Today, Tom Hardy was questioned about comments regarding his own sexuality which he made on the record to a gay publication at the beginning of his career. These comments apparently do not serve the career path on which he now finds himself, despite the fact that in his latest film he plays an openly gay historical figure. So instead of providing an answer, he unleashed a series of reactions most would have described as bullying and hostile had the subject been something other than his potential bisexuality. As a result, he publicly shamed a reporter for asking him a legitimate question about comments he had previously made on the record. Worse, he was largely enabled in this endeavor by fawning Internet headlines praising him as having “expertly shut down” the reporter in question, as if any inquiry into his sexuality from the press was on par with his having been falsely accused of a crime.
Enough of this. Enough of allowing actors once they reach a certain threshold of fame to act like they’ve been violated or shamed by any question that suggests they might not be one hundred percent heterosexual. Asking a handsome young male actor if he’s gay is not in any way indecent. To pretend as such deepens the stigma around homosexuality on a vastly public level, in a manner that does damage to gay people who don’t have access to media platforms and who aren’t regularly provided with a press conference in which to air their views.
Trying to protect one’s stardom is a far different thing than trying to protect one’s ability to work in a creative profession. Openly gay actors work all the time. Striving for a spot on the A-list, however, is a much more complicated endeavor, entailing enormous compromises and personal sacrifices. People on such paths are asked and encouraged by their handlers and employers to present drastically altered versions of their personal lives to the public and to either silence or moderate their true political views. If this is the path they chose, then so be it. But when questioned about those parts of themselves they’ve chosen to conceal, these actors should learn how to navigate the process with some level of humility and class. To do this is to accept responsibility for the compromises they’ve chosen to make as they strive for an extraordinary level of recognition and success. At they very least, they should practice some graceful dodges to those questions they know they won’t answer.
Instead we’re now being greeted with bristling false outrage and brittle sanctimony, like what we saw just last year from How to Get Away With Murder’s Jack Falahee, and now from Tom Hardy, (and too many actors before them to even mention), a reaction that pretends that it is the question (and by extension, the questioner) that is the real problem and not the actor’s unwillingness to answer it (or their fear of answering it). There’s no way around it. This reaction advances the idea that to be considered gay or bisexual remains a shameful thing, as utterly and deeply personal as an extramarital affair for which one tried to make amends or a colonoscopy gone so wrong the recovery process required years of physical therapy, something never to never be spoken of in a public setting by respectful people, and it does this solely to protect a single actor’s personal ambition.
This doesn’t seem like an acceptable trade off to me, but if most of the Internet’s reaction to Tom Hardy’s behavior this morning is any indication, I’m alone in that belief.
Fine. I’m kind of a loner anyway.
Bill Hohn says
How many times can you be asked the same question about your younger self before the snark attacks? Don’t hate me.
I don’t hate you, Bill. And it’s a good question.
I can only speak from my own experience. Every time I sit down to give an interview about pretty much anything, I am asked the same three or four questions about my mother that I have been asked for my entire career. If I did not want to answer those questions, I could have kept my last name a secret. But I didn’t keep it a secret. I used it to my advantage instead, so I make every effort to answer those questions as honestly and respectfully as I can. So if, at a previous time in your career, say, you thought an interview in which you depicted yourself as sexually fluid would endear you to the readership of a popular gay magazine in the UK, and now you wish that interview had never taken place because you’re trying to reach a broader audience…well, the price of that choice should fall on you, not on the interviewer who reminded you of your comments.
My post ultimately is not about whether or not Tom Hardy should label his sexual identity in public. It’s about owning one’s past comments with respect, and not treating any questions regarding sexual identity as patently offensive just because the real answer might damage your ability to obtain leading man roles.
Also, I would not character Hardy’s response as snark. I would characterize it as hostile and designed to take advantage of the knee-jerk prejudice he knew would surround the question in the eye public eye.
Lowell C Johnson says
Whatever his sexuality is, as a gay Black man, who was also a free-lance entertainment writer/critic, it’s a non-issue. However, Hardy should’ve just man up and answered the question, as it was a legit one. Besides, coming out as gay hasn’t hurt the careers of Neil Patrick Harris, daytime actor Greg Rikkart (Y&R), Cherry Jones, and current hot singer (and Bond theme song performer) Sam Smith.
The question was idiotic. “Do you find it hard for celebrities to talk to media about their sexuality?”
No problem with Tom Hardy skipping this question, or the question, which he queued up, about his sexuality. He didn’t deny anything about his past.
Ian M. Walker says
Agreed, there was no need for the question, yet AGAIN and when they were there to talk about the film.
