On the heels of whitesplaining black female director Effie Brown about diversity, Matt Damon decided that straightsplaining gay actors seemed like a hot idea:
In 2013, he starred as Liberace's lover, Scott Thorson, in the Steven Soderbergh television drama film Behind the Candelabra.Says the guy whose public persona is centered around his very "normal" life of having married a non-famous woman and being a father to their four girls—which, yes, is discussed at length in the same article. And who has of course been accompanied by his wife on red carpets, and has probably never thought about that as revealing something about his sexuality, because straightness is normalized and privileged.
Damon was a straight man playing gay. Is it harder for actors to be openly gay in Hollywood? "I'm sure. When Ben and I first came on the scene there were rumours that we were gay because it was two guys who wrote a script together."
"I know. It's just like any piece of gossip… and it put us in a weird position of having to answer, you know what I mean? Which was then really deeply offensive. I don't want to, like [imply] it's some sort of disease – then it's like I'm throwing my friends under the bus. But at the time, I remember thinking and saying, Rupert Everett was openly gay and this guy – more handsome than anybody, a classically trained actor – it's tough to make the argument that he didn't take a hit for being out."
He thinks attitudes are changing, and welcomes the introduction of same-sex marriage in California in 2008. "I think it must be really hard for actors to be out publicly," he continues. "But in terms of actors, I think you're a better actor the less people know about you period. And sexuality is a huge part of that. Whether you're straight or gay, people shouldn't know anything about your sexuality because that's one of the mysteries that you should be able to play."
Damon then went on Ellen DeGeneres's show, where he explained: "I was just trying to say actors are more effective when they're a mystery. Right? And somebody picked it up and said I said gay actors should get back in the closet. Which is like I mean it's stupid, but it is painful when things get said that you don't believe." Ellen assured him: "I know you and I know you're not that guy." Except, he is that guy. Because he blamed Rupert Everett for coming out, not the homophobia endemic to their industry and to the culture in which their work products are consumed.
Saying actors should remain "a mystery" is not a condemnation of prejudice. It's a condemnation of disclosure.
And Damon clearly wasn't listening when his colleague Ellen Page spoke, just last month, about how coming out made her a better actor and how "retaining the mystery" of her sexuality was soul-crushing misery:
Has coming out put you more in touch with your art?That's what Matt Damon wants for LGB actors? So that homophobic audiences can "accept" them in straight roles? Fuck that.
One hundred percent. And even more than whatever it means to act, whatever it means to know that you're living an authentic life. For me, the level of sadness and lack of inspiration and joy in general—that was hurting my work. I didn't feel motivated. I was just depressed. Going to meetings, or trying to push for things: It was this little flame that was barely flickering anymore. The moment I came out, I felt every cell in my body transform. I was happier than I ever could have imagined. You feel excited about life, and motivated and inspired. You want to do more. You want to go on adventures. For the most part that was gone.