Culture & Lifestyle
Point Counter-Point: Should only queer people play queer roles on screen?The Post brings to you opposite arguments put forth by two individuals with different perspectives on the same topic.
In today’s day and age, society is more progressive than it was ten years ago. The queer movement has come a long way from the era of the Stonewall Riots, and we are headed towards a world where queer people are getting spaces for themselves. Hence, it is of absolute importance that we have queer people play queer roles on screen.
Media has always been a major medium to connect with people. While it is great that we now have queer characters on-screen, the representation they have is usually that of a random best friend who is sassy with their entire life revolving around their queerness. As if that stereotyping was not bad enough, the people who play these roles are also, most times, non-queer people who have never had the unique experiences of a queer person. This has resulted in a wave of performative action by the media where they pretend to be inclusive but continue to let non-queer people take over the spaces which are, obviously, not for them.
To add onto that, when we have non-queer people playing queer roles, we are taking away the opportunities from a queer person who would be able to portray the character in a much better manner. More importantly, having a queer person in the media would mean representation of the community. It is no hidden fact that there are multiple biases against queer people in any given industry in the world. For that to change, it is important for queer people to have a seat at the table and for them to be able to speak up against these unfair biases. We can never expect organic change if we do not have the very people who are oppressed by the system doing something to fix it.
The opposition might say that these roles are just jobs and regardless of who does them, we cannot deny them the opportunity. While that is a fair argument in and of itself, it is not applicable to these circumstances. We are not just talking about jobs, we are talking about minority groups, specifically queer people, how they are treated in the media and the effect they have on people who consume the media. A queer person playing a queer role would be likely to spark up at least one conversation, even in queerphobic circles, which doesn't seem like a lot, but that is how change begins. Queer people deserve the visibility and the space to practice their craft with authenticity. They have been deprived of the right to express themselves for too long.
Dhakal is a queer person who is involved in women and queer activism. They are an executive member of RedefineZ Nepal, a student-led activist group that works with youths.
After a bustling day in this highly busy world, one of the best ways to relax is to be awestruck by the amazing performances of the artists that display their craft through movies or series. I remember being completely amazed by the artists in various movies taking up different roles and being able to embody their essence. Their ability to be a comedic relief in one movie and a gruesome villain in another always left me baffled. Their ability to adopt roles of people with disabilities, other sexuality and other differences that they didn’t inherit. Having only queer people play queer roles will take this freedom away from an artist. They won’t be able to practice their craft apart from their personal identity. These artists train themselves to embody different characters, and limiting them is principally unjust for their talent as well as the essence of cinema itself. Artists being able to embody characters apart from their personal identity will rob us of excellent performances like Benedict Cumberbatch in the Imitation game portraying a homosexual man or Neil Patrick Harrison as a gay man acting as a straight man in ‘How I Met your Mother’.
One can argue that the above argument is not too specific to queer artists, rather talks about artists being stuck in roles with personal identity and how that’s bad in general. However, the harm is symmetrical as now queer people will be limited only to playing queer roles. This can be seen as a form of typecasting which can increase the role of exclusion as now queer people might have a hard time finding roles that are explicitly queer. This will limit talented queer artists, limit their freedom to show their craft in its true essence and create exclusion in the entertainment industry.
Cinema is a great way to get a message across however if the message is ineffective, does it serve its purpose? No! Cinema is actively trying to make movies that will make people aware of differences amongst people and the challenges that come along with it. When these roles are taken up by highly talented artists who most certainly have a lot of fans will get the message across more efficiently compared to having a queer artist just for the sake of filling the role. To create a big impact, we certainly need social capital, which is much more likely to exist in the scenario where anyone can take up roles rather than typecasting existing. I am not against queer actors taking queer roles, but it shouldn’t be a necessity.
Pokharel currently pursuing his bachelor's degree in computing from Islington College. He is enthusiastic about debating and considers it a thrilling sport that makes him acknowledge diverse perspectives.