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

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


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?

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate