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James Corden slammed for 'gross and offensive' portrayal of a gay man in The Prom

Straight actor James Corden has come under furious fire for his 'horrifically bad' portrayal of a gay Broadway star in new Netflix movie The Prom - in the same week that the streaming site was applauded for its continued casting of transgender actor Elliot Page in the role of a cisgender woman. 

But while the streaming site was applauded for that move, its decision to feature British-born star Corden, 42, who has been married to wife Julia Carey since 2012, in the role of a gay character in The Prom, which is premiering on December 4, has prompted furious backlash from film critics and social media users alike.  

Corden's performance has been slammed as 'gross and offensive', with viewers blasting Netflix for failing to cast a gay actor in the role. 

Uproar: Straight actor James Corden has been slammed for his 'gross, offensive' portrayal of a gay man in upcoming Netflix movie The Prom, which also stars Meryl Streep 

Upset: Netflix viewers have slammed the decision to cast Corden, 42, who married wife Julia Carey in 2012, in the role of a gay man, instead of featuring a gay actor 

Contrast: The outrage comes just as Netflix was praised for announcing that transgender star Elliot Page will continue to play the role of a cisgender woman in The Umbrella Academy 

In the movie, which was directed by American Horror Story creator Ryan Murphy - who is himself gay - and also stars Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman, Corden plays the role of Barry Glickman, struggling to maintain his Broadway career. 

In the hopes of resurrecting their public image, Barry and his fellow stage star Dee Dee Allen - played by Streep - decide to travel to a small town to help a gay high school student who has been banned from attending her prom with her girlfriend. 

But while the movie itself, which is based on a musical of the same name, has been widely praised, with many critics celebrating the 'joyous' plotline and 'meaningful' messaging, Corden's role has been widely bashed. 

'The main, and huge, drawback [to The Prom] is James Corden,' Erik Anderson, founder of awards-focused website AwardsWatch, wrote on Twitter. 

'His performance is gross and offensive, the worst gayface in a long, long time. It's horrifically bad.' 

IndieWire's news editor Zack Sharf added: 'The Prom shouts about tolerance but has James Corden leaning into effeminate gay stereotypes every chance he gets. Someone make it make sense?' 

Another person chimed in: 'Can James Corden please just... stop. His casting in these big Hollywood musicals is absolute nonsense, especially in The Prom. So many gay actors out there and they choose to cast him?' 

'We need to have a conversation about James Corden and whoever let him play a stereotype of a gay man that would have been offensive 25 years ago, never mind in 2020,' one person added. 

Questions: Some questioned why The Prom director Ryan Murphy - who is himself gay - made the decision to cast a straight man in the role of gay Broadway star Barry Glickman

Fury: Social media users were quick to voice their outrage over the casting choice, with many bashing Corden's 'stereotyped' portrayal of a gay man 

Alternatives: Several people made suggestions of gay actors who could have been cast in the role - including Tituss Burgess, who starred in Netflix show The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt 

'Please stop': While the movie itself was widely praised, Corden's role in it was viciously attacked on Twitter 

One Twitter user called out the fact that Corden's character 'constantly jokes' about 'musical theatre gays', remarking that having a straight man voice these thoughts 'feels gross'. 

'It's the way James Corden is playing a walking stereotype of a gay man in The Prom and the jokes constantly take a jab at musical theatre gays. Jokes that, coming from a straight man, feel gross,' the user, named Anthony, wrote. 

He added that 'it's literally funny' when 'gay people make fun of themselves', but that it is 'f***ing infuriating' to watch a straight actor 'saying stereotype jokes about gay men'. 

Anthony then joined the slew of social media users pointing out how many gay stars could have been cast in the role. 

Another suggested that openly-gay Broadway star Tituss Burgess - who appeared in Netflix series The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt - or Broadway veteran Nathan Lane would have been the perfect choice. 

Interestingly, the outraged response to Corden's performance in the movie comes at the same time as Netflix was widely applauded for its decision to keep The Umbrella Academy actor Elliot Page in the role of a cisgender woman after he came out as transgender. 

