Brendan Fraser says it’s ‘immaterial’ that his The Whale character is gay – and fans are divided

Brendan Fraser holds up his Best Actor Oscar.

Brendan Fraser thinks that the sexuality of his The Whale character Charlie is “immaterial” to the storyline, and fans have a lot of thoughts.

Speaking to reporters following his Best Actor award win at the Oscars earlier this week (12 March), Fraser was asked a question about the development of queer storylines in film.

In response, Fraser, 54, said his character Charlie is “so much more than just a gay man”.

“He’s a father, he’s an educator, he’s a truth seeker and that he fell hopelessly, inconveniently in love with whomever is immaterial,” Fraser said.

“He’s someone who found love, lost it, and then found it again. I think that’s something we can all take a page from.”

Queer fans of the film, however, are unconvinced.

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The film follows Charlie, an “obese” English professor who battles health issues and is ashamed of his appearance. During the film, it’s revealed that Charlie’s partner Alan took his own life due to religious guilt around his sexuality, which led to Charlie’s depression and binge-eating.

Brendan Fraser accepts his Oscar for Best Actor for his role in The Whale.
Brendan Fraser won Best Actor for his role as gay man Charlie in The Whale. (Getty/Rich Polk)

Many of the film’s fans are therefore arguing that yes, Charlie’s sexuality does matter. In fact, they think it’s pretty pivotal to the film’s entire plot.

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“Charlie’s sexuality is not immaterial,” one fan wrote. “It influences everything about the film and the characters’ story arc. I am happy for Brendan, truly, well deserved Oscar, but this is a misstep in his answer.”

Others are using Fraser’s answer as reasoning for the argument that only LGBTQ+ actors should take on LGBTQ+ roles, as they are more likely to understand the impact that being queer has on their characters’ lives.

“His general response exemplifies why the LGBTQ community gets mad when cis-hetero actors portray LGBTQ+ characters,” one fan shared, calling Fraser’s answer “disappointing”.

“We all know any given person is more than gay, lesbian etc. but for better or for worse, this conditions our whole existence.”

Another added: “Only a straight guy would say the character’s sexuality was immaterial, possibly because he has no lived experience of the fallout of being gay [and] how that might affect a life in multitudinous ways.”

Some The Whale fans are jumping to Fraser’s defence, arguing that the film has emotional resonance regardless.

“Love his answer. We are more than gay people,” wrote one person. “This story is powerful no matter the sexual orientation of the character.”

“Every time I think I’m done with the crying, more tears come. So eloquently put. I just love him,” said another fan.

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Despite Fraser winning Best Actor at the Oscars, The Whale has seen a fair amount of controversy since it was announced back in 2021. 

Some have criticised the decision to cast a straight actor in the role of a gay man, while others have taken issue with the film’s use of a fat suit to portray obesity. 

​​The film’s director Darren Aronofsky had previously explained that he couldn’t find an obese actor who “could pull off the emotions of the role”. 

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