Bil Browning

Top celebrity "It Gets Better" videos

Filed By Bil Browning | October 07, 2010 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: AJ McClean, anti-gay bullying, Chris Colfer, Cyndi Lauper, Ellen DeGeneres, Heathers, It Gets Better, Jake Shears, Kathy Griffin, Lance Bass, Michael Urie, Neil Patrick Harris, Nicki Minaj, teen suicide, Tim Gunn, Wicked

I really struggled with the title with this post. First I considered, "Celebrities jump on the bandwagon stuffed with our dead kids' bodies," or "Celebrities get warm fuzzy publicity on our bullied youths' backs." Those seemed a little harsh, but I still wonder how many of these videos come backed by a publicist shouting, "Get out there and prove you love dead gay kids!"

I realize that our community is all abuzz over the recently publicized gay teens committing suicide, but at this point I'm starting to feel like this has become more about getting face time rather than an actual attempt to stop anti-gay bullying. Want to make a real difference? Donate to the Trevor Project - because I'll bet my bottom dollar that quite a few of these celebrities have gladly opened their video cameras while keeping their checkbooks closed.

Where have all these famous people been all these years while our kids have been killing themselves without any media attention? At what point does it start to turn into a scene from Heathers?

Check out all of the celebrity videos after the jump. Is this a bandwagon or do you think it's still sincere?

Jake Shears


Tim Gunn


Eve


The Cast of Wicked


Cyndi Lauper


Kathy Griffin


Chris Colfer


A.J. McClean


Ellen Degeneres


Michael Urie


Neil Patrick Harris

MTV Shows


Lance Bass

MTV Shows


Nicki Minaj

MTV Shows


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I've been thinking of Heathers in response to this as well... thank you for saying it!

I'm not a celebrity and i don't play one on TV, but I did produce a video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0XdzAdexb-A

Thank you, Monica. I liked your video better than those of the celebrities. As an 80-year-old gay male who attempted suicide at the age of 40, seven years before I came out, I was deeply moved by your film.

Bil,

I agree - it's hard for me to watch Kathy Griffin in that spot and really believe she's sincere. There's something gruesome about our youth becoming publicity fodder.

Celebrities may be rich and famous, but they were once teenagers, some of them queer teenagers who felt horrible. Listen to the emotion in Ellen's voice, look at Tim Gunn's face while he tries to hold it together when describing his suicide attempt.

Teenagers look up to celebrities. Celebrities are sharing helpful messages and helping get this issue into the forefront. I cannot see a downside. I've tried, but I can't.

OF COURSE this project is absolutely not the only thing that has to be done, but we need to attack big problems from every angle imaginable, and every person should help in ways that they are best at.

By the by, Ellen started a text message Trevor Project donation campaign yesterday via FB and twitter. Donate $5 to @TrevorProject. Text "KIND" to 85944. Then respond "yes". Pass it on!

I didn't know about Ellen's text donation idea. Thanks for pointing that out, Andrea. We'll have to pump that here too. ;)

"Where have all these famous people been all these years while our kids have been killing themselves without any media attention?"

Well, a lot of the people in those videos are themselves GLBT, as you know, and Cyndi Lauper has supported GLBT rights since her sister came out as a lesbian in the 70s, so I think that kind of belies your cynical take on this. And I recall that Ellen appeared in "Trevor," the movie from which The Trevor Project takes its name, notwithstanding the donation campaign she started that AndreaC mentioned.

I think people are forgetting the whole purpose of the IGBP: It's to give teenage kids in the depths of despair a possible reason not to put guns in their mouths and ropes around their necks. The fact that people at this blog and others want to turn it into a debate about celebrity culture or white/cis/male privilege is in pretty poor taste, if you ask me.

Cyndi Lauper has a history of helping out community but Kathy Griffin? She rode to stardom on our backs and tries to use our issues to promote her TV show (see: DADT and Prop 8).

Some of them you can see automatically being supportive - NPH, Lance Bass, Tim Gunn, etc - but some of them just seem like they're grabbing for publicity more than actually feeling our pain.