On Tuesday, Elliot - who is best known for his role as Juno, when he played a pregnant teenage girl and went by the name Ellen - announced that he is transgender and that his pronouns are 'he and they'.  

Praise: In contrast, the decision to keep Elliot - pictured with wife Emma Portner in 2019 - in the role of cisgender lesbian Vanya Hargreaves was widely applauded 

Speaking out: Elliot, 33, came out as transgender in an emotional statement shared to his social media accounts on Tuesday  

He was universally embraced by Hollywood; stars like Ellen DeGeneres congratulated him and Netflix announced that he would stay on in his role as Vanya Hargreaves, a cisgender lesbian, in The Umbrella Academy, which he has already held for two seasons.    

Shortly after Netflix made the announcement, GLAAD's Director of Transgender Media, Nick Adams, hit back at criticism of the decision, saying in a statement: 'Trans actors can and do play both trans and cisgender characters. I’m sure Elliot will continue to be brilliant in Umbrella Academy and many different types of roles in the future.' 

Some Netflix viewers also praised the move, with one Twitter user writing: 'Honestly I want more of this. Actors and actresses playing the roles of opposite genders. If they can play it well give it to them. It would helps to break gender norms and patriarchy in Hollywood.'

Another said of the decision: 'Extremely cool, Netflix.' 

Many argued with those who criticized the decision, saying that it is OK for a trans person to play a cis person but not the other way around because transgender actors ordinarily lose out on roles, whereas cis people do not. 

'There have been maybe 225 trans TV or movie characters ever, world-wide & almost all of them have been played by cisgender people. Pretty sure nobody's going to suffer if a few trans actors play theoretically cisgender characters,' one person said. 

'So glad to see Netflix recognizing this change and updating his name. Good on you,' another said. 

However, not everyone was in support of the decision, with several confused fans of the Netflix show branding it 'political correctness gone crazy' that Elliot will continue to play a female role when it is considered unfair for cisgender actors to play transgender characters. 

Celebration: Many Netflix viewers celebrated the decision not to re-cast the role of Vanya in light of Elliot's announcement, describing the move as 'very cool' 

They asked whether it was hypocritical to have a transgender person playing a cisgender role when the reverse has been deemed to be unfair and discriminatory against trans actors. 

'I'm all for letting him be happy but it's another example of political correctness gone crazy. We now have a straight man playing a gay woman on TV and yet people cry out for representation and non-bias,' one Twitter user said. 

'You genuinely believe if a non trans person played a trans character, there wouldn't be an issue?'

Another said: 'I do feel it uncomfortable that in a live action fashion, a now man is playing a woman. That's just how I feel... I'm a massive fan of hers or his I don't know what I am supposed to say.' 

Others were simply confused about the casting choice.

'Vanya isn't trans though, is she?' one asked. 

Some suggested the writers of the show might 'make her trans' to better align with Elliot's personal announcement. 

Corden is by no means the first straight actor to star in the role of a gay or transgender person - however there has been increasing upset over the past few years about casting straight, cisgender stars in LGBTQ roles. 

In 2018, Scarlett Johansson withdrew from playing a transgender role in the movie Rub & Tug after backlash over her playing it when she was cisgender.

Halle Berry was also considering playing a transgender man but backed away from it after receiving criticism for it.

She then vowed to be an 'ally' to the LGBTQ community. 

Debate: However some were left confused by the choice, with one person asking, 'You genuinely believe if a non trans person played a trans character, there wouldn't be an issue?' 

In his announcement on Tuesday, Elliot said: 'Hi friends, I want to share with you that I am trans, my pronouns are he/they and my name is Elliot.

'I feel lucky to be writing this. To have arrived at this place in my life.'

Elliot, who received an Oscar nod for his role in the hit 2008 movie Juno, asking his followers and fans for 'patience', admitting that he is 'scared' of the 'invasiveness, the hate, the jokes, and of the violence' that he may face moving forward.

