Q: What do you think would happen if a major male movie star like Jake Gyllenhaal or Ben Stiller came out? -- Anson, Billings, MT
A: Assuming it’s someone at the peak of his career like Gyllenhaal or Stiller, and not a character actor like Ian McKellen or a “respected elder” like Jack Nicholson, I think it would all depend on how much money his next movie made. If the movie was a hit, he’d be lionized and hailed as a trailblazer in the media, and the offers would pour in (even as he’d be ridiculed and attacked on right-wing talk radio and on the “comedy” circuit; the paparazzi and online gossipmongers would be especially vicious).
But if that actor’s next movie tanked—and this is more likely, since most movies disappoint—well, that failure would be seen as instant confirmation of the “fact” that audiences won’t accept a gay male leading man…and that actor’s career would take a serious, perhaps non-recoverable hit. He’d still have to deal with all the nasty ridicule from right-wing talk radio and the online gossipmongers, but he probably wouldn’t get much more leading man studio work. He’d probably have no choice but to gravitate to character work or television, where he’d have another shot at stardom…but a television career would, again, depend on the success of his initial offering. If that first show failed, he’d probably have to take a few years off and hope for a comeback once things calmed down a bit.
How do I know this would happen? Well, I don’t, of course; it’s all speculation. But it’s pretty close to what happened to Ellen DeGeneres (and Anne Heche, for that matter).
Source: Ask the Flying Monkey (March 25, 2008) by Brent Hartinger