Andrew Garfield has revealed that he is open to the idea of a same-sex relationship in a new interview, but his reductive comments on gay-culture have left a bitter taste with some members of the LGBT community.
In recent Q&A panel promoting Garfield's new play Angels In America — in which he plays a gay man — the 33-year old #Spiderman actor explained that, although he has never had a same-sex experience, he isn't opposed to the possibility:
"As far as I know, I am not a gay man. Maybe I’ll have an awakening later in my life, which I’m sure will be wonderful and I’ll get to explore that part of the garden, but right now I’m secluded to my area, which is wonderful as well. I adore it, but a big concern was what right do I have to play this wonderful gay role?"
Andrew went on to explain how he prepared for the role by learning about gay history and drawing on the experiences of his gay friends for inspiration:
"I had to trust that it was the right thing and Tony [Kushner, writer of 'Angels in America'] had asked me and maybe if he’d asked me, it was the right thing. It was as about doing honour, doing justice and knowing my herstory. The preparation had begun before [rehearsals began] with a lot of my friends. [The play is] as much devoted to my friends in the gay community as it is those that passed during the epidemic.”
How else did #AndrewGarfield prepare to step into the shoes of a man dealing with the devastating realities of battling the AIDs virus? By getting his chums around to watch RuPaul's Drag Race, obviously!
“My only time off during rehearsals – every Sunday I would have eight friends over and we would just watch Ru. I mean every single series of RuPaul’s Drag Race. I mean every series. This is my life outside of this play. I am a gay man right now just without the physical act – that’s all.”
While Andrew's comments were obviously intended in good faith, his comments haven't gone down well with everyone. Many people have expressed their concern that Garfield has essentially reduced the rich tapestry of gay culture to a show about drag:
While RuPaul's Drag Race is an incredible show that features one of the most diverse casts on TV an a surprising amount of deep conversation about what it means to be gay, it's understandable how referencing the show in this context is problematic.
By implying that this frivolous, OTT show is the epicentre of gay culture, Garfield is helping to reinforce many of the damaging stereotypes that make a lot of gay men extremely uncomfortable. When you consider his research was for the deeply grave topic of the ravages of HIV, it seems even more of an inappropriate choice.
The implication that you have to have had a sexual experience with the opposite sex to know that you are queer is also problematic. Most people know they are gay, bi, queer, pansexual or whatever they identify as a long time before their first same-sex sexual encounter and erasing this aspect of being queer can increase feelings of isolation:
In Garfield's defence, this was a lighthearted panel discussion and he was probably just following the tone of the conversation while trying to entertain the audience. The actor has made many positive contributions to discussions about LGBT characters in popular entertainment in the past and the published comments are only part of what would have been a much bigger discussion. On the other hand, it is easy to see why #LGBT campaigners are annoyed. The fight for positive representation is a very real battle, especially in the realms of entertainment, and every comment by a public figure can count as a step back.
What are your thoughts on Andrew Garfield's comments?