In a March 2015 interview with The Guardian, hunky openly gay actor Russell Tovey thanked his dad for sending him to a school where he wasn’t allowed to prance around, sing in the street and be “really effeminate” otherwise he wouldn’t have grown up to be a butch actor who lands non-gay acting roles. Understandably, his comment offended a lot of people who find nothing to be thankful for in conforming to outdated gender stereotypes.
While Tovey’s butch and “non-gay” affect helps him land roles, it also reinforces the entertainment industry’s entrenched homophobia and misogyny. It’s okay for Tovey to appreciate his own butch demeanor — lots of queer people feel the same way about themselves. It’s just unfortunate that he didn’t use his privilege and platform to advocate for larger change.
If anything, Tovey shouldn’t have thanked his dad for helping him to conform, he should have called out the industry for adhering so closely useless gender roles. Such mouthiness would’ve hurt Tovey’s chances at future roles, but it also could’ve sparked a larger conversation about why these crap notions of binary masculinity and femininity persist in modern media.
Though he had apologized for offending people back when he first made the comment, Tovey has recently expressed regret once more over the hurt his comments caused, stating:
“Things come out the way you don’t intend them too. It was a very upsetting time for me. I wasn’t expecting that sort of attention… I learned a lot from it and I’ve grown from it. It’s made me feel more impassioned about my responsibility, which I took for granted. I never set out to be anything other than an actor, but when you’re from a minority of any type and become successful you become an ambassador by proxy, which is something I’m fine with now.”
“It’s the phenomenon of social media. You’ll always make some people unhappy no matter what you say. You can say, ‘I really like this blue shirt’, then other people will say, ‘Blue makes me sad, how dare you’. I’ve found you’ve just got to be true to yourself, be a good person and the work should speak for itself”.
What makes this all the stranger is that Tovey is about to play a (shirtless, briefs-wearing) closeted athlete in an upcoming film called The Pass. In the trailer, he says, “The whole world is full of people pretending to be something they’re not.” Indeed. It’s no wonder that so few professional athletes ever come out considering the high rates of queerphobia in sports.
Surely Tovey realizes that Hollywood and pro-sports discourage lots of other athletes and performers from coming out, so they stay closeted just to have a shot at career success. Tovey could help dismantle those expectations. For example, playing a gay character (kissing men and hanging out in briefs) used to be a career killer, a quick way to get typecast into only playing gay roles. But lots of brave actors before Tovey helped pave the way so that Tovey and other actors can now do that without committing career suicide.
Tovey could help do the same for effeminate male actors, but first he has to take that risk and actually say something on their behalf.
Here’s the trailer from The Pass:
And here’s an exclusive clip in which he seduces his teammate: