Whenever a Hollywood movie about a gay relationship is released, it’s usually played by straight actors. Should that be the case? Why couldn’t gay actors play gay characters? Why should the late Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal portray gay cowboys in Brokeback Mountain? Why should The L Word be filled with straight actresses portraying gay characters? Why can straight actors portray both gay and straight characters but this isn’t usually the case with LGBTQ actors?
On the other hand, why couldn’t some gay actors play straight characters once they’ve come out of the closet? For every gay actor who came out as gay with no drama like Jim Parsons who plays Sheldon Cooper (a straight character who somehow ended up with a girlfriend) from The Big Bang Theory, there are those like Ellen Page of Juno fame who’s apparently having trouble finding work involving straight roles ever since she revealed she was gay. In the interest of equality and diversity, more LGBTQ actors should be given the chance to portray characters who are both gay and straight, cisgendered and transgendered.
But LGBTQ actors aside, there are also certain straight actresses that play gay characters so convincingly that they’re triggering the gaydars of many in the audience to the point that they might actually be gay actresses portraying gay characters after all (how progressive). Right now they may be straight as a ruler, but who knows, someday they may come out as gay just like the others before them, and then it would make sense that they were able to play gay so convincingly.
15. Angelina Jolie – Gia
Angelina Jolie was for all intents and purposes supposed to be a straight girl portraying real-life gay icon Gia Carangi in the 1998 HBO original movie Gia, who’s a gay supermodel herself that had a spectacular rise and fall back in the 1980s. However, there’s a sliver of truth from Angelina’s portrayal of Gia, as she somehow shared traits with her. No, it’s not because Jolie is a supermodel or superstar herself. Angelina’s excellent portrayal of Gia showcased either her excellence as an actress or an undercurrent of relevancy in her own life that allowed her to really relate to Miss Carangi. In light of her confession way back regarding her bis*xuality and news reports about her ex-girlfriend Jenny Shimizu, it may be that Jolie was drawing a bit from real-life experience when it came to her performance as Gia. Regardless, she was really convincing — so much so that many believed she was gay for a second.
14. Lena Headey – Imagine Me And You
Lena Headey‘s Luce in Imagine Me and You (also known as Imagine Me & You) has also triggered the gaydars of many because of the movie’s story about a married woman falling for a non-stereotypical gay woman who happened to be the florist for her wedding. Instead of the outdated stereotype of the manly gay woman who hates men, the future Cersei Lannister portrayed a typical woman who just happened to like other women.
The initial connection between Lena’s Luce and Piper Perabo‘s Rachel may seem like love at first sight, but through Luce’s natural charm as a fascinating woman who’s living her life to its utmost potential, Rachel couldn’t help but fall for her in spite of herself. Audiences did too. Lena’s level-headed and realistic portrayal of Luce allowed her to create sparks with Piper’s character. No matter how hard Rachel and the audience resisted their growing attraction to Luce, they all couldn’t help but fall in love with her.
13. Dakota Fanning – The Runaways
Dakota Fanning‘s acting capabilities have been known to the world since she was a child star, so it’s no surprise that she’d hit the ball out of the park with her portrayal of the teenage version of Cherie Currie in the movie The Runaways back in 2010. Sure, Kristen Stewart‘s Joan Jett stole the spotlight a bit from the (in our opinion) superior actress because she was portraying the more famous gay icon. This is especially surprising for those who only know Kristen from the Twilight Saga. However, Dakota chose her roles well, since Cherie was actually the role with more meat to it even when alongside the bombastic Joan. People now have second thoughts in regards to Dakota’s romantic preferences because of the convincing relationship between Joan and Cherie. Even though the ending had a foregone conclusion, with Cherie leaving the band and all, audiences couldn’t help but cheer the cute couple and their whirlwind romance that led to one of the defining rock bands of the 1970s.
12. Julianne Moore – The Kids Are All Right
Incidentally, The Kids Are All Right is described as among the first mainstream movies to show a married gay and bis*xual couple raising two teens. Julianne Moore has gotten rumors said about her being actually gay or bi partly because of how convincingly she portrayed her character in the movie. Unlike movies in the past where bi or gay people are mostly used for titillation and the male gaze, this movie covers the everyday family life of a gay couple. This makes Julianne’s Jules portrayal of her love for Annette Benning‘s Nic all the more realistic and convincing. This everyday slice-of-life portrayal is worth more than hundreds of steamy scenes from gay women since more people from the LGBTQ community can relate to this. Love and romance isn’t just about the steamy side. It’s also about living together with your partner and learning how to deal with the challenges of raising teenagers.