As far as I can see, Kathy Griffin seems like the exception rather than the rule, in that regard. Most of the contributions I've seen seem pretty sincere to me.

That being said, I still think this drive to "critique" a project that is designed to reach out to kids in desperate situations based on a tiny handful of the videos that have been posted is in poor taste.

THANK YOU AJD and AndreaC! I'm so SICK of people bitching about this project. I worked wity high-risk kids for years and these messages are helpful.

And I 100% agree that turning this into some stupid debate is pointless. If you don't like the way something is, get involved. That's the way the world works, stupid. Ugh. SO tired of adults acting like children. Grow the F up! It's not about YOU. It's about the kids! Do I really need to channel Mrs. Lovejoy? C'mon!

Anyway, thanks for the common sense you two lovelies, AJD and AndreaC. You made my day on the Billproject.

Lou Strickland | October 7, 2010 6:02 PM

Bandwagon or not, too late maybe... But if each video stops one death... can't hurt.

Any positive message for the IGB project is enough for me, and I really don't give a damn if they don't donate to the Trevor project, etc. There are many ways to be supportive and not all have to be backed by money. Honestly, I can hear people complaining that celebrities "just donated money to the Trevor project. Why aren't they using their star power and platform to bring attention to this?" If your looking for a way to discredit their involvement, you will always find one. Some of us are too worried about what the motive is for these celebs rather than praising the fact that they took the time to be a part of a movement to stop LGBT deaths. At the end of the day, I'll always take an insincere, fame-whore celeb (apparently that's Kathy Griffin to some) telling kids not to kill themselves over silence. We are in such a strange place in which we feel it's acceptable to question celebrities when they help us, and then whine when they don't.

You know what's funny? When the Right tells us: "That's the way the world works, stupid. Ugh. SO tired of adults acting like children. Grow the F up! It's not about YOU" as someone posted above, we correctly call them immature and oppressive.

This is a blog. It's meant to showcase different opinions. If you have a rational set of arguments, present them. But if resorting to "stupid" and judgments about "poor taste" are your only arguments, you should know you have none.

These are celebrities - they're public figures and Bil and others (including me) are in their rights to wonder about other motives and, more importantly, if such celebrity messages help or hinder in the long run. We could doubtless go through the entire list of celebrities and wonder which one of them had queer relatives/appearances and then engage in some kind of points system for sincerity: A brother? 10 points? A parent: 25! Appeared on Glee wearing a rainbow tutu? OMG! 100!

It is perfectly possible for a celebrity to act on appropriate impulses and still be part of a problem. Otherwise known as The Big Picture. It's also rational to wonder about a project based on a sampling and throw the questions out to readers (and there's no evidence, in any case, that Bil *hasn't* watched all of them). To claim that critiques are impossible or problematic simply because of the emotional content of such texts is buying into the exact same anti-intellectual impulses that we love pointing out when we make fun of the Right.

It is perfectly possible for a celebrity to act on appropriate impulses and still be part of a problem. Otherwise known as The Big Picture.

You see, this kind of sums up what I and I think a lot of other people here are getting at, which is this tendency to want to politicize and criticize every conceivable thing and turn it into an issue to be critiqued and debated ad nauseam, with the ultimate aim of serving your own political agenda. That's something the Right likes to do also.

Scrolling through the list of videos, I saw people of every conceivable race, age and orientation giving encouragement to bullied and depressed teenagers. But what was little more than an effort to reach out to kids in dire straits is now, according to some people on this blog, little more than white/cisgender/elitist privilege or celebrity whoring.

Who's been talking about white/cisgender/elitist privilege here, on this post? I don't see that in Bil's post, or in any of the critiques here, only in your comment.

As for politicising things - well, if people don't want to see a "politicisation" of cultural texts, especially the kind that are as important as the ones we're discussing here, they don't have to tune into these discussions. Or we could simply roll over and play dead and pretend that none of this is about power and resources.