'My job is real, but it is also fragile,' the actor said, adding: 'The truth is, despite feeling profoundly happy right now and knowing how much privilege I carry, I am also scared.' 

Many straight actors have previously received wide praise for their portrayal of gay and transgender characters, however - including the likes of Jake Gyllenhall, Heath Ledger, Tom Hanks, Cate Blanchett, and Julianne Moore.   

Gyllenhaal and Ledger were widely praised for their portrayal of gay cowboys in the 2005 movie Brokeback Mountain, with many critics applauding their emotional and believable performances, which earned them both nods at the 2006 Academy Awards. 

Blanchett and fellow actress Rooney Mara also received critical acclaim for their portrayal of a gay couple in the movie Carol, which premiered in 2015.  

Meanwhile, Hilary Swank won the Oscar for Best Actress in 2000 for her portrayal of transgender teen Brandon Teena in the 1999 movie Boys Don't Cry. 

The film, which was based on the real-life story of Brandon, a trans man who was brutally beaten and gang-raped, before later being shot by his attackers, was lauded by critics, who focused their praise particularly on Swank's performance. 

Backtrack: Halle Berry and Scarlett Johansson have both previously stepped back from transgender roles after being lambasted for considering them

Acclaim: Corden is not the first straight star to play a gay or trans role on screen; Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal were lauded for their portrayal of gay cowboys in Brokeback Mountain

Awards: Hilary Swank won the Best Actress Oscar for her performance as transgender teen Brandon Teena in the 1999 movie Boys Don't Cry (left), while Tom Hanks was awarded the Best Actor award for his portrayal of gay lawyer Andrew Beckett in 1993 flick Philadelphia (right) 

Lauded: Cate Blanchett and fellow actress Rooney Mara also received critical acclaim for their portrayal of a gay couple in the movie Carol, which premiered in 2015

Hanks' turn as a gay lawyer in the 1993 movie Philadelphia earned him an Academy Award for Best Actor - and critical applause for his 'moving' portrayal of Andrew Beckett, a senior law associate hiding both his homosexuality and his AIDS diagnosis from the world. 

In the movie, which also stars Denzel Washington, Hanks' character attempts to sue his law firm over allegations that he was fired because of his sexuality and his status as an AIDS patient. Beckett is eventually awarded $5 million in damages and back pay by a court - but he passes away soon after the trial concludes.  

Director Murphy has also previously cast straight men in gay roles - including Darren Criss, who played the role of gay singer Blaine Anderson in his hit TV show Glee from 2010 until 2015.  

The actor reunited with Murphy in 2017 to portray gay serial killer Andrew Cunanan in The Assassination Of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story

His performance in the second season of the anthology seres received critical acclaim from critics and also earned him an Emmy.  

In 2018, he told Bustle, he won't play gay characters any longer, saying: 'I want to make sure I won't be another straight boy taking a gay man’s role.'

Criss married writer and producer Mia Swier in 2019 after nearly a decade together. 

Veteran actor Sean Penn also earned wide praise for his performance in Gus van Sant's 2008 biopic Milk, in which he played the part of Harvey Milk, California's first openly gay public official. 

The critically acclaimed performance earned the actor his second Oscar. 

Penn, who was married previously to Madonna and Robin Wright, tied the knot with Leila George, the 28-year-old daughter of Vincent D'Onofrio, earlier this year amid the pandemic.

Controversial or critically acclaimed? Straight actors who have played gay and transgender roles on screen

Darren Criss - Glee and The Assassination Of Gianni Versace

Criss, 33, rose to fame playing openly gay singer Blaine Anderson on the Ryan Murphy series Glee from 2010 to 2015. 

The actor reunited with Murphy in 2017 to portray gay serial killer Andrew Cunanan in The Assassination Of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story

His performance in the second season of the anthology seres received critical acclaim from critics and also earned him an Emmy.  

In 2018, he told Bustle, he won't play gay characters any longer, saying: 'I want to make sure I won't be another straight boy taking a gay man’s role.'