That is all he was pointing out.
I saw it very differently. I saw it as someone who was more interested in talking about the film, not in his sexuality. It wasn’t a personal interview, it was a film junket. The “Why?” seemed more like — “Why are you asking me about this now?”
He’s spoken about fluid sexuality in the past, and played a lot of fluid characters. He doesn’t strike me as ashamed of who he is or trying to hide, but rather, place and time. A press junket for a particular film is not the appropriate time and place.
The idea that an actor’s life is something to be discussed ALL THE TIME is just a ridiculous notion. If Neil deGrasse Tyson and Stephen Hawking were giving an interview about quantum physics and the interviewer stood up and asked about their sexuality, it would be decidedly inappropriate, even if the interviewer desperately tried to weave it into the context by saying “The atoms seem to have a bisexual nature. Are you bi?” WHICH IS EXACTLY what this guy did to Tom Hardy.
Why do you think it is appropriate to do that to an actor? Why is it necessary to know the personal lives of celebrities?
Well, a couple things. Actors use their personal lives to promote themselves and their projects all the time. Unlike scientists, who engage mostly in data collection and the interpretation of such data, an actor’s personal life is an integral part of their craft. As with all creative artists, they frequently draw on personal experiences to feed their work, and discussions of such experiences will often play a role in press junkets and more in depth interviews. It’s only when those experiences might damage the actor’s standing as a leading man or lady that suddenly the questions gets characterized as offensive or inappropriate. Would we react the same way if Meryl Streep starred in a love story and an interviewer asked her if she drew on her experiences of being in love to play the part? Or more specifically, if they asked her if she was in love? Furthermore, Hardy was promoting a film in which he plays one of the most notorious openly gay criminals in history. The film’s also come under fire for excising any moment of sexual or physical intimacy between that character and the actor who plays his male lover. All of these make the issue of sexuality relevant to the film and to the promotion of the film.
If deGrasse or Hawking were presenting scientific evidence that was part of a large scale study of human sexuality, or perhaps the origins of homosexuality, and they were asked about their own sexuality and how they felt their findings related to their conceptions of self, I think you’d have something closer to what happened today with Tom Hardy, and I wouldn’t be willing to call the question offensive or inappropriate.
Rick Shir says
Stardom in acting creates complications. Your persona becomes public, and casting directors worry about how it may color how audiences “accept” you in certain roles. The fear will subside as more gays play sraights and vice versa. Ethnicity, on the other hand, is a tougher nut to crack. Taylor Swift is never going to play Anne Frank and Helen Mirren will never be Rosa Parks–except in “experimental” works.
Ari R. says
Let me start off by saying I don’t think being gay is personal or private. It is an immutable fact like hair color. But as a gay man, I found myself cringing when the reporter asked the question. It seemed trite, amateurish, childish and not really relevant. When confronted, the reporter even allowed his question to be morphed because Tom’s sexuality is actually the question he wanted to ask. It would be nice if the gay reporter had actually asked a question not related to sexuality. His readers surely care about more than this.
I agree with your first point. I don’t think sexuality is personal or private at all. Can you imagine returning someone’s wedding invitation by saying, “I’m sorry. This is just too personal”? What most people truly support is highly public version of sexuality, amplified constantly through fashion, the media and entertainment, which relies on a presumption of universal heterosexuality. As soon at that’s questioned, suddenly sexuality needs to be “private”.
I don’t agree with your points on the reporter’s question. The essential question was, “Do you think its hard for actors to discuss their sexuality in the press?” I’m not willing to espouse a worldview that considers that to be a question that merits a response as hostile and combative as the one Hardy gave.
PJ Carambia says
When I first read the headline for this I thought perhaps Hardy was asked something inappropriate. Using the phrase “shut down” gave me the impression Hardy stopped someone who was out of line. Clearly that wasn’t the case. This reporter’s original question was a fair and reasonable one given the subject of the movie.
Hardy didn’t shut the reporter down, he ambushed him. He completely trampled over the original question and his harsh tone made it impossible for the reporter to recover. It was as if he badgered the reporter into a hasty follow up question and then ran over that as well.
The original question was very open one about actors in general. I believe Hardy was actually the one that made it personal. Regardless of why he got offended, whether it be fear of tarnishing his reputation or just being tired of answering the same question repeatedly, the aggressive nature in which he answered was uncalled for.
Hardy did do a good job of taking focus off questions of his sexuality by giving proof positive he’s an asshole.
I agree with you and I find other people’s support for Tom Hardy on this rather odd.
