Gay Icon Nominee: Elizabeth Banks

Good news about Pitch Perfect, that comedy about competitive college a cappella groups: It’s as musical, feisty, and funny as you want it to be. Furthermore, it gives Elizabeth Banks (who also produced the film) a perfect forum to deliver deadpan, observational jokes as a singing competition commentator. Our video interviews with Banks and the rest of the cast will be up next week, but in the meantime, why not officially exalt this U. Penn grad to the rank of gay icon? She’ll join fellow AfterElton candidates Julie Bowen, Alanis Morissette, and Amy Poehler right at the top of Fancy Mountain (the place where I plan on telling my kids gay people come from).

So here they are: Six major reasons Elizabeth Banks should be our next gay icon. Feel free to add scores of your own reasons in the comments.

1. She announced that she’s not a lesbian or into Jake Gyllenhaal, and somehow it made her more likable.

A reporter somewhat boldly asked Ms. Banks why, given her immense talent, she wasn’t a household name yet. Her response was candid! “I don’t have a love life that everyone cares about because I’ve been with the same guy for 16 years. I think we’re a great example to people, but it’s not interesting,” she began. “There’s no scandal involved. I’m not trying to have Jake Gyllenhaal’s baby. I’m not a major fashionista. I’m not going through a lesbian phase. I’m just normal. I’m just really freakin’ normal.”

It’s rare that you hear a Hollywood star successfully establish herself as real. Personally, I’m buying it. Elizabeth Banks realness is real realness, far as I’m concerned.

(Not that she didn’t enjoy a girl-on-girl with Alicia Witt in David Wain’s internet series Wainy Days. Of course she did. I’ve included it here.)

2. She represents.

It takes a certain amount of gravitas to speak frankly in a clip supporting Obama’s reelection, Planned Parenthood, and women’s rights. It takes an additional bit of self-possession to cop to having a “heavy flow” in the very same clip. Sigh. Go, Banks, go.


3. She was single most kickass thing about The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games was entertaining but anemic. I didn’t feel the stakes of the games, nor did I get why Katniss was such a prototype female heroine. Hell, at least Lisbeth Salander got a conceptual haircut and some keyboarding skills. Katniss is just Lara Croft for the tween set. But thanks to Elizabeth Banks’ performance as Effie Trinket, the flamboyant, unfeeling czarina of District 12, The Hunger Games enjoyed a certain kooky X-factor. She looks like Mozart trying out for The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Louis XIV would’ve gasped at this level of decadence, and at her vocal delivery, which is best described as “Carol Kane: Unhinged.”

4. She may be the ultimate 30 Rock guest star.

Now, with all due respect to Will Arnett, Margaret Cho, Jan Hooks, Jon Hamm, Oprah Winfrey, Steve Martin, and all the other talents who’ve made stellar appearances on 30 Rock, it’s pretty clear that Elizabeth Banks has nailed her continued stint in a way that has eluded many other featured players. Kristen Schaal’s shaky (albeit marvelously funny, at times) storyline, anyone? Maulik Pancholy’s uneven second and third season as Jonathan, Jack Donaghy’s smitten assistant? As Avery Jessup, Banks delivers the straightforward, no-nonsense laughs I associate with, say, Jane Curtin or fellow gay icon nominee Julie Bowen, but she adds a dimension of grit that I associate with ferocious actresses like Lee Grant or Holly Hunter. She’s both fresh and a throwback, and I hope she’s down to star in the Broadcast News remake I’m planning.

5. She also looks like young Jane Fonda.

Look, I don’t keep meaning to bring up Julie Bowen, but rules are rules: If Bowen gets points for looking like young Fonda (which she does), then so does Banks. Particularly the Barefoot in the Park era. My god.

6. She can steal a scene from a touted dude comedian using hilarity and unadulterated raunchiness.

Who can forget that bathtub scene in The 40 Year Old Virgin? Better yet, who didn’t forget Steve Carell while that scene was going on? If there’s one thing I love in a funnywoman, it’s commitment, and Banks just tears through this raunchy segment with brassy confidence and squawks stolen from “Material Girl.” That’s what gay heroism is all about.

What say you on this gay icon nominee? Yay? Nay?