Wednesday, June 22, 2011

'Better' Business Bureau

Spent the afternoon at my old stomping grounds for a special talk put on by The New York Times LGBT Caucus with Dan Savage and Terry Miller -- in town promoting their It Gets Better companion book, as well as being grand marshals of the New York Gay Pride Parade. Times health reporter Tara Parker-Pope -- who was one of the first mainstream journalists to write about the (day-old) It Gets Better campaign last September -- moderated the chat, which was followed by a book-signing. Dan and Terry were every bit as smart, charming and funny as you'd expect. I'll write more about it later -- they shared some interesting thoughts about the enormous success of the video campaign -- but I'm about to go to a belated birthday dinner with my friend Jay now. More TK.

UPDATE: Here are few random items I recall from the talk (I neglected to take notes) that I thought were of note. Not sure how much of this has already been reported, but I thought they were funny or interesting.

Dan said the first It Gets Better clip he and Terry made has never been seen because "it looked like a hostage video," so they had to tweak it a bit!

Dan said that Perez Hilton was the first "names" to support the campaign and that his involvement was very instrumental in its success. ("Perez got all the Ke$has and Kardashians to make videos.") He said Perez's It Gets Better video was noteworthy in part because the blogger had a huge zit on his face and it showed you don't have to be perfect all the time to be gay. "A lot of our demographic still has zits."

Dan said that while the celebrity clips were great, it was important for them to have real people "from all walks of life" telling their stories. Because if you have to be Ellen or Ricky Martin or him, the odds are 1 in 300 million, so that's not really giving your average kid much hope.

Dan was visibly angry talking about how not one single Republican elected official has made a video -- "a video that is speaking out against committing suicide!" -- and that (wingnut) Tony Perkins "shoots a wad in his pants every time a gay teenager commits suicide" because he has a vested interest in the suicide rate of LGBT youth being disproportionately high because it bolsters his stance that the "gay lifestyle" is a hopeless, miserable one. He said that the right has started to attack him personally because it's a little hard to attack this message.

Google made the Chrome ad and THEN came to them to discuss it. Dan and Terry said they insisted on a few changes, including the inclusion of a trans person (Chaz Bono was used in America). They said the UK version includes a drag queen, which Terry loves. Their main beef with the ad is that Terry -- who normally shies away from the limelight -- is sort of ambiguously depicted, so rather than looking like a couple, it looks like this random guy sitting hear Dan all over the place.

Dan said a Google/YouTube employee -- without permission from her bosses -- backdated the It Gets Better channel to allow it to accept more videos once it had maxed out. (They've since met her and she's noted in the book.)

When asked about the most moving thing to come out of the videos, Dan broke down in tears talking about a lesbian who had described being ostracized by her family for coming out, so then "took it back" and told her parents she had just been confused. ("You know the Justin Bieber poster went right up on the wall -- the closest she's gonna get to a woman for a while.") It broke his heart that the only way she clings to a feeling of hope is by sneaking to watch the videos under the covers in her bed.

That three weeks after he'd ripped the White House a new one for not following through on promises to the LGBT community -- they let it be known that they were NOT happy about this -- the president turned around and made his It Gets Better clip, despite being angry by what Savage had said. Dan said that it took President Reagan SEVEN years to work up the nerve to say the words, and President Obama only three weeks to make this video. That, he said, was a sure signal that it gets better.

1 comment:

Max said...

How respectful to call Justin Bieber "the closest thing to a girl"...