We could, of course, also decide that the videos released by the conservative groups, portraying perfect families and implicitly or explicitly releasing homophobic messages, should not be politicised - and therefore allowed to flourish without critique. You could say that those are simply "little more" than efforts to show nice people what nice families should look like. In fact, I believe the Right frequently insists that the left politicises things too much, and that the family is somehow outside politics.

But it's not - and that's why Max Weber remains so relevant and why politicians on all sides deploy their constructs of the family as vigorously as they do. How we determine what kinds of responses should be made to the issues facing queer youth - whose position and legitimacy within the family and society is precisely what causes these ruptures - and what kinds of organisations and groups get to make what kinds of messages, and the implications of celebrity pitches - all of that needs to be examined.

This is a political blog, not the musings of one man or woman and not a news aggregator. There are contentious responses to contentious issues. To echo Alex, "If you want the What To Think Network, there are plenty of other spaces created just for that." But don't show up here and tell the rest of us that we simply aren't allowed to have certain conversations because it offends your sensibilities and standards of taste.

Who's been talking about white/cisgender/elitist privilege here, on this post? I don't see that in Bil's post, or in any of the critiques here, only in your comment.

That was in reference to Jason's post, and that was basically the gist of what he was saying. But he also missed the point of the project, which is to give a wee glimmer of hope to kids who are probably contemplating suicide, not to say they would have a perfect life after high school. In my original comment, I referred to "this blog," not just "this post."

This is a political blog, not the musings of one man or woman and not a news aggregator. There are contentious responses to contentious issues.

Yeah, except an effort to reach out to desperate kids is only a "contentious issue" to the extent that you and others here want to make it into one. It's about "power and resources?" Who cares? If it convinces a teenage lesbian somewhere not to off herself, then I frankly don't give a shit who makes the video or what "power and resources" go into it. If you do, then I think it says a lot about your priorities.

And don't compare this to homophobic videos by the Right; that's disingenuous, and you know it. Those are deliberately meant to attack people; the IGBP videos are not.

You know who's really privileged and has power and resources? We do -- all of us, including you, Bil and Jason -- because we're grownups who have the ability to sit here and pontificate on this subject. Whatever bad experiences we may have had in middle school, high school, college and afterward, we're all adults who have the ability to make our own lives. But some people aren't so fortunate, as the recent suicides illustrate.

When I was 13, I would have given anything to have a movie star -- even Kathy Griffin, whether she's truly just an attention whore or not -- tell me that middle school and high school weren't the end of the world and that I didn't have to spend the bulk of my teenage years feeling guilty and trying to turn myself straight. That would have been a lot better than the mostly negative messages about gay men that I got from the media at the time. You're far better equipped, emotionally speaking, to deal with things like homophobia and racism when you're an adult than when you're a young, naive teenage kid. So sure, as Jason's post illustrates, things don't get perfect and they may not even be much better than high school, but for the simple reason that people grow up and learn to cope and make it out of their teenage years alive, things DO get better overall.

The point of the IGBP is to reach out to kids who don't have that coping ability and can't see beyond the walls of their home, high school and church and are thus convinced that it DOESN'T get better. It's to get them over the hump of hopelessness so they can at least reach a point where, even if they do continue to encounter homophobic college students or racist gay people, they at least know how to handle it without wanting to kill themselves.

So as a commenter above said, the IGBP isn't about you, Bil, Jason, Alex, me or anyone else here. It's about trying to save the lives of a few kids, simple as that.

Alaric,

Speaking of being disingenuous: I was not comparing the Right's videos to these IGBP videos, and I think that's clear to anyone. I was making a point: you can't choose to politicise some images and not others.

It's also bizarre to make a blanket assumption that Bil's post here somehow echoes Jason's simply because they offer critiques of the project. In case anyone's wondering what Alaric is writing about, here's Jason Tseng's post:

http://www.bilerico.com/2010/10/does_it_really_get_better.php

It's entirely possible, in fact, that Bil and Jason might actually disagree with each other - the fact that both are critical hardly means they have the same opinions. But then, again, this tendency to smooth out all discursive differences in order to make easy points is one that we are all familiar with - from both the straight and the gay Right.