11. Eva Longoria – Without Men
Although Julianne Moore showed a more down-to-earth portrayal of her gay character, leading to people doubting she’s as straight as she claims, Eva Longoria of Desperate Housewives fame showcases how one’s romantic preferences can bring in the same doubts. She has a number of steamy scenes in the movie Without Men that also has people wondering if she’s acting or showcasing bi or even outright in-the-closet gay tendencies. The plot of Without Men is as follows. A Latin American village ends up fending for itself after all the families’ husbands end up conscripted to fight in a guerrilla war of sorts. Soon, some of the wives end up exploring their orientation among a village sisterhood of sorts, leading to gay love and comedy. The village becomes a matriarchy of sorts as when the men return, they find out they’re no longer in charge of their village and households.
10. Jada Pinkett Smith – The Women
Will Smith‘s significant other is such a dynamic individual in her own right it’s arguable that Will Smith should instead be known as Jada Pinkett‘s husband. In the 2008 film The Women, she is one of the supporting actresses, filling the role of openly gay Alex Fisher. Rather than focus on her preference for women enough to convince people that Jada wasn’t really “acting” when she portrayed her character, the movie follows a less “preachy” route. Alex shows support to the other characters and their drama without looking like a walking gay stereotype or even an “independent black woman who needs no man.” She’s more subdued with her acting, showing that she’s more than her orientation the same way straight actresses and actors can be their character without focusing on their “straightness.” Her reserved portrayal makes her portrayal more convincing than simply going full The L Word and Orange Is the New Black route when it comes to homos*xuality.
9. Laura Prepon – Orange Is The New Black
Speaking of Orange Is The New Black (a show about going to women’s prison), let’s talk about Laura Prepon‘s gay character there. Laura is mostly known for her role in That ’70s Show as Donna Princiotti, Eric Foreman’s long-time girlfriend. She had a bit of a career resurgence of sorts with Orange Is The New Black even though she’s still seemingly typecast as the love interest of the protagonist in light of all her most famous roles. This time around, she plays Alex Vause, the on-and-off girlfriend and eventual fiancée of the show’s protagonist, Piper Chapman. Alex is a fellow inmate at Litchfield Penitentiary who’s in prison for smuggling. It certainly helps that Laura dyed her hair black for the role, her voice has always been quite deep, she’s always been quite tall for a woman and her previous character Donna was such a tomboy compared to her wimpy boyfriend Eric.
8. Natasha Lyonne – Orange Is The New Black
Here’s another gay portrayal from a straight actress in Orange Is The New Black that borders on being convincing enough to trigger gaydars from a ten-mile radius. Natasha Lyonne is best known for the American Pie series as Jessica and her appearances in Blade: Trinity, Slums of Beverly Hills, But I’m a Cheerleader and Everyone Says I Love You. Unlike Laura Prepon, who translated her Donna Princiotti portrayal and turned it up to 11 when she portrayed Alex Vause (so she’s essentially gay Donna), Natasha did a 180 on her Nicole “Nicky” Nichols portrayal, showing the other side of gayness that exists and have been exaggerated by mainstream media of the past, which is the “manly” gay woman. She’s every bit as sarcastic and snarky as Laura’s Alex, but she’s more of a loud mouth than someone who merely quips and side comments. She’s also very voracious with her “appetite.”
7. Olivia Wilde – The OC
Olivia Wilde‘s steamy portrayal of Alex Kelly from The O.C. had left certain people wondering whether she’s also another Angelina Jolie or an actress that was using her past gay experiences to make her performance as the bi bad girl more realistic. Incidentally, Miss Kelly made an infamous mark in the Fox TV series by dating both Marissa Cooper (Mischa Barton) and Seth Cohen (Adam Brody) in the series’ second season. Although Alex runs afoul with the LGBTQ community for seemingly being yet another bis*xual villain cut from the same cloth as Sharon Stone‘s bi Catherine Tramell in Basic Instinct (which might as well be titled Indecent Exposure because the movie is famous for that Sharon Stone scene), Olivia adds nuance to her character so that she’s not a one-note antagonist or a walking negative stereotype of bi women.
