Cate Blanchett: ‘I don’t think about my gender or my sexuality’

I’m going to keep ringing this bell, I don’t care how annoying I am: Tár was my favorite film of the past year. The past several years, honestly. I loved Cate Blanchett’s performance, I love the ghost story aspect of the film, I love the evocative, moody, gothic drama of it, I loved that Todd Field created this total world of Lydia Tár. As I was reading Cate’s Awards Insider cover story, I learned that the box office for Tár was actually pretty bad? But it’s been available for streaming/rent for nearly two months, so I imagine that’s how people will find the movie, as I did. You should absolutely try to find it, it’s brilliant! Anyway, Cate has been promoting Tár for months and she found herself in the middle of a huge Oscar campaign, thus this Awards Insider cover. Her interview was charming (to me). Some highlights:

Cate doesn’t even have all the answers on Tár: “I found Tár the most all-consuming, confronting, joyous, life-affirming endeavor that I’ve ever been involved in. I don’t know what exactly it is, but I know it’s something. So I want people to tell me what it is because I’m still figuring it out for myself.”

Preparation: She had months to prepare—to learn how to conduct, to master the piano, to speak German. (The film is set in Berlin and was largely shot there.) “I was utterly terrified of it. I didn’t know where to start and so I had to just start in an incredibly practical way. But because there was so much to do, it meant that there wasn’t any time for nerves.”

What does ambition mean to Blanchett? “It’s something that traditionally is seen as being an unattractive thing for a woman to hold. It’s synonymous with being ruthless. I look at the things that I choose to take on as ambitious, and that always contains a very strong possibility of monumental, catastrophic failure… I don’t know if I’m an ambitious person or a restless person. It’s a very hard question, Dr. Freud.”

Whether she feels weird about playing a queer woman corrupted by power: “I don’t think about my gender or my sexuality. For me in school, it was David Bowie, it was Annie Lennox. There’s always been that sort of gender fluidity.” She admits to feeling perplexed by the very notion of having to think about stepping into an identity outside of her own: “I have to really listen very hard when people have an issue with it. I just don’t understand the language they’re speaking, and I need to understand it because you can’t dismiss the obsession with those labels—behind the obsession is something really important. But personally I’ve never had it.”

Playing a lesbian in Carol: “If it was made now, me not being gay—would I be given public permission to play that role?” I ask if she thinks she should be. “I don’t know the answer to that,” she says. The topic clearly weighs on Blanchett, as she understands the sensitivity around it—and the potential for saying the wrong thing. “If you and I were having a conversation [25 years ago], it would be in your publication and that was it. Now, somehow it’s like these opinions get published, and Scarlett Johansson doesn’t play a role that maybe she was the only person who could play it.” (This likely refers to Johansson, after backlash, exiting a project in which she was to play a transgender man.) She adds, “I don’t want to offend anybody. I don’t want to speak for anybody else.”

Her Hot Ones appearance: “I asked to be on Hot Ones. I’ve been wanting to go on Hot Ones for years.”

The awards season is a grind: “Part of me was really hoping that, out of the pandemic, so many things were going to be done differently. Why don’t we have a matriarchal structure, in which…all these things are in dialogue with one another rather than it being a horse race? But of course there’s a lot of vested interest in creating the drama around the drama.”

[From Vanity Fair]

VF makes the point that Cate has been pretty eager to support Tár for months, mostly out of pride in the film. Like, Cate knows that she made one of the best films of her career and she’s promoting it accordingly. Lydia Tár is Cate’s problematic fave, and part of Cate is still living in the Tár Universe – she admits at one point that she and Todd Field are still on the phone with each other four or five times a day, and there are side projects coming out in the Tár universe, including a short film.

As for Cate playing queer characters… I don’t know, I feel like the LGBTQ community has always embraced her completely, so they don’t really have a problem with her playing someone like Lydia Tár? Maybe I’ve missed the backlash though (from what I’ve seen, the LGBTQ peeps are the ones praising Tár nonstop). As for her comments on the awards season… I also kind of hoped that the pandemic would change things, but it really hasn’t.

Cover courtesy of Vanity Fair, additional photos courtesy of Avalon Red.

