Robert Hampton

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4th March 2015

Russell Groupthink
Posted by at 8.09pm | Gay, Television | No responses

Russell Tovey is one of the hottest actors (career-wise and aesthetically) around at the moment. Fresh from his success in Looking, he gave an interview to the Observer to promote the upcoming BBC2 series Banished.

It’s a lovely interview, as Tovey talks frankly about growing up gay, a knife attack which destroyed his confidence at age 18, and taking his Mum to the Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco.

However, some people have taken umbrage at one thing he said. Discussing his childhood and his desire to attend a stage school (which his Dad refused to allow), he says:

I feel like I could have been really effeminate, if I hadn’t gone to the school I went to. Where I felt like I had to toughen up. If I’d have been able to relax, prance around, sing in the street, I might be a different person now. I thank my dad for that, for not allowing me to go down that path.

A certain section of the gay community have been offended by the above. Here’s another macho gay hating on the camp guys. Tovey, in their eyes, is up there with tossers who write “Don’t act gay – if I wanted a girl I’d be straight! LOL!” on their Grindr profile. Phrases like “internalised homophobia” have been bandied around.

Tovey subsequently said sorry – at ten past five in the morning; I hope he was in another time zone and not being kept awake all night by the kerfuffle. In any case, I’m not sure an apology was necessary. If you actually read the whole article, rather than mischievous PinkNews pieces which selectively quote from it, the meaning becomes quite clear.

I thought it was a storm in a teacup. In fact, not even a teacup; what are those little cups that espressos come in?

I’m not a fan of that certain type of gay person who hates campness. You know the ones – they say things like, “gay pride marches damage our cause by making us look like freaks! If only drag queens didn’t exist we’d have had gay marriage years ago!” I could go on, but that’s a whole other blog post.

However, Tovey didn’t say anything like that. It seems clear to me that he was speaking about his own situation: he thinks that if he had camp or effeminate mannerisms, he would not be cast in a leading role in a gritty drama like Banished. Is he wrong about that? I don’t think he is.

The actual quote above is prefaced by this, from the interviewer:-

Tovey thinks carefully about what he’s going to say next. If I had to guess, watching him fidget, I’d say he’s weighing up whether to be honest at the risk of causing offence, or whether to divert and say something bland. He chooses to risk offence.

And in the next interview he will probably choose the bland option. Excellent. An actor renowned for refreshing honesty in interviews will probably clam up in future, because someone, somewhere, might be upset. WELL DONE EVERYONE.

Perhaps he should have chosen his words more carefully. But maybe, when someone says what’s on his mind with no ill-intent, the Twitterati should engage in reasoned debate rather breaking out the pitchforks and flaming torches.

Oh, and if you’re going to attack a celebrity for being a “bad gay”, how about all those actors who stay closeted for fear of ruining their careers?

13th January 2013

Partial Observer
Posted by at 1.08pm | In the News | No responses

Julie Burchill has written a horrendous screed in today’s Observer (I’m not linking to it directly). It’s a horrible piece, using language about transsexual people that, had it appeared in the Daily Mail or a right-wing blog, would have drawn condemnation – including from the Observer. UPDATE: The article has now been withdrawn by the Observer.

I’m disappointed. I like the Observer. I always look forward to reading it on Sunday morning, as an antidote to the right-wing media which, too often, dominate the news agenda. So I’m prepared to treat this one article as an aberration; a lapse of judgement on the editor’s part. I’m not trying to defend the indefensible decision to publish it, but I think (and hope) this is just an anomaly. This isn’t like the Jan Moir kerfuffle, where her article was entirely typical of the anti-gay agenda of the Mail.

In today’s Observer print edition, on the opposite page to that rant is a great opinion piece by Nick Cohen on homophobia. Elsewhere in the same paper, there are thoughtful articles on women in Afghanistan, immigration to the UK, the Belfast riots, the upcoming Israel election and, er, crisps. I’m not about to start boycotting the paper and miss out on all that excellent content.

That said, I hope the Observer’s editor will explain the thinking behind the decision to print the piece, and offer a proper right of reply to the transgender people who have been unfairly vilified.

3rd January 2008

You heard it here… last

A cheerful notion from John Naughton in last week’s Observer:

We may finally discover what the Storm ‘botnet’ – the colossal network of compromised Windows machines someone has been covertly building over the past year – is for. My hunch is that the net is headed for its own version of 9/11.