I do not think the reporter was being offensive and it was a perfectly valid question in light of his role in the movie and of his Atittude Magazine interview in 2008. But in a later interview (in which he was rather crude) he claimed his words were “misconstrued”whatever that means! It seemed perfectly clear at the time to me. Once you talk about your sexuality in the media you cannot put the genie back in the bottle.
He should not have been so defensive. But then macho leading man types are not allowed to have the faintest ‘whiff of lavender’ about them even these days.
I am very disappointed in him, I thought the was stronger than that!
Right on here Christopher Rice! The World I came out in in 1982 was a very different and scary place for me. As much as I hate the phrase I have to just say that in my view of this story Tom Hardy is a complete and total “pussy”
Charles Beckman says
i disagree. Mr. Hardy has been open in the past over and over. It appears, repeatedly, that he is bi-sexual and currently in a relationship with a woman. Repeatedly asked the same question over and over while attempting to developers a non- same sex relationship is disrespectful to his new mate and exposes the bloggers need for sensationalism. The bloke is a great guy. Question asked and answered. Be more prepared and less salacious in upcoming interviews. He has never turned a Sean Hayes. Respect from an informed journalist goes a long way.
How is asking someone about past same sex experiences they’ve given interviews about “disrespectful” unless you have an inherent disdain and prejudice against same sex relationships or sexual encounters? Would asking him a question about his current wife be considered disrespectful and “too personal”? There seem to be plenty of hits regarding his latest marriage and no real outcry over them. What you’ve described seems like a double standard to me, and a bigoted one at that. He wasn’t asked for specifics about his encounters past or present. His own past comments were used as platform for asking him about how actors can or can’t discuss their sexuality in Hollywood. I’m losing patience with the words “disrespectful” and “privacy” being applied here only to inquiries regarding bisexual or homosexual behavior. They further the belief that past relationships or experiences with men are so sordid and incendiary that they must never mentioned again lest they destroy the sanctity of his new heterosexual marriage.
I think you post is right on point! Hardy came across as hostile and super defensive and did not answer the question graciously. He could have just playfully provided an off-the-cuff lighthearted answer but instead he ended up sounding like a pompous arse by silencing the reporter in a mocking tone.
No longer a Tom Hardy fan.
Craig H says
You’re definitely not alone in your distaste from the fallout, and you’ve definitely earned my respect for taking a public stand. Thanks for doing so. Silly that it has to be done. The question wasn’t offensive. The reaction guaranteed that the moment would earn more discussion after the fact, the opposite of what Hardy would have preferred, I’m sure. Your post is eloquent, and firm, and it’s disappointing that it needed to be posted at all.
At first, I thought that he just came from the Jeremy Renner school of charm, but I am getting tired of actors coming out when they’re young and then pretending that this thing called the Internet doesn’t remember everything they’ve said. I believe that true equality means that we get the good with the bad, and like it or not, the media (and fans) want to know who you fancy. If we have to sit through all of the Kardashian marriages and splits and babies in the media, which is blatantly promoting their heterosexuality, then how can any LGBT actor complain when asked about their own orientation.
Excellent post, Christopher. I completely agree. I think it’s asinine that so many celebrities are skittish about addressing anything related to the GLBT world, especially if it might reflect upon them. This kind of mentality seems grossly out of date considering the progress we are making, and more to the point, causes an undue sense of shame for younger members of the community who might be struggling with their own coming out process.
When I was young and still in my coming out process, it was so important to me to find role models who were openly gay, or at least strong allies. I think it’s strange that the entertainment industry, which has this reputation of being very progressive and “anything goes” ,has such a massive homophobic streak in it. It’s sad and pathetic.
I happen to agree with most of your observations. You might get a giggle out of this: I was booted out of his (militant/ over protective) fb fan groups for simply stating that I thought that he needed a new publicist and he also needed to learn how to deal with these types of public, invasive queries in a more elegant way.
I am a new Tom Hardy fan. While I was blown away by his performance in Child 44…and wanted to learn all that I could about him, his sexuality was not an issue. The man had a smoldering sexuality in interviews and on screen. I just watched him in RocknRolla, as Handsome Bob, the gay thug secretly in love with his boss, and loved his performance. He was still sexy.
But I am NOT a fan of this judgmental, entitlement attitude. His name puts people in the theater seats…He knows this. This was either a staged play fight, for publicity or the guy is a spoilt brat.
I like his work. I DON’T like the man, no matter how many dogs he holds. I LOVED this guy before the harsh treatment by his fans. #tomhardyholdingdogs