Dan Savage has in interesting Op-Ed piece in the New York Times about the evangelical right's perplexing reaction to the film End of the Spear, a story about five missionaries murdered by a tribe in Ecuador, whose families forgave the killers and converted them to Christianity. Sounds like a movie made for Christian audiences, yes? That is, until some conservative Christians found out that actor Chad Allen, who plays both one of the murdered missionaries, Nate Saint, and the missionary's grown son, Steve Saint, is openly gay.
Initially, conservative Christians loved the film . Christianity Today's Lisa Ann Cockrel gave it a good review, even Marcus Yoars of Focus on the Family gave it a glowing report, with no mention whatsoever of Chad Allen's sexuality. Now, suddenly, it's a huge deal that an openly gay actor should be cast to play the part of a straight missionary. The producers of the film, Steve Saint and Mart Green, reportedly did not know Allen was a "gay activist" when they offered him the part, and now say they wouldn't have cast him had they known about his sexuality.
Savage makes the interesting point that many of these same groups were up in arms about two straight actors, Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, playing gay in Brokeback Mountain. Now they don't want those darn homosexuals playing it straight, either. Savage is himself one of those pesky "gay activists" - editor of Seattle's alternative paper, The Stranger, columnist of popular sex column "Savage Love", and author of a couple books as well - so you can guess which side of this coin he falls on.
Personally, I just don't get what the big deal is here. Did Chad Allen do a good job of portraying the characters he was hired to portray? Did he show up for work on time, unencumbered by drugs or alcohol? Was he reliable and responsible? Those are the only things that should matter here. Allen is an actor, that's his job, and just like on any other job - machinist, doctor, lawyer, gas station attendant, banker, stockbroker or sex writer - he should be hired based on his abilities and evaluated on the same. Who he chooses to sleep with outside of work, and whether he chooses to be open about his sexuality or hide it, shouldn't even be up for discussion. Focus on the content of the story and how it's told, and not on the private lives of the people playing the parts.