6. Charlize Theron – Monster
In contrast, few people could probably relate to Charlize Theron‘s portrayal of real-life monster Aileen Wuornos, who’s a gay serial killer who was executed in Florida in 2002 for taking the lives of six men in the 80s to 90s (she wasn’t tried for the seventh man she killed). Aileen is problematic in the sense that she reinforces the damaging stereotype that gay women are man-haters. While Sharon Stone got flak for her gay man-hater character in Basic Instinct, the semi-biographical film Monster gets more of a pass due to its portrayal of real-life events versus Hollywood making things up for entertainment purposes. Charlize does excellent work in getting across the broken psyche of Wuornos on-screen. Along with Charlize’s Aileen comes her semi-fictionalized lover, Selby Wall who’s played just as compellingly by Christina Ricci. Selby is based on Wuornos’s real-life partner Tyria Moore. This film eventually got Theron to win the Oscar for Best Actress.
5. Naya Rivera – Glee
In the musical drama Glee, Naya Rivera portrays closeted gay and queen bee cheerleader character Santana Lopez. Yet again, rather than use titillation to make people have second thoughts in regards to how straight Naya herself is, Naya proved her acting abilities by characterizing Santana so realistically as well as her struggles from within the closet. To be more specific, many LGBTQ fans of Glee couldn’t help but squeal in delight when Santana developed romantic feelings for Brittany Pierce, her best friend and fellow alpha girl cheerleader. Santana even ended up dating a jock who also happens to be gay as her “beard” of sorts as she struggles about whether or not she should become honest with her true orientation. Naya was also supportive of the blooming love story between Santana and Brittany.
4. Naomi Watts – Mulholland Dr.
Rumors started spreading about Naomi Watts being possibly gay as soon as Mulholland Drive (also known as Mulholland Dr.) was released. The movie showcased the steamiest of scenes between Naomi’s character Betty Elms and Rita that ended up as clips in many celebrity adult sites. However, the context behind them is quite murky, which is typical of a David Lynch production. The relationship between Betty and Rita has been described as titillating, moving and touching. Certain critics actually praise the film for portraying the amorous relations between Rita and Betty as quite healthy compared to the usual love scene excuse used in many other films that were filmed for the sake of titillation and bordering on exploitation. However, their relationship itself, fictional as it was, was grounded with romance rather than just lewdness. Naomi and Laura were able to portray both the sensual and romantic aspects of being a gay couple.
3. Rooney Mara – Carol
Carol is a 2015 romantic period drama film that costars Rooney Mara as Therese Belivet. It also stars Cate Blanchett as the titular character as well as Sarah Paulson, Jack Lacy and Kyle Chandler. It’s the film that helped jumpstart Rooney’s career, with her getting a tie with another actress for the Best Actress Award at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival while Carol itself competed for the Palme d’Or. It’s about the forbidden love affair between a female photographer and an older woman undergoing a troubling divorce. The film doesn’t only feature a steamy scene between Carol and Therese on New Year’s Eve right after their first kiss. The romance between the older and younger woman is one that’s rather uncommon in Hollywood where most gay couples fit into a stereotype. The screenplay for the movie is based on The Price of Salt, a 1952 romance novel by Patricia Highsmith and republished as Carol in 1990.
2. Piper Perabo – Lost And Delirious
Piper Perabo, to most mainstream audiences, is most well-known for starring in the musical comedy-drama movie Coyote Ugly as Violet Sanford. She’s also the costar to Lena Headey’s gay character in Imagine Me and You, playing the bride who falls in love with her female wedding florist, so she’s no stranger when it comes to playing gay characters. This time around, in 2001’s Lost and Delirious, Piper plays Pauline “Paulie” Oster, a full-of-life girl who’s one-half of a gay couple with Victoria “Tori” Moller. They’re the friends of Mary “Mouse” Bedford, whom they’re attempting to break out of her shell. It’s a must-watch movie that turns the “boarding school gay girls” trope on its head by featuring the couple as more grounded, relatable and romantic with their so-called forbidden romance.
1. Lily Loveless – Skins
Lily Loveless’s character Naomi Campbell in Skins is an interesting one. The English actress has touched the hearts of many closeted gay women everywhere because instead of being openly gay, her character Naomi instead struggles with her orientation for most of the award-winning series (specifically, it won the BAFTA award). What’s more, Naomi is also not a walking stereotype. There’s nuance to her portrayal of a passionate, political, principled and individualist woman. Throughout the third and fourth seasons of Skins, Naomi herself wasn’t sure of her orientation. She maintains she’s straight and not a bi or closeted gay woman even though she confesses to Emily Fitch and Effy Stonem that she’s unsure. She has also shown an interest in the male Cook and almost gets intimate with him in a Naomi-centric episode. She stops herself because of her feelings for Emily. It’s later revealed in season 4’s last episode that she got with men to get rid of her Emily-based attraction.
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