James Corden faces blistering backlash for ‘gross and offensive’ portrayal of a gay man in The Prom
James Corden has been slammed for his “gross and offensive” portrayal of a gay man in the upcoming Netflix musical film The Prom.
The new adaptation of the Broadway musical, directed by legendary queer creator Ryan Murphy, revolves around a group of out-of-work actors who decide to come to the aid of a lesbian high-school student who is denied the chance to bring a female date to her prom.
The four actors travel to the small Midwestern town of Edgewater, Indiana, after seeing a news report about Emma’s experience and attempt to win her the chance to bring her girlfriend to the prom.
The Prom also stars Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep, Keegan-Michael Key and Andrew Rannells.
James Corden has been heavily criticised for playing a camp gay man in Netflix’s The Prom
Corden plays Barry Glickman, an ailing gay Broadway star, in the musical adaptation – and it’s safe to say that queer critics are not impressed.
Erik Anderson, founder of AwardsWatch, delivered his verdict on the film on Twitter ahead of its 11 December release date.
“Really liked The Prom. A gorgeous and vibrant production. Streep is hilarious and commanding. Keegan-Michael Key is dreamy. Kidman, Rannells and Washington are fun,” Anderson wrote.
He also heaped praise on Ariana DeBose and Jo Ellen Pellman, the teenage lesbian couple at the heart of the film. However, Anderson wasn’t impressed by Corden’s performance.
“The main, and huge, drawback is James Corden,” he added.
“His performance is gross and offensive, the worst gayface in a long, long time. It’s horrifically bad.”
The main, and huge, drawback is James Corden. His performance is gross and offensive, the worst gayface in a long, long time. It's horrifically bad. https://t.co/av5W0SlxFX
— Erik Anderson (@awards_watch) November 29, 2020
Others given advance screenings of the film also offered their thoughts on Corden’s performance – and many were unimpressed by his overblown, camp portrayal of a gay man.
“The Prom” shouts about tolerance but has James Corden leaning into effeminate gay stereotypes every chance he gets. Someone make it make sense?
— Zack Sharf (@ZSharf) November 30, 2020
#TheProm was harmless but I can't say I loved it. Casting James Corden, a man whose acting skills are already questionable at best, as the dramatic lead (and a gay man) was… a choice. The rest of the cast fares well, but the script is so poorly structured for me to love.
— fa-la-la-la-lauren ❄️???? (@laurenjcoates) November 29, 2020
It’s funny because i generally believe that you don’t need to be gay to play a gay character, and that arguing otherwise does more harm than good, but then we get james corden in #TheProm and it makes me rethink everything
— fa-la-la-la-lauren ❄️???? (@laurenjcoates) November 30, 2020
THE PROM taught me a real lesson about tolerance. I used to think that it was permissible for a straight actor to play a gay character in some circumstances; now I'm willing to go hard-line against it if it means denying James Corden even one future role.
— jesse (@rockmarooned) November 29, 2020
Ryan Murphy delivers some of his most uncluttered, concise directing ever in #TheProm and then gives James Corden a bullhorn to lisp through. Horrifying stereotypes abound. “I’m as a gay as a bucket of wigs” among the gems. How? Why?
— Matt Donnelly (@MattDonnelly) November 30, 2020
I once watched James Corden host a private event, and when he didn't get laughs he would resort "gay voice" and become this pseudo-offensive caricature of a gay man. Doesn't surprise me that him playing gay ruins #TheProm
— Greg Brown (@Whalewatchmeplz) November 30, 2020
THE PROM is a bloated mixed bag. Meryl is fantastic and has a couple numbers that knock your socks off, while it doesn’t look like Nicole has had this much fun in decades. The less said about James Corden’s portrayal of a gay man, the better.
— Daniel Trainor (@dantrainor1) November 29, 2020
Netflix announced that Corden would be starring in the film in January, and the backlash from the LGBT+ community was swift.
The news came after the Christmas special of Gavin and Stacey, which Corden both starred in and co-wrote with Ruth Jones, divided viewers when a character sang “Fairytale of New York” by The Pogues with the homophobic slur left in.
The BBC later defended the use of the homophobic slur, which was broadcast to viewers across the UK on Christmas Day, saying the lyrics are “well-established with the audience”.
The Prom is set to hit Netflix on 11 December after a bumpy production that was temporarily hampered by the coronavirus pandemic.
Production on the film was shut down in March as COVID-19 began its rapid spread across the world. In September, Ryan Murphy announced that the film had wrapped in time for a December release, praising the cast for buckling up and finishing shooting, despite the pandemic.