An Open Letter to Author Bret Easton Ellis

Dear Mr Easton Ellis

I’m going to be honest with you. A few weeks ago I had no idea who you were. A few weeks ago I was sick to the back teeth of the 50 shades of Grey phenomenon and had vowed to myself I would never read the book or watch the film.

The inevitable happened. I caved and read an excerpt,   I found out who you were. But I still don’t care about 50 Shades. Nor do I suddenly care about you. However, I do care about something you said.

You said Matt Bomer couldn’t play Christian Grey because he was ‘too gay’.  At the justified cries of outrage, you insisted it ‘wasn’t a matter of discrimination’ but that he was ‘married to a man and that complicates things’

I’ll tell you what; this English tutor will give you a free lesson from the goodness of her heart. Matt Bomer is an actor.  The dictionary defines an actor as:

  1. A person whose profession is acting on the stage, in movies, or on television.
  2. A person who behaves in a way that is not genuine.

So that means it’s his job to pretend to be something that he’s not. Strange idea huh?

No actually. There’s a pretty grand tradition of it. The first recorded actor appeared around 534 BC in Greece. And acting has continued to the modern day, despite early distrust and condemnation from the all-powerful religions of the time.

Maybe we should forget about those early actors. After all, I don’t think you’d be a fan. They didn’t even care about getting things like gender “right”. Women weren’t allowed on the stage you see. So men took up female roles, or sometimes gave them to spotty teenage boys. Yeah, those Greeks were weird, letting all those people pretend to be something they weren’t. How…complicated….

Why aren’t you, silver tongued advocate of simplicity that you are, reminding people that we don’t do things the Greek way? Why, any doctor that tried to tell you that you were ill because you had too much yellow bile would be laughed out of the room.

So why don’t you say that to all those operatic women in “breeches roles”, who pretend during every performance to be men? Or to the delightful young lady who just got the role of Peter Pan in the pantomime they put on annually in my city.

Where were you when Morgan Freeman got cast as pasty faced, red-haired Irishman Ellis Boyd “Red” Redding in Frank Darabont’s production of the Shawshank Redemption? When blonde-haired Nicole Kidman got cast as dark-haired Mrs Coulter in The Golden Compass? Or Shonda Rimes cast Chandra Wilson as Miranda Bailey, a character she had originally envisioned as petite and blonde?

Why weren’t you alongside the chorus of disabled people protesting when James McAvoy got the role of Muscular Dystrophy sufferer Rory O’Shea in the BBC’s tearjerker Inside I’m Dancing?

Okay, Bret, maybe I’m belabouring a point. Maybe I’ve got it all wrong. Maybe it’s all this fudging about sexuality you disapprove of.  You protested when Tom Hanks was in Philadelphia, Sean Penn got the role of Harvey Milk and when Gyllenhaal and Ledger made Brokeback Mountain. I’m sure you made similar comments when Neil Patrick Harris began playing the role of women-mad Barney Stinson. And you certainly said something when Bomer himself appeared in Chuck, White Collar and Magic Mike, kissing his way through a raft of beautiful women, playing a straight man to critical acclaim.

You didn’t? It’s just this gay man taking this one part that you have a problem with. To be honest, I think the role could go to anyone that’s been rumoured to have it. It could go to Alexander Skarsgård. It could go to Nicholas Cage. I’m pretty sure you’d never be satisfied.  In your head you are the only one who can bring Christian Grey to life the way he should be. Whomever some ambitious director (not you) immortalises on celluloid, it will never live up to your sordid imaginings. Boo hoo. So why then,  am I putting such weight upon your petulant adolescent whining?

After all, this is a pretty pointless letter. In a few weeks, people will have forgotten what you said.  Matt Bomer hasn’t said he wants the job, and he probably won’t get it. Although, I hope he does, (even though I personally think he’s too good for it), because I am sure the look on your face when you heard the news would be fantastic.

But this isn’t really about Matt Bomer. You could have said similar things about any openly gay actor and I still would have written you this letter. Because it is comments like that and people like you that help preserve the status quo in mainstream western film and television. Nearly all the LGBT parts are played by straight men and women and the characters themselves are more often than not stereotypical and insulting. Whilst some actors who are actually LGBT live in fear of coming out because their work might stop, or they might even bring about the collapse of an entire network show.

I am writing to you because, rightly or wrongly, as a straight, white, educated male your opinion has more weight than mine and than many of your critics. So I’m asking you, begging you- consider your words before you speak out again.

Is a person’s baffling inability to separate an actor from their role for two hours,  your frustrated creative vision or whatever other tired reason you can think of to spout really more important than the best actor getting a job?  (If they want it…) It shouldn’t matter if they happen to be gay or straight, female or male, white or not white. Acting ability is the only thing that should count. And you have the influence, the platform, the power to help change things.

Please use it wisely.

Yours Sincerely

Me

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