Two new pieces of news just came out of Russia.
The first is that Nadezhda Tolokonnikova has written an open letter describing abuse in the penal system in Russia and explaining why she began a hunger strike, yesterday, to protest.
I wrote about the Pussy Riot in this blog earlier in the year, and associated it with the new laws in Russia criminalising homosexuality.
|The gay actor Wentworth Miller|
The second piece of news associated with Russia is that the actor Wentworth Miller has come out as a gay man.
My younger daughter was a big fan of the TV show Prison Break, so I’m more than a little familiar with Mr Miller and his work. I didn’t know that he was gay. He hadn’t as far as I can tell, ever mentioned it.
In fact, as recently as 2007, Wentworth Miller is quoted as saying he, “hadn’t met the right girl yet.” Well, of course he hadn’t. There is no such thing as the ‘right girl’ for a gay man, and you’d think that by the age of 35, the age at which Mr Miller made this statement, most men, most people, would be aware of their sexuality.
What is it with Hollywood?
What is it about Tinsel Town that makes it almost as conservative as, (dare I even suggest it?) Putin’s Russia?
There are out and proud gay actors and actresses. There are also a great many who have preferred to keep their private lives more-or-less indefinitely private. Jodie Foster was lauded for coming out, but she didn’t do it until she was 50, and when she did come out it was something of a mealy-mouthed affair, as I made a point of saying in this blog on the subject.
It seems that most openly gay members of Hollywood’s elite are precisely that, they are the big names, the hot properties, the stars who are already way up there in the firmament. You’d have to be very, very brave to be a young up-and-comer and admit to being gay.
Ellen de Generes came out shortly before her fortieth birthday and Rosie O’Donnell was also forty when she came out. Even Neil Patrick Harris, possibly the most openly gay man in Hollywood did not come out publicly until 2006 when he was well into his thirties, and seventeen years after he became famous as Doogie Howser. Sean Hayes started playing a gay character in Will and Grace in 1998, and claimed never to be ‘in’, but he didn’t actually acknowledge that he was gay in public until 2010, when he, too, was 40.
Clearly Hollywood is still political. Clearly someone has decided that no one is going to believe in a gay leading man, regardless of how well he can act. Clearly 40 is some sort of magical age when most men have peaked and they’ve got nothing left to lose, so any spotlight will do, and coming out can’t do them any more harm and might add a little glamour to the second half of their careers.
I don’t know, and I might be sounding cynical by now, but there’s a reason for that. I think Hollywood is all about politics, and I think it’s horribly cynical.
There are more younger actors who are taking the chance and being truer to themselves, and I hope that taking the perceived risk of coming out pays off for them. They should carry the torch and lead the way, and break down some of the prejudices that either still exist or, at the very least, are perceived to exist by the powers that be, by the old, white men, who still control the purse strings in Hollywood Land.
Wentworth Miller turned down a trip to Russia to attend the St Petersburg International Film Festival, citing the persecution of homosexuals in Russia as his reason. He is quoted as saying this:
As someone who has enjoyed visiting Russia in the past and can also claim a degree of Russian ancestry, it would make me happy to say yes. However, as a gay man, I must decline... [I am] deeply troubled by the current attitude toward and treatment of gay men and women by the Russian government... [where] people like myself are being systematically denied their basic right to live and love openly.
We can all acknowledge Wentworth Miller’s integrity in declining this invitation and in doing so publicly, but isn’t it a pity that it has taken something as horrendous as these laws in Russia for a man like Miller to publicly acknowledge something as simple and fundamental as his own sexuality.
Any man, any person, who was truly proud would not feel the need to hide such a basic part of his nature or dissemble about it. At forty-one years old, I wonder that Wentworth Miller doesn’t cringe to recall some of the things he must have said and done in public during his spell in the Hollywood limelight.