Criss married writer and producer Mia Swier in 2019 after nearly a decade together. 

Sean Penn - Milk 

Penn, 60, played Harvey Milk, California's first openly gay public official, in Gus van Sant's 2008 biopic Milk. The critically acclaimed performance earned the actor his second Oscar. 

Penn, who was married previously to Madonna and Robin Wright, tied the knot with Leila George, the 28-year-old daughter of Vincent D'Onofrio, earlier this year amid the pandemic.

Hugh Grant - Maurice and A Very English Scandal

Early on in his career, Grant, 60, starred in the 1987 drama Maurice, an adaptation of an E.M. Forster novel. He played wealthy Clive Durham, a closeted aristocrat who embarks on an affair with his friend Maurice Hall (James Wilby).

The film premiered at the Venice Film Festival that year, where Grant and Wilby were jointly awarded Best Actor.  

Decades later, Grant took on the role of British politician Jeremy Thorpe in the 2018 miniseries A Very English Scandal. 

Based on a true story, the film chronicles how Thorpe, the leader of the British Labour Party, fell from power after a scandal involving his affair with model Norman Scott, who was played by openly gay actor Ben Whishaw. 

The miniseries received very positive reviews and Grant was nominated a number of wards for his portrayal of Thorpe, including an Emmy and Golden Globe.  

Grant was in a relationship with model Elizabeth Hurley from 1987 to 2000. In 2018, he married his wife Anna Eberstein. 

Hilary Swank - Boys Don’t Cry

Swank, 46, starred in the 1999 film Boys Don't Cry, a dramatization of the life and death of Brandon Teena, a transgender man who was the victim of a brutal hate crime in Nebraska. 

The actress received critical acclaim for her performance in the biopic as well as her first Oscar award. 

Swank was married to actor Chad Lowe from 1997 to 2007. She and her second husband Philip Schneider wed in 2018.  

Felicity Huffman - Transamerica

Huffman, 57, played a transgender woman named Bree Osbourne in the 2005 independent film Transamerica. 

The actress, who has been married to actor William H. Macy since 1997, received positive reviews for her performance, which earned her both a Golden Globe and an Independent Spirit Award.  

'I certainly understand the sentiment that a trans actor should play a trans role. And I support it,' she told HuffPost Live in 2014. 

Huffman added that trans people have been 'marginalized for a long time and I think you see that in people who are not trans playing them.' 

Tom Hanks - Philadelphia 

Hanks, 64, portrayed gay lawyer Andrew Beckett in 1993 flick Philadelphia and earned his first Oscar for the critically acclaimed role.  

The actor married his first wife Samantha Lewes in from 1978 to 1987. A year after his divorce, he wed Rita Wilson, and they've been together ever since.  

Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger- Brokeback Mountain 

Gyllenhaal, 39, and the late Ledger, who died in 2008, played gay lovers Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar, respectively, in the 2005 film Brokeback Mountain. 

The drama received eight Academy Awards nominations, including nominations for two actors. 

Gyllenhaal, who is in a relationship with French model Jeanne Cadieu, recently reflected on how he and Ledger were cast in the roles by director Ang Lee, who won an Oscar or the film. 

'I think we had been cast for our "essences" without really understanding what our "essences" were, and that’s outside of our sexuality,' he told GQ last year. 'We’re two straight guys cast in these roles, but who we are, who we were, Ang could see. And I don’t know if I could.' 

Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet - Call Me By Your Name 

Hammer, 34, and Chalamet, 24, played gay lovers Oliver and Elio, respectively, in the 2017 coming-of-age romantic drama Call Me By Your Name, an adaptation of André Aciman's 2007 novel of the same name. 

The critically acclaimed film received standing ovations at both the Sundance Film Festival and New York Film Festival when it was screened. 

Chalamet, who was recently linked to Lily-Rose Depp, was nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of Elio.  

Earlier this year, Hammer divorced his wife Elizabeth Chambers after a decade of marriage. 

