Everyone remembers “Monster’s Ball” as the movie that won Halle Berry her weepy Oscar and got her mauled by Adrian Brody during her acceptance speech. Because of the enormous success it brought Berry, Billy Bob Thornton’s work in it is often overlooked. And it’s a shame, really, because it must have been hard for him to, …you know…have to act like he was in love with a black woman. And those sex scenes! There really should be a special award for actors like him who have to suffer for their art like that.
Now, before you start writing letters to the editor, let me assure you I do not feel this way. Perhaps some people do, and more likely, more people did 40 years ago, but it’s an anachronistic and repulsive perspective that rarely sees the light of day, thankfully.
Yet here we are, in 2009, and we hear this very same argument each time a straight actor dares to play gay. They are held up as heroes, pioneers, and not just by the scions of mainstream culture (Oprah, the New York Times, etc), they are even awarded by our very own watchdogs. Can you imagine if the NAACP had given Katharine Houghton an award for being so brave as to portray a woman in love with a black man in "Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?" Or Jane Alexander for playing James Earl Jones’ wife in The Great White Hope? Nevermind that Poitier and Jones had to act as though they loved white woman – I mean how hard could that be - everyone loves a white woman, right?