By Nick Theurer
The saying goes “always be yourself”. That doesn’t seem to be what society wants you to do, no matter how often they tell you. In today’s world, equal rights are the topic everyone knows about, even if you’ve been hiding under the privilege rock.
We throw that word around a lot. Equal.
In modern society, there is a constant battle for making things politically correct. As we should. For far too many years, people have been the victims of discrimination against based on race, gender, and sexual orientation. Thankfully, there have been great strives to close the gaps of inequality. Many have seen great change in their life because of it.
In one field, however, there has almost been no growth. The film industry. The industry I dedicate my life to still has one of the biggest issues of inequality. In 1966, Nichelle Nichols began her role portrayal on Star Trek. This was the first time an African American character was presented on television as more than just a servant or slave. You would think, wow, it’s been 52 years. We must be all even, now, right? If only.
Society promotes being who you are, but that doesn't mean that's what the majority wants to see on screen. At least that's what were led to believe. White males still dominant the market in film and television. I, a white male, have noticed that I still receive a lot of seemingly positive attention based solely on race and even my gender. As much as I love to win, I want to win because I’m the best at what I do. Not because others weren’t allowed to compete.
Despite being a white male, I still find discrimination in the industry. How? Because I’m gay. The stigma in the industry is still alive and well. You can’t be an actor and be gay. This is the message I have come to receive.
When I first moved to Los Angeles, I had a manager. He was the epitome of Hollywood trash that would sell his soul and yours for a bite to eat. He swore that I should stay in the closet; that I needed to dump my boyfriend to make it big in Hollywood. To no one’s surprise, he was wrong.
Truth be told, I ignored his “advice” and my career is flourishing. I have many credits to my name and many upcoming projects. I am a producer on a few amazing projects, and my campaign to play the role of Nightwing has gained me tens of thousands of fans all around the world. I did all of this while being openly, and unapologetically, gay.
Over the last few years, there has been a noticeable change in the industry. More gay roles are coming into play in film. And not just the super flamboyant ones that everyone likes to stereotype. More roles are coming out of gay people who are well; complex individuals who just happen to be gay. This is just great except the fact these roles are all going to actors who aren’t gay.
Any job should go to the best actor. However, it seems a lot of gay actors aren’t given the chance to portray gay roles and aren't given the opportunity to audition. Many people say that “gay people play straight roles all the time”. That’s true, but that's because heteronormative roles have dominated popular culture for too long. Gay roles have been shunned or looked down upon for so long that no one wanted to even play them. Now that gay roles are a normal thing, those who have been suppressed should be the ones playing those roles. The people who truly live that life and understand those difficulties.
This issue stems far past just gay roles in the film and television industry. In my life time, I’ve all too often seen roles of African American, Asian, Middle Eastern, Hispanic, Transgender played by people who weren’t of those descriptions. When a minority is denied the right to play themselves, especially after being suppressed for so long, there’s an issue.
I’m proud of how far we have come as a society and glad that so many more people have been given these opportunities. However, we have a long way to go until everyone is given a shot to bring to life authentic characters that only they can truly bring to life. Let’s keep striving forward.