Every one writing here or reading this blog has encountered some moment where these videos might have made sense - no one is disputing that. But I also know lots of youth who, even in their lowest moments, would be anything but impressed by or appreciative of these videos.

Let's not get into some game of one-upmanship where we each begin retelling our stories in order to prove Bil and Jason wrong. This is not an affect-laden blog where our private experiences and presumed privilege prevents us from articulating critiques. And saving the lives of youth is not a simple matter; there are plenty of people here who can attest to that and have still been critical of the context and particularity of these videos. The complexity of the issues at hand is precisely what has invoked so many complex responses. By the easy formulation presented above ("it isn't about you,") one would have to assume that someone who's critical of these videos is somehow impeding the efforts to reach out to youth - that's where your argument is heading.

You're entitled to your opinion - but you can't just show up and insist, like the Right, that discourse must be ended because of some standard of "taste." If "poor taste" were any arbiter - well, poof goes the best of queer culture.

I'll leave you to your highlighting.

Uh, you were vary obviously comparing the IGBP videos to hypothetical right-wing anti-GLBT videos, Yasmin. You wrote, "We could, of course, also decide that the videos released by the conservative groups, portraying perfect families and implicitly or explicitly releasing homophobic messages, should not be politicised - and therefore allowed to flourish without critique. You could say that those are simply "little more" than efforts to show nice people what nice families should look like. In fact, I believe the Right frequently insists that the left politicises things too much, and that the family is somehow outside politics."

You're basically saying that the IGBP videos are equally as subject to scrutiny as the right-wing videos. So yes, you were comparing them.

Regarding my mentioning Jason's post along with Bil's, I'm sure the three of you have plenty of things to disagree about. But you all and many other people who post at Bilerico also either embrace or are at least friendly with a "radical queer" type of mindset, and such people are the only ones I've seen politicizing the IGBP in this way. The responses I've seen at just about every other GLBT blog I read have been overwhelmingly positive.

The bottom line is that I'm concerned with results and efficacy, not whatever abstract symbolism you might extrapolate from the IGBP. If the whole thing turns out to be a miserable failure, then I'll consider myself proven wrong. But I've already read anecdotal accounts of the videos resonating with 14-year-old bullied kids in Kentucky, so it seems to be working to at least some extent.

Here's some food for thought. I think the title of the post was spot-on:

http://joemygod.blogspot.com/2010/10/predictable-navel-gazing-over.html

Oh, ye, Joe My God. Oh. My. God. Yes. Now I see the light.

Seriously: that might be exactly where this constant refusal to engage in intelligent discussions and willingness to deploy deliberate misreadings rightly belong. Take it elsewhere.

Ta for now.

Well, I only hope you're saying that into a mirror.

Hmmm...What kind of sarcastic, juvenile response could I possibly come up with to top that? Oh, yes: And it's Alaric FOR THE WIN!

Oh, Alaric, do grow up.

Ta for good.

There. Now you can have the last word, if you like. :-)


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Kathy may have rode our backs to stardom, but we didn't have any problems giving her piggy-back rides, did we?
If the LGBT community doesn't like the way she is advocating for us (which she is, regardless of her motives) than maybe we should stop making up 70% of her live audience. Maybe we should stop watching her tv show, where she takes LGBT equality to a wider audience, and in turn gives a pro-LGBT message on DADT and Prop 8. Publicity stunts and ratings boosters are more than we get from most celebrities. I find it hard to dislike someone who is actually speaking out on the issues because I dislike the methods.
And I know this probably wasn't your intent, but those who are automatically supportive do not have to be gay, nor are straight allies less likely to be automatically supportive.

There's more than one way to build a brand, and sometimes these opportunities present themselves for free. Someone up above called this a rather "cynical" take on the celeb videos, well, yes, but from everything I've learned about rich and famous people pretending to care you can't really be too cynical.

The comment that specifically says that no one's allowed to discuss the IGBP is particularly interesting. I've seen it around now, and it's apparent that many people