The Prom has been one of Netflix’s most-watched movies since its premiere in December. But one criticism has been of James Corden who is not gay unlike like his The Prom character, Barry Glickman.
The Prom, which is based on the 2018 Broadway musical of the same title, stars Corden as Barry Glickman, a narcissistic Broadway actor who, along with fellow Broadway star Dee Dee Allen, travels to middle America to help a gay high school teenager whose prom has been cancelled because of her sexuality. The Prom also explores Barry’s own coming out experience, as viewers learn that his story is not unlike Emma’s, the teen he’s helping for publicity. Like Emma, Barry is also estranged from his family, specifically his mom, after he came out at 16 years old and was kicked out of his home. The end of the film sees Emma have the prom she always dreamed of, as well as Barry reunite with his mom who apologizes for her reaction when he was a teenager.
Aside from Emma and her girlfriend, Alyssa Greene, Barry had one of Prom‘s more serious storylines about his sexuality and coming out, which made critics side-eye even more given that James Corden isn’t gay. Unlike his character, Corden is straight and married to TV producer Julia Carey. The two, who married in 2012, also share three kids: son Max, 9, and daughters Carey, 6, and Charlotte, 3. After the premiere of The Prom, Corden was slammed on Twitter for his “offensive” portrayal of a gay man, which many viewers found homophobic and stereotypical. “something about James Corden playing a gay guy feels deeply homophobic to me,” tweeted @InfinityBaka. Tweeted @christinafoleyy, “james corden, a straight man, singing “we’re gonna help that little lesbian” while pretending to be a gay man just feels so wrong on so many levels and it keeps replaying in my head.” Wrote @aliceorwhateva, “James Corden not being gay actually pisses me off.”
Though Corden hasn’t responded directly to his critics, he did tell Metro in an interview in December that he’s “proud” of his performance of a gay man. “I get emotional when I think about those scenes about his family, if I’m honest. They are important scenes which move the story and character forward,” he said. “‘As an actor] you spend quite a long time, just personally, feeling like you might be able to have a bit more to give. Like you might be able to have a bit more depth and you want someone like Ryan [Murphy] to come along and drop a script in your lap like this.”
Corden went on to say that he worked with Murphy, who is the director of The Prom, to craft Barry. He told Metro that Murphy, who is an out gay man, talked to him about his experiences with his sexuality to help Corden play Barry. “And then you go, ‘Oh God, what if I am not able to do these things?’ Ryan, I will be indebted to forever for his guidance, the way that he led me through it. The way he led me through it as a director, the way he led me through it as a friend, the way he led me through it as a gay man. And I’ll treasure those days,” Corden said.
He continued, “I find it very moving when I think about how I felt on those days when it was just Meryl [Streep] and I. I love those scenes and I’m very proud of them.”
The Prom is available to stream on Netflix.