The Underemployment of Gay Male Actors: Exploring Judith Butler’s ‘Gender Performance Theory’ and the Casting of Gay Male Actors on American Television.
Television shows nowadays do not shy away from showing realistic and authentic representations of gay men and their relationships. Two television shows in particular, ‘Modern Family’ written by Christopher Lloyd and Steven Levitan and ‘Glee’ written by Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan, feature positive representations of gay men. These television shows helped to push the increase in representation of gay men on screen however this research project shifts the focus from the kind of representation gay men are receiving to who is being cast to represent gay men on television. This dissertation explores the employment of gay male actors specifically. Judith Butler’s ‘Gender Performance Theory’, the idea that gender is in fact a ‘doing’, is the underpinning theory of this textual analysis. Focusing predominantly on Judith Butler’s ‘Gender Performance Theory’ an in depth analysis of the gender performance of Eric Stonestreet from ‘Modern Family’ and Chris Colfer from ‘Glee’ is undertaken throughout this dissertation. The in depth textual analysis featured throughout this research reveals a common trend in the casting business, masculine straight actors being hired more frequently than gay male actors to play gay male roles on television. It is suggested throughout that this decision, made by casting directors, is caused by the actor’s gender performance in an audition room which in turn results in casting directors making assumptions about an actor’s sexual orientation. The discussion presented at the end of this research project explores the possible repercussions of the continuous hiring of straight male actors to portray gay male roles and how this is ultimately impacting the employment of gay male actors on television.