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38 Responses to “Cate Blanchett: ‘I don’t think about my gender or my sexuality’”

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  1. SJ (they/them) says:

    [chanting] genderfluid cate blanchett genderfluid cate blanchett genderfluid cate blanchettttttt

    • smcollins says:

      Indeed. From Katherine Hepburn to Bob Dylan, her ability to embody just about anyone is just incredible. She’s truly (imho) one of the greatest actors of our time.

  2. Duchess of Hazard says:

    I still hope Michelle Yeoh gets the top prize. Blanchett will have another bite of the apple in the next couple of years.

    • CommentingBunny says:

      Me too! I think her performance was incredible. But also it would be a feel good moment. The oscars have never been about who gave the best performance – can art even be quantified in that way? So I jist want to cry when a legend gets her flowers!

  3. D says:

    I am not going to comment on what she says here because I don’t think we ever really get an answer that is acceptable, especially from people of my generation (GenX) because they are set in their ways and can’t always see around their decades long way of doing and saying things.

    On the topic of Tar, it was by far the best film I’ve seen in years. It’s just incredible what they did and with so many layers to it that if you go back for additional viewings you will find so many things you missed the first time. The only thing that annoyed me was that Cate’s face looked years younger than her wife’s face but the actress playing the wife is actually younger. It was just obvious that she has had some work done. That distracted me a bit but I got over it.

  4. Kokiri says:

    Well, I guess not having to think about it is a privilege not many can claim.
    She’s a beautiful white woman, built in protection all the way through life.
    So good for her, I guess.
    Others not so much, so maybe she should sit this one out.

    • LooseSeal says:

      If she’s going to sit this conversation out then she should stop taking these roles. Her consistent inability to meaningfully examine her own privilege is lazy and arrogant. She’s an absolutely incredible performer, but it diminishes the role when she’s this flip about things like gender identity and sexuality. No, Cate, you don’t just get gender fluidity because you listened to a lot of Bowie in high school. You’ve just never been confronted with the need to explore your gender identity.

      • Kokiri says:


      • R says:

        I know she’s super revered in their industry, and she’s a good actress so she’s probably going to win this Oscar, but yeah, I remember her trying to justify her working together with Woody and it never sat right right me and now again, with this.Just admit you’re more privileged than queer actors and actresses and how you’re afforded more chances and leeway, cause at the end if the day, you’re still a straight, cis woman. It reminds of the the Deconstructing Karen documentary and the Hogwarts Legacy debacle. The moment someone of privilege has to give up some of that easy life, it feels like discrimination to them, instead of equality.

      • MissMarirose says:

        YES, thank you! This is the heart of the problem here. She can make statements like, i want to listen or whatever, but she consistently shows that she’s unwilling or unable to examine her privilege. So, of course, she doesn’t understand. She refuses to do the work necessary to understand. And that’s arrogant as hell.

        Also, it’s so dumb to ask whether she’d be “allowed” to play her character in Carol now. She’s currently hyping a movie where she played a lesbian. wtf, lady?

      • Mtl.Ex.Pat says:

        @looseseal & @R – what you both wrote. So true.

    • Frippery says:

      Maybe I am cranky this morning, but I read that headline and thought the same thing, “Not having to think about gender or sexuality is a luxury for straight people”. Reading the article, I can tell she didn’t mean it in a “I don’t see color” way.

      • Sass says:

        That’s how I feel about it too. I like Cate and she’s a phenomenal actress. I am also a cis straight white woman who has never had to “think” about my gender or sexuality and her comment didn’t sit well with me. She needs to consider her words and examine her worldview a little bit more.

      • LooseSeal says:

        @Frippery you don’t sound cranky, you sound spot on.

      • Fleurthefrenchie says:

        THIS exactly. Cis-privilege speaking.

    • Wilma says:

      💯 If you never had to think about it, maybe consider you’re not the one we should be hearing from. Cate Blanchett keeps saying stupid things on the subjects of gender, skin colour and sexuality, but somehow no backlash can reach her.

  5. Emmi says:

    I haven’t seen the film yet but I’m looking forward to it.

