Over the past few days, two social media pile-ins on unsuspecting actors have shown quite what a ridiculous age we're living in.

First, actress Ruby Rose was set upon after being cast in a new TV adaptation of Batwoman.

Her crime? Neither being Jewish-American nor a "conventional" lesbian, as this version of her superhero character is intended to be.

That the actress does in fact date women in real life, though calls herself "gender fluid", is not good enough, apparently.


Then, shortly after, that British cheeky chappie Jack Whitehall found himself in the stocks for accepting the role of Disney's first openly gay character, despite being straight, in a forthcoming film based on the Jungle Cruise theme-park ride (a bit like Congo River Rapids at Alton Towers only American and huge).

When Rose quit Twitter, she signed off with the sincere wish that minorities should support one another and embrace positivity rather than hatred. A brief perusal of the comments that followed suggests her message wasn't quite taken to heart.

The virtual vitriol unleashed at Whitehall and Rose raises the disquieting possibility that we have now reached a baffling point at which film stars are expected to share the lived experience of their characters as a matter of ethical principle.

To placate the online mob, it is no longer sufficient to convincingly portray a fictional individual on screen. They must also be that person, more or less, in real life — see also the recent case of Scarlett Johansson, who backed out of playing a transgender man in forthcoming "massage parlour drama" Rub & Tug (not based on a Disney theme-park ride) after being publicly shamed.

Johansson was more or less hounded out of the job. With such controversies ringing in our ears, it's hard not to conclude that we've arrived at a final frontier of liberal intolerance (one in which Leonard Nimoy would be barred from playing Mr Spock on the basis he isn't actually half-Vulcan).

The same anti-logic has been applied to other branches of the arts.

In the literary world, the motto "write what you know" is becoming a warning. Hence the increasing upbraiding or mockery of authors for daring to feature protagonists of a different gender, ethnicity or religion, and the employment of "sensitivity readers" to vet books for possible offence.

What we are witnessing, in essence, is the dawning of an age in which craft must take second place to first-hand knowledge. Whitehall may not be gay, but he has great comic timing and a charismatic screen presence well-suited for Hollywood. Is it going too far to suggest that this is the criteria on which he should be hired?


Similarly, with her tattoos and her piercing gaze, Rose unquestionably conjures the slightly deranged menace of a caped vigilante — and one would hope that might matter more than the exact parameters of her sexuality.

What's curious about the furore over Whitehall's casting, moreover, is that it glosses over the more pertinent point — the fact that the role he plays has been described by insiders as "hugely effete [and] very camp".

Where the character should be a landmark one, it sounds like they'll be rehashing the kind of stereotyping that the gay community has faced on screen back to the days of Mr Humphries on Are You Being Served?

A conversation clearly still needs to be had about representation of minorities on screen — and the duty film-makers have to go beyond the obvious and present individuals as more than a grab-bag of outmoded tics and foibles.

Thus there are justified reasons to be wary. Yet in their rush to stick in their virtual pitchforks, identity warriors have allowed themselves to be blinded to the real issue.Instead, and not for the first time, they have jumped off the deep end of internet hysteria.

The worry is that their absurd dictum — that "I act, therefore I must be" — might just stick.