The Tom Hanks standard: A new, 'woke' parlor game

Tom Hanks announced that if the 1993 movie Philadelphia, for which he won an Oscar for playing a gay man dying of AIDS, were being made today, he would not be offered and would not accept the role, "and rightly so," because today such casting would be at odds with "the modern realm of authenticity" demanding that only a gay actor can play a gay character.  Today's audiences, he said, would find a straight actor in that role "unacceptable."

On hearing this, the first thing that occurred to me was that, should similar "logic" be applied to everything coming out of Hollywood, we would be hearing that "in other news, Anthony Hopkins has declared that, under today's sensibilities, he would not be offered nor be able to accept the role of Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs (for which he was awarded 1991's Best Actor Oscar), because he is neither an actual serial killer nor an actual cannibal."

Come to think of it, Jodie Foster, who won the Best Actress Oscar for her performance in that same film, might today be deemed unacceptable to play the role of FBI investigator Clarice Starling, a character who is impliedly heterosexual, given that Ms. Foster has since indicated (at the 2013 Golden Globe Awards) that, in real life, she is not (while still maintaining that such matters really ought to be private).

As a parlor game, the possibilities are endless.  Just try to name ("in other news...") all the movies and shows that would have to be re-cast in light of this new "authenticity" rule.  William Shatner, for example, would be acceptable as neither Capt. James T. Kirk nor Sgt. T.J. Hooker, having never actually commanded a starship or served on the LAPD.  And, of course, Leonard Nimoy's role on Star Trek would today have to be played by an actual half-human, half-Vulcan!

Image: Tom Hanks (shamefully) receiving an Oscar for his role in Philadelphia.  YouTube screen grab (edited).

Steve McQueen, having never been an actual prisoner, could not be cast for the roles he played in PapillonNevada Smith, and The Great Escape.  Al Pacino, not being actually blind or an actual veteran, could not be cast in the role he played in Scent of a Woman.  And Jamie Foxx could not be cast as Ray Charles in Ray, given that, although he is authentically Black, Foxx is not blind (although he did glue his eyes shut for the role!), an actual musical genius, or a heroin user.  Note that the wokesters claim that a straight actor playing a gay character is tantamount to a white actor donning blackface.

Even if this parlor game were limited to just the "gay vs. straight" angle, the new rule could cut both ways.  Obviously, nowadays, Rock Hudson would never be cast in all those leading-man roles.

In one of my favorite TV shows, Two and a Half Men, this rule would play havoc with what is otherwise great casting and great acting.  The part of Evelyn Harper, Charlie's and Alan's (hetero)sexually active mother, would have to be re-cast because Holland Taylor, the actress who plays the part so brilliantly, is not heterosexual.  Also needing to be changed would be the masterful casting of Stacy Keach and John Amos as a gay couple.  And let's not even get started on Jon Cryer, another brilliant actor who seems to embody the comic talents of Don Knotts, Dick Van Dyke, and Stan Laurel.  Playing a character whose heterosexuality is often challenged and impugned by his own brother, he is said to be the darling of gay audiences, who see him as one of them — but he is not.

What's the point of all this (aside from what I think makes for an amusing parlor game)?  There seem to be three points: A) wokeness, like gayness, now permeates absolutely everything; B) the arbiters of wokeness have made a critical determining factor out of something that ought to be nobody's damn business (unless one chooses — out of attention-seeking or other neuroses — to make it everyone's business); and C) we all seem to have chosen to disregard or even just plumb forget the very definition of acting!

Stu Tarlowe has been a contributor to American Thinker since 2010.  He was for some 15 years the personal editor for the late Barry Farber, who is in Stu's personal pantheon of heroes and role models (along with Jean Shepherd, Long John Nebel, Aristide Bruant, Col. Jeff Cooper, Rabbi Meir Kahane, and G. Gordon Liddy).  Recently employed as a staff writer for a magazine forecasting political, financial, and societal trends, when Stu had to be hospitalized for COVID, he was permanently replaced (and that still makes him a little bit crazy).  Having recovered from the Wuhan Flu, however, he now writes on a variety of topics (political and personal) in his newsletter at and is seeking another gig as a writer/editor/proofreader.

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