    I think what she says about gender make sense because she’s never had to think about it. I haven’t either so it’s hard to understand people’s “obsession” with it from a very personal point of view. I disagree with that term btw. I was born female and I’ve always felt like a girl and a woman. I haven’t always liked the shit that comes with it in society but fundamentally, I’m in the right body and I’m good with many of the attributes that are associated with “female”. I cannot imagine the pain and frustration that comes with not having that. Or coming out and people denying your existence. But because I’m happy with myself, it’s not hard for me to accept people who, for example, don’t find themselves represented and therefore reject the gender binary. Tell me who you are and I’ll believe you. That goes far beyond Bowie, frankly. Bowie represented a style. Being/looking androgynous is a style, not necessarily an identity. I really dislike it when her generation thinks that invoking Bowie et al. means they somehow were ahead of the curve.

    • Kokiri says:

      And that’s the point: she should be thinking about it, especially when it doesn’t necessarily apply to her.
      She’s the bystander, the one in position to exact change.

      She’d be obsessed if she or someone she loved was at risk, bet on that.
      People are being murdered for daring to be who they are, & she’s talking this crap in 2023?

      Great actress she may be, but we absolutely need to stop equating good acting equals good people. This kind on talk is trash, & she should know that. But she doesn’t cause, privileged white woman.

      • Emmi says:

        I wonder why reporters never push back on this crap btw. It would be so easy. “She admits to feeling perplexed by the very notion of having to think about stepping into an identity outside of her own.” Yeah girl, because for you it’s all fun and games. Imagine having to stay in character forever or face some shitty consequences.

      • Thinking says:

        I thought she might have been asked in the context of acting the role rather than as a lived experience and that’s why she answered the way she did. I could be wrong, but the part in bold mentions whether she felt “weird” about playing the role. I thought that that was what she was addressing. If she doesn’t hold a specific prejudice, I could see her not feeling strange about playing the role.

  6. Veronica S. says:

    It’s a privilege not to have to think about it, but my blunt opinion as a bi woman is this: I don’t care if the people portraying lgbt+ are actually so in real life unless it becomes really obvious in the performance. (I.E. I watched a show recently where one character had tons of passionate, sexy scenes with men…until the actress had to those scenes with another woman, and then it became very chaste. Like, f*ck off lol.)

    Furthermore, I think we should be very careful asking minorities to out themselves or assume that they all bring the same experiences to the table. With the way anti-LGBT rhetoric is becoming mainstream, a lot of us should be much warier about being open about this stuff in certain contexts.

    • Frippery says:

      You don’t think trans characters should be portrayed by trans performers?

      (This isn’t me being cute or snarky, I’m genuinely asking. It’s not a ‘gotcha!’ moment)

    • Kitten says:

      To your first paragraph, it seems like you’re saying that an authentic portrayal is what most matters. Nobody wants the curtain pulled back when we’re immersing ourselves in a good story and an unconvincing portrayal does that.

      As a cishet white women I’m staying in my lane on this one but I find your opinion interesting. I do think there’s a bit more flexibility/wiggle-room in regards to the portrayal of sexuality versus race. Like, I don’t think anyone needs to see another white person attempting to “convincingly” portray a POC.

  7. Anon says:

    Yeah so…I’m trans and an actor to boot. Her hot take on this was confusing at best. I’m not even sure what she’s trying to say, especially the Scarlett Johansen comment. Queers on the whole have been thirsting over Cate for years, and totally accept her as a lesbian character. She doesn’t have to dissect that too much other than she’s become a queer icon and she’s stated pretty plainly that she’s not queer herself, and perhaps in addition to owning that icon status she could wield her immense privilege to advocate for openly trans and gay/bi people to play the characters MORE* than they currently are. Maybe not all the time but more would be nice.

    * Gay/bi/pan/asexual characters do not have to be played exclusively by open actors but no fucking way should cis people be playing trans characters. Full stop.

    • Tessa says:


      • Anon says:

        I’m not answering that. If you don’t know, you aren’t paying attention.

      • RebeccaH says:

        Anon – for those of us who are trying to understand better, please elaborate on your position why cis people shouldn’t be playing trans characters ever. I have no wish to argue with you, only to respectfully understand the rationale. Thank you.

