It being pride week and all, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Isaiah Washington, Hollywood's newest out homophobe, for being the total douche that he is.
Gotta give him credit Washington spoke his mind. He called a faggot a faggot and he got what he deserved. He dropped one F bomb and his bosses at Grey's Anatomy responded with another: fired.
So why am I thankful to him?
Well, if Washington hadn't outed Grey's castmate T. R. Knight during an on-set argument that leaked to the media, Knight wouldn't now be the highest-paid out actor on TV. (Imagine if someone had captured Washington's tirade on their cellphone camera - la Michael Richards's racist flameout. Methinks the axe would have fallen faster and the public outcry been more vocal.)
Knight just signed a new $125,000 U.S. per episode contract to return to doctor duties at Seattle Grace Hospital after rumours swirled that he was leaving the show as a result of his very public ordeal. His character, the puppy-doggish George, even failed his intern exam in the season's final episode, leaving the door open for a graceful exit. His being outed must have figured into the salary negotiation in some way, even if it was just a TV network's lame way of trying, months after the fact, to make up for what happened.
Not coincidentally, news of the contract agreement became public just days before Washington was told his services were no longer required.
Maybe Knight should think about cutting Washington in for a percentage (he could probably use the cash), since it's debatable if Knight would have gotten the raise otherwise.
Regardless of whether this is a crack in Hollywood's homo glass ceiling (it's barely okay to play gay, let alone be gay, and don't even think about being openly gay and playing straight), Knight is the first queer actor whose career not only didn't flame out when he came out of the closet, but actually heated up.
Yes, Ellen DeGeneres is out and at the top of her game, but she's not playing a romantic lead in anything but her own life. Besides, the job offers dried up pretty quickly after she so famously outed herself on her sitcom. It's only on talk TV that she's found her groove.
You could also point to Neil Patrick Harris, who stars on the hit sitcom How I Met Your Mother. He came out last year when the gossip wolves started circling. But Harris was already a star, thanks to Doogie Howser and a string of Broadway roles. So his announcement, handled with witty aplomb, was barely a blip on the pop culture radar. That a gay man is playing a stripper-loving Lothario only makes Harris's performance all the more delicious.
On the film side, there's Ian McKellen, who only became a household name after he came out (and became a hero to all geekdom with roles as X-enemy Magneto and Gandalf). But again, he's not romancing Nicole Kidman on screen. And Rupert Everett has never been able to escape gay best friend roles.
Which puts Knight in a unique position. He's a gay actor playing a straight character who happens to have out-McDreamied McDreamy by sleeping with half the female cast.
So not only is Knight gay, but he's playing a TV stud to boot.
When news of Washington's on-set outburst broke, Knight made his orientation official with a brief but pointed statement: I hope the fact that I'm gay isn't the most interesting part of me.
So far, though, it's the only interesting part of him.
While his Grey's Anatomy character is one of the leads, George is really the Duckie of the ensemble, if you get my Pretty In Pink comparison.
He's the sweet, lovable, supportive, slightly pathetic best friend who pines hopelessly with puppy-dog eyes for his Molly Ringwald.
More of a reactor, he's never been a catalyst for the show's soapy dramatics. Even the storyline dealing with George's father's illness only gave him the opportunity to act glum and surly.
And despite trysts with Meredith, Izzie and Callie, he?s as blandly asexual as his name, George O?Malley.
Hell, he might as well be gay.
MONDAY, JUNE 25
CLASSIC PRIDE MOVIES
The Turner Classic Movies channel?s salute to classic queer cinema continues. Monday?s highlights include Staircase, starring Richard Burton and Rex Harrison in the story of gay lovers; The Boys In The Band, about a gay birthday party with an unexpected guest; and Victim, starring Dirk Bogarde as a closeted lawyer being blackmailed.
Mondays and Wednesdays on TCM (channel 48); see www.tcm.com for listings.