Is NBC'S Bunny an LGBT Role Model?
NBC proudly exposes itself on Monday, September 19 with The Playboy Club, a provocative new drama from Oscar-winning executive producer Brian Grazer. Set in the early 1960s at Chicago’s titular adult playground, the series stars Eddie Cibrian (a.k.a. Mr. LeAnn Rimes), late of CSI:Miami, and the young lesbian actress Amber Heard.
Cibrian plays Nick Dalton, an enigmatic playboy who is one of Chi-town’s top mob-affiliated attorneys. Dalton comes to the aid of the stunning ingénue Bunny Maureen (Heard). Maureen’s character was written explicitly with Heard in mind, according to Collider.com, an irony given her current straddling of the line between emerging mainstream sex symbol and potential LGBT role model.
The 25-year-old actress dropped out of her Austin, Texas high school at 17 and into the New York modeling and acting scene. She bunny-hopped over to Los Angeles, landing her first starring role in 2007 on the CW show, Hidden Palms, followed by a breakthrough role in 2008’s Pineapple Express. In suprprising move for an up-and-coming actor, Heard came out at GLAAD's 25th Anniversary Event in 2010, when she identified her partner as Hawaiian photographer Tasya van Ree.
Soon after, Heard told AfterEllen.com, “I think GLAAD is one of the many reasons that I, as a 24-year-old, can come out… the injustice of people staying in the closet is more than I can bear with a clear conscience, and I couldn’t sleep at night if I was a part of that problem, if I was part of the lies.”
This August, Heard made another admirable, if contradictory, statement in an interview with Playboy.com. “First of all, to say I came out implies that I was once in. Let me be straight about that—no pun intended [laughs]—I never came out from anywhere… When it comes to love I am totally open.”
Heard’s ambivalence reflects the conflict and struggle represented by her character Maureen; though she is empowered by her sexuality, at times she might be perceived as victimized and exploited. “I have talked to a lot of [retired Playboy Bunnies] who look back fondly on those memories and are thankful for that experience, or for the money it earned them and, therefore, the opportunities it was later able to afford them,” she told Collider.com. “I am fortunate to be a part of this new generation where I don’t need to choose between combat boots and an apron. I can do it in heels.” The Playboy Club airs Mondays at 10-11pm EST on NBC.