Eddie Redmayne - The Danish Girl 

Redmayne, 38, played transgender icon Lile Elbe in the 2005 film The Danish Girl, which was based on David Ebershoff's 2000 novel of the same name.   

The drama was loosely inspired by the lives of Elbe and Gerda Wegene (Alicia Vikander), who were Danish painters. The film received criticism for its inaccurate portrayal of historical events as well as backlash for a cisgender man being cast as a trans woman. 

However, Redmayne's portrayal was critically acclaimed, and he was nominated for an Oscar for the role.  

'I hope there’s a day when there are more trans actors and trans actresses playing trans parts, but also cisgender parts,' Redmayne said of the backlash in 2015. 'And I hope — as an actor one hopes — that one should be able to play any sort of part if one plays it with a sense of integrity and responsibility.' 

Redmayne has been married to Hannah Bagshawe since 2014. 

Eric Stonestreet - Modern Family 

Stonestreet, 49, is best known for playing gay dad Cam Tucker on the hit television series Modern Family, which ran from 2009 to 2020. 

The actor, who is in a relationship with Lindsay Schweitzer, has received two Emmys for his role on the beloved ABC sitcom. 

In 2016, gay actor Noah Galvin told Vulture that he thinks Stonestreet is a 'wonderful actor,' but 'he’s playing a caricature of a caricature of a stereotype of stereotype on Modern Family.'

Michael Douglas and Matt Damon - Behind the Candelabra 

Douglas, 76, took on the role of pianist Liberace in the 2003 biopic Behind the Candelabra, which dramatizes the last ten years of his life. 

Damon, 50, portrayed Liberace's lover Scott Thorson, and actors were praised for their performances in the film. Both of them received Golden Globe and Emmy nominations for their respective roles, with Douglas winning both.  

Douglas has been married to Catherine Zeta-Jones since 2000, while Damon and his wife Luciana Barroso wed in 2005. 

Jared Leto - Dallas Buyers Club 

Leto, 48, won his first Oscar for playing Rayan, a drug-addicted trans woman with AIDS, in the 2013 film the Dallas Buyers Club.

While the film and his performance were widely praised, the actor faced backlash for taking on the role as a cisgender man. 

Leto, who dating model Valery Kaufman, revealed in 2014 that he spoke to 'some transgender kids while on tour' and interviewed them, which helped shape his vision for Rayon.  

'I remember sending an e-mail making it very clear that I saw Rayon as someone who wanted to live life as a woman, not someone who was a glam-rocking drag queen,' he said.'I had no interest in playing that part, and if that would have been the case, I would have said, "No, thank you."'

Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara - Carol 

Blanchett, 51, and Mara, 35, played lesbian lovers in the 2015 romantic drama Carol, which was based on Patricia Highsmith's novel The Price of Salt. (The novel was later republished as Carol in 1990.) 

After the critically acclaimed film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, it received a 10-minute standing ovation. Both Blanchett and Mara were nominated for Oscars and Golden Globes for their respective performances as Carol Aird and Therese Belivet.   

In 2018, Blanchett defended straight actors playing gay characters, saying: 'I will fight to the death for the right to suspend disbelief and play roles beyond my experience.' 

Blanchett and her husband Andrew Upton have been married since 1997, while Mara and her partner Joaquin Phoenix have been together for four years. 

Charlize Theron - Monster 

Theron, 45, won an Oscar for playing queer serial killer Aileen Wuornos in the 2003 biopic Monster. 

The actress, whose most recent boyfriend was Sean Penn, was widely praised for her performance, though she later revealed that she actually received criticism for gaining 30 pounds for the role. 

Theron admitted last year that she had almost turned down the role, but filmmaker Patty Jenkins changed her mind.

'I didn’t think I could do it at first,' she told Marie Claire Australia. 'The thing that convinced me ultimately was that I had never had — and I get emotional thinking about it — I never had somebody believe in me like that before. 

'I was always the person who would go into audition after audition after audition and lay myself on broken glass and not get the part. And all of a sudden, this woman is sitting in front of me, and she’s like, "You have to. You’re the only person who can."'   

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