James Corden Gets Slammed for 'Gayface' Role in 'The Prom'

Wednesday December 2, 2020

James Corden put on his "gayface" in Ryan Murphy's upcoming Netflix adaptation of the Broadway musical "The Prom," and it may be his worst career move since "Cats."

In that musical, the late night talk show host played Bustopher Jones, a pretentious cat who provided some of the more harrowing images as he dived into garbage cans to eat. While he said he had "the loveliest time making that film," Cinema Blend writes: "He had no idea how ridiculous Bustopher Jones would look on the big screen once it was finished. How else could he have presented at the Oscars in a catsuit?"

Another year, another holiday movie, and Corden is again being slammed. While "The Prom" is receiving largely good reviews (with a 76% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes, Corden is being singled out as a glaring casting error.

A number of headlines say it all. "James Corden Should Have Been Banned from 'The Prom'," trumpets Richard Dawson in his Vanity Fair review. "James Corden faces blistering backlash for 'gross and offensive' portrayal of a gay man in 'The Prom'," headlines a report at PinkNews.

The response rekindles the debate over straight actors playing gay roles — a meme making headlines today with Viggo Mortensen's cheeky response to him playing a gay man in the upcoming "Falling," which he also directed.

In "The Prom," Corden plays a self-involved, middle-aged out Broadway actor whose fame is on the wan. In order to rehabilitate his image (along with colleagues played by Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman and Andrew Rannells), the group take up a cause that will make them appear more empathetic. They find one in a news story about a lesbian high school student who wants to bring her girlfriend to the prom in a small, Indiana town. Instead of allowing her to do so, the school shuts down the prom. To help out, they travel to Indiana where this heavy-handed story of inclusion unfolds. Over the course of the film — spoiler alert — Corden must face his past and his rejection of his parents twenty years before when they learned he is gay.

"Corden, who is straight, is so bad in 'The Prom'—somehow both appalling and terminally bland—that it had me thinking maybe the hardliners (who believe straight actors shouldn't play gay roles) were right along," writes Dawson. "Forget the whole case-by-case thing: No more straight actors playing gay men until the sins of 'The Prom' are properly atoned for. Murphy, a gay man, has led some straight actors into fertile gay territory before, like Darren Criss in 'The Assassination of Gianni Versace.' But Corden, flitting and lisping around in the most uninspired of caricatures, misses all potential for nuance, and thus never finds even a hint of truth in the role. And this is in a movie that's supposed to be about empowering queer people!"

Others who watched Sunday's screening agreed on Twitter:

PinkNews also reports that Corden faced criticism late last year when "the Christmas special of 'Gavin and Stacey,' which Corden both starred in and co-wrote with Ruth Jones, divided viewers when a character sang 'Fairytale of New York' by The Pogues with the homophobic slur left in.

"The BBC later defended the use of the homophobic slur, which was broadcast to viewers across the UK on Christmas Day, saying the lyrics are 'well-established with the audience'."