      • Anon says:

        No, I am asked to explain this position all the time and it’s not my job or responsibility. If you want to know, google multiple trans writers or allies who have laid it bare. Trans people in comments sections are not always going to be your resource for knowledge. The main point I offered was that I don’t think CB has to defend being a lesbian in films, though she could be asking the industry to think harder and work harder to hire queer people. Similarly to the way she’s asking people to acknowledge the work of all women in cinema vs. Just awards nominees.

  8. HeyKay says:

    CB is rapidly getting on my nerves more and more.

  9. Eowyn says:

    This is someone with so much privilege she’ll never be forced to question her assumptions and statements. She’s a gifted actress and yet I still believe that performance of queer characters lacks significant nuance. Lots of times cis and straight people don’t get what queer and trans people mean when speaking about fluidity and non-conformity. There are differences and nuances, even for cis queer femme women who are too often assumed straight, in how we engage and do our gender that might be missed in a portrayal by someone who doesn’t inhabit our worlds, and I know enough not to speak on behalf of gender non-conforming, trans, butch, stud folks.
    Folks who come out later, often talk about art, books, movies that helped them see themselves if they maybe didn’t have community that helped them be seen, or to see themselves. Nuanced portrayals, by queer trans artists (writers, producers, directors, actors) FOR queer trans audiences, are important. This stuff is still being made for the straight gaze. These portrayals by straight cis folks aren’t okay, or enough, nor are they excellent.

    • Kitten says:

      Right. She’s talking about gender fluidity like it’s just acting–something you take on and off–and not people’s very real, lived experience. Sigh.

      On one hand, I’m really tired of putting so much stock in what celebs say. These people are living in a bizarre bubble, surrounded by handlers, teams, and media that never challenge their worldview. It’s expected that they won’t see past their own narcissism, insularity, and privilege. On the other hand, this still somehow disappoints me because I want Blanchett to be better. And there are actors and celebs out there who actually get it, so we know it’s not impossible.

    • Fabiola says:

      I think then it gets to a point that only straight people can play straight people and gay people can only play gay people. That’s not right. As an actor one would like to step outside themselves and play different roles.

  10. Thinking says:

    She’s probably granted lee-way in playing the roles that she plays because she’s considered exceedingly talented.

    I don’t think Scarlett Johannsson is viewed quite the same way so that’s probably why she faces backlash. Every time Scarlett gets scolded, I do find it funny though. She’s believable as a bombshell (like the one she played in He’s Just Not That Into You). As anything else, not quite as much.

    I do think you probably have to meet a certain “metric” for talent and chameleon-like abilities to be allowed to play any role that you want. If you transcend that metric, you likely will get a pass for taking on a certain role that could have gone to someone else who is more closely aligned with a specific identity. If you’re not that talented, then you’re going to get reprimanded and probably fairly so.

  11. Jess says:

    She is extremely pretentious. I don’t dislike her though.

    • Thinking says:

      I think she’s pretentious too haha.

      I think she’s like that because she’s at a different level of talent and can get away with it. She’s an artist, and I get the sense that this is how artists thing and act. Still, sometimes I think she’s not as smart as she’s touted to be. But I do think she’s talented, which is a different category.

      • R says:

        Hahaha, you’re hitting the nail on the head for me. I think Cate Blanchett is a good actress with a real passion for her craft and more articulate than other actresses and that get’s mistaken as some sort of genius intelligence, but she’s still as tone deaf and insulated as all other actresses of her ranks.

  12. Thinking says:

    If she had been asked if the role should have gone to someone else, her answer isn’t good.

    But it sounds like she was asked whether she found it strange to play the role. And apparently she didn’t.

    I think it depends on what the actual question was to determine whether her answer makes sense.

    The answer referencing Scarlett Johannson sounded a little strange though. I don’t think Scarlett Johannson is the only person who could have played the role she was originally set to play. Scarlett is not THAT talented. She’s not untalented, but she’s not exceptionally talented like other actors might be. And even then there’s always a fairly talented replacement on hand who winds up doing a decent job anyway.