James Corden, the British comedian perhaps best known for his hosting of the ‘The Late Late Show with James Corden, has come under fire from progressive audiences for his portrayal of a gay character in Netflix’s film adaptation of the musical The Prom.
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Based heavily on the 2010 Itawamba County School District prom controversy, ‘The Prom’ follows the story of four Broadway actors who, following a scathing review of their latest performance, search for a ‘cause’ to attach themselves to in order to improve their images.
After a brief search on Twitter, the four agree to lend their services to Emma, a teenage lesbian from Indiana whose prom was cancelled because she wanted to bring her girlfriend as her date.
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Setting off for Indiana, the actors soon find themselves embroiled in a legal and media battle against the PTA from Emma’s school, which eventually ends when the school agrees to host an all-inclusive prom.
In the film adaptation, Corden plays Barry Glickman, a narcissistic gay man and one of the aforementioned Broadway actors who initially agree to help Emma solely in the hopes that their virtue signaling will help their respective stars burn brighter.
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Following the film’s December 11th release on Netflix, Corden’s portrayal of Glickman came under heavy fire from progressive audiences, with many taking particular issue with his performance due to how ‘flamboyantly’ the straight actor portrayed the character.
Musician Sam Young described Corden’s performance as “grossly offensive” and asserted that “someone needs to tell him that it is possible to play a gay character without leaning on archaic stereotypes that are rooted in homophobia.”
In a brief but brutal summary of Corden’s performance, Vanity Fair chief critic Richard Lawson declared it to be “one of the worst film performances of the 21st century.”
A number of news outlets also torched Corden for his performance.
In their review of the film, Newsweek’s Samuel Spencer claimed that The Prom’s “biggest problem, however, lies with James Corden,” and noted that “few straight actors could get away with a gay character like this, a role that would feel stereotypical in an ’80s sitcom and here feels offensive.”
“There’s a sort of meanness to the performance, as if he’s ridiculing what I imagine will be a large percentage of The Prom’s audience,” wrote The Guardian’s Benjamin Lee. “While I fully doubt that was the intention, there’s so little thought or even craft in his work here that I’m not sure if there was any intention involved at all.”
IndieWire’s Zack Sharf shared his opinion that “Corden is offensively miscast” and found that “there’s no beating around the bush: It’s painful to watch James Corden lean into effeminate gay stereotypes and play up sassy gay flourishes.”
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However, Corden’s casting in the role was not without its defenders, particularly his The Prom co-star Andrew Rannells, who told Attitude that, “Obviously, representation is very important, but what I feel that [director Ryan Murphy] does so well is, you know, it’s the best person for the job, quite frankly.”
“In the same way that James can play the gay character, he’s also given me an opportunity to play a straight character, which is not something I do all the time,” the actor added. “As much as he takes [an actor’s sexuality] into consideration, I think ultimately he’s looking for talent and parts, and he’s given me the opportunity to play this part which maybe another director wouldn’t have cast me in, and I’m very grateful for the opportunity.”
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