Thursday, April 3, 2008

My Gayest Look: Jay Leno's Gaffe & Ryan Phillippe's Missed Opportunity

Okay, so there's this controversy going on about how on the "Tonight Show," Jay Leno was talking to actor Ryan Phillippe about Ryan's first acting job, playing a gay teen on a soap opera.
He then asked Ryan to give his "gayest look" to the camera. Ryan got all embarrassed, Jay sort of insisted, Ryan demurred, and they ended up moving on to continue to embarrass Ryan by having Jay ask him about the nude commercial Ryan shot when he was 19.

You can check out the video of the appearance at this well-intentioned site,, which has some additional background and also a ton of GLBTQ people and our allies flipping Jay the bird to show him that what he said was offensive and that there are so MANY different "looks" to being gay.

Check it out by clicking on their logo here:

But I think everyone's missing the point - and that there was a huge opportunity that was missed.

Ryan got all embarrassed when Jay asked him to show him how he acted "gay."

All Ryan needed to do was look like himself.

Imagine if Jay had asked Ryan to show the camera how he might look "Jewish."

Give me your best "Jewish Look."

Or what if Jay had asked him to demonstrate how he might look "Buddist."

Give me your best "Buddist Look."

Ridiculous, right?

That's the point. It's called ACTING, and you can't act an identity. You can act an emotion. You can act a desire. But you can't give a "Christian" look or a "Black" look or a "Gay" look, unless you're trying to dive into stereotypes.

What was Jay Leno after when he asked Ryan to imagine his cowboy boyfriend had just hopped off his horse and was approaching him, and to give the camera his "best gay look?" A smoldering look of lust for the camera? A limp-wristed lisping kiss to the camera? Beyond embarrassing the guy, what was the point?

I wish Ryan had had the presence of mind to call Jay on the stupidity of the request - to point out that there is no "gay look." To point out how many different roles he's been cast as - and that clearly he can inhabit many different roles. It would have embarrassed Jay Leno, and made a point.

And while it was stupid of his writers and producers and Jay himself, it wasn't exactly gay-bashing. It was actor-baiting, which as a comedian Jay probably sees as his job.

At the same time, stereotypes are hurtful, and Jay Leno wasn't helping the world get to a better place. Which is the point of all the good folks over at

So what do you think? Does Jay deserve the finger? Watch the video for yourself, and then let me know: what's your take on it?

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