New research shows when an actor comes out as gay, it does not affect how the audience rates his or her performance on screen.
Researchers from South Carolina’s Clemson University tested the hypothesis that out gay actors cannot play a believable straight role.
Writing in the journal Psychology of Popular Media Culture, they found this view could be easily challenged.
The study also revealed that being out had no measurable effect on an actor’s overall acceptance on screen.
Paul Merritt, a professor in the psychology department at Clemson University said: “Early research showed that people tend to perceive a direct connection between sexual orientation and established gender roles, especially in the entertainment industry.”
“However, these new findings indicate that knowledge of an actor’s sexual orientation doesn’t necessarily cause their performance to be perceived in light of stereotypes about gays and lesbians.”
Nearly 400 college students participated in the study by answering questions about a male actor’s fictional Facebook page that included a photograph and basic demographic information, including sexual orientation.
After watching a video of the actor’s performance, participants rated the performance and their likelihood of casting the actor in their own productions.
In 2012, American Psycho, writer Bret Easton Ellis told his Twitter followers he thought it would be “ludicrous” to cast an openly gay actor such as Matt Bomer as the lead in the film adaptation of the erotic hetrosexual novel 50 Shades of Grey.
Controversial British gay actor Rupert Everett said in an interview at the start of the year that straight actors could play the part of gay people and win awards – but the roles were rarely reversed.
Everett said he would not advise any gay actor working in the movie industry to come out as it would not help their career.
“Every character I play is straight, which is unique, my agent says, because it’s not really been done before that someone who is completely out is able to play straight roles. So for me to play gay it has to be something special, because it might actually be more of a risk. So I’m waiting for that role – I want it to be something that moves things forward,” Tovey said.