality. Gay characters are usually – still – played for laughs. No one on How To Get Away With Murder is laughing at Connor. If anything, they’re a bit jealous: noting how much sex Connor gets one male character even goes so far as to say, “I’m so mad I wasn’t born gay.” But more so, Connor’s sexuality is a non-event. He’s open about who he is, even proud of it. And no one really cares. Which, despite Falahee’s fears, is about the same as it would be in real life.
Michael Adam Hamilton, an open and unabashedly straight actor, who appeared in the boys will be boys bathroom stall scene with Falahee – where after groping and kissing each other Connor turns his character Julian around and straddles him from behind – says of Falahee, “My favorite thing about working with him in this role is I have no idea if he’s gay or straight in real life and I don’t care.” If only Falahee could exhibit the same degree of honesty he too might discover that while interested, in the end no one really cares.