Sean Penn: Straight Men Can’t Even See Statue Penises

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The SAG Awards (“The Award Show Where Only Actors Vote”) were held last night in Los Angeles, and begged to differ ever so slightly from the Golden Globes. While Slumdog Millionaire took, as expected, the award for best cast, both major acting nods were sort-of upsets: Meryl Streep won best actress for Doubt, and Sean Penn won best actor for Milk. Many have remarked on Penn’s sensitive, fully-realized portrayal of the gay San Francisco supervisor, but his acceptance speech last night kind of rubbed me the wrong way. He approached the microphone to a tumultuous round of applause, and then tried a little comedy:

Thank you and good evening comrades. (Laughs) That was for O’Reilly. Something happened to me during the making of this movie. I noticed it tonight, where I noticed that the statues have rather healthy packages … As actors we don’t play gay, straight …we play human beings. I’m so appreciative of this acknowledgment. This is a story of equal rights for all human beings.

Okay, yes, it’s a standard line to reference the genitalia on those statues and awards, and forgive me for being a wet blanket, but the idea that it would take researching and playing a gay role to even see the bulge on a giant statue seems to play into the stereotype of gay men as being “all about sex.” It’s particularly bothersome since it’s this idea, of the lascivious sexual deviant, that has led to a wide variety of discrimination, particularly when it comes to gay men as teachers or parents. I’m as much for a good chuckle as the next guy, and obviously Mr. Penn feels himself to be such a clear and honest supporter of gay rights that he can make those jokes from the “inside.” But context is everything, and I’d just like to point out that he’s not on the inside.

On the other hand, other gay journalists like AfterElton.com didn’t seem bothered, so maybe I’m just a curmudgeon. Riffers, thoughts? And does it even matter, since Mickey Rourke is the Oscar lock?

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