MUCH WORK TO BE DONE
Ellen Page Exposes How Homophobia Still Thrives in Hollywood
The actress and producer shared a harrowing story about the time director Brett Ratner allegedly outed her in front cast and crew during the making of ‘X-Men: The Last Stand.’
“You should fuck her to make her realize she’s gay.”
Page wrote, “I was eighteen years old. He looked at a woman standing next to me, ten years my senior, pointed to me and said: ‘You should fuck her to make her realize she’s gay.’ I was a young adult who had not yet come out to myself. I knew I was gay, but did not know, so to speak. I felt violated when this happened. I looked down at my feet, didn’t say a word and watched as no one else did either. This man, who had cast me in the film, started our months of filming at a work event with this horrific, unchallenged plea. He ‘outed’ me with no regard for my well-being, an act we all recognize as homophobic.” (Page’s account was corroborated by her co-star in the film, Anna Paquin.)
It’s a chilling reminder that Hollywood thrives on powerful men who use sexism and misogyny to retain their position on the totem pole, and that they also take glee in mocking the sexuality of LGBT members of their community. Much of the applause Hollywood gives itself for being inclusive is lip service. Last year, Moonlight won Best Picture at the Oscars, but let’s not pretend it’s changed how gay men and women are treated in Hollywood. It wasn’t until 2014, almost ten year after Last Stand, that Page came out in a beautiful speech at the Human Rights Campaign’s Time to Thrive conference.
In her speech she said, “I am tired of hiding and I am tired of lying by omission. I suffered for years because I was scared to be out. My spirit suffered, my mental health suffered and my relationships suffered. And I’m standing here today, with all of you, on the other side of all that pain.” It’s a pain that Page has revisited in speaking out about Ratner, who has also been accused of sexual misconduct by at least six women in the past two weeks. Actors like Page, Kristen Stewart, Jodie Foster, Matt Bomer or Colton Haynes, to name a few, have had their lives scrutinized while they were in the closet by a media and industry that reinforces gender stereotypes and allows powerful men to abuse people. When you’re caught between both of those warring forces, it’s no wonder many actors feel afraid to come out.
Would you come out if you were a leading man in an action-movie franchise, knowing that a director like Ratner could publicly mock you for your sexuality on set? And get away with it?
On Friday, in response to a piece gay comedian and writer Guy Branum wrote for Vulture on the toxic boys’ club of stand-up that allows predatory men like Louis C.K. to thrive, Hannibal and American Gods producer Bryan Fuller tweeted, “I’m reminded of my first Star Trek Christmas Party as a genuine working writer in Hollywood. I walked in the door and a producer shouted across the crowded room, ‘I didn’t know they invited fags to this party.’”
“Fag” is still a word men like Ratner feel comfortable throwing around—and wielding as a weapon. Years after harassing Page on set, Ratner said in a public Q&A that “rehearsal is for fags” in response to an innocuous question about whether or not he rehearsed with his actors prior to filming Tower Heist. It’s a question that speaks for itself if you’re one of the unfortunate few to have actually seen Tower Heist, but Ratner’s casual use of the word “fag” in a public setting with reporters present shows how men with power in Hollywood feel confident enough that casual homophobia won’t wreck their careers. After his statement, Ratner was ousted from his producing duties at the 2012 Academy Awards but continued being a successful producer in Hollywood, courtesy of a $450 million co-financing deal with Warner Bros. Keep in mind: he’d already been accused of masturbating in front of Olivia Munn and sexually harassing her at the time. It didn’t seem to matter.
Could Page’s admission of Ratner’s alleged homophobia be a turning point for other actors to speak of homophobic abuse they’ve suffered in the industry? Perhaps. But when we still have actors like Kevin Spacey who use their “coming out” to shield themselves from sexual assault allegations, thereby giving conservative pundits the opportunity to refer to gay men as child predators, it’s highly unlikely. Celebrating queer lives is au courant when it’s time to hand out awards and allow stars to pat themselves on the back but Hollywood has no real desire to protect LGBT individuals and create a safe environment for them to come out.
Just take a look at next year’s Oscar contender, Call Me by Your Name. Even though last year’s Best Picture winner was the queer coming-of-age story Moonlight, this week Sony Pictures Classics promoted Call Me by Your Name using a photograph of actors Timothée Chalamet and Esther Garrel, straightwashing the central relationship of the film: Chalamet and Armie Hammer. Because we can keep the gay stuff relegated to a dark movie theater, but in the harsh light of day, heteronormativity is the only option.