Hank Stuever has a good article in the Washington Post today about reporters’ love of questioning male actors on their same-sex on screen kisses and the homophobic responses to these queries.
In the relentless publicity interviews [James Franco has] been doing for his new movie, “Milk,” there’s plenty to ask about his performance as the neglected lover of San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk, the gay rights martyr. So what does every interviewer — from David Letterman to the Philippine Daily Inquirer to public radio’s Terry Gross — want to discuss most, over and over and over?
Wasn’t it really difficult to kiss another man? Implied: Without throwing up, seeing as you’re so obviously straight? What were you thinking as you kissed? Did you rehearse it? What was it liiiiiike?
Underlying the questions (and the answers) is this notion that a gay kissing scene must be the worst Hollywood job hazard that a male actor could face, including stunt work, extreme weather or sitting through five hours of special-effects makeup every day. We live comfortably, if strangely, in a pseudo-Sapphic era in which seemingly every college woman with a MySpace page has kissed another girl for the camera; but for men who kiss men, it’s still the final frontier.
Judging from their interviews over the years, actors who have filmed scenes in which they have pointed a revolver at someone’s head and pulled the trigger still think gay kissing is the grossest thing they’ve ever had to do for a movie.
Unfortunately this is not surprising. Just another example of how homophobia (particularly targeted at male queerness) is still running rampant. Even professional actors, who do a damn good job of presenting queer characters on screen feel the need to be extremely unprofessional in response to these questions. Take a look at Steuver’s piece for some of the more heinous examples. Obviously the media fascination with asking this question only promotes this type of homophobia and posturing as well.
Also interesting is Stuever’s explanation of how female actresses responses to these questions differ.
Women actors who’ve kissed other women in love scenes, meanwhile, sound like an enlightened other species in interviews about kissing. For them, it’s no big whoop. The men, on the other hand, talk as if they’ve outdone themselves and are now ready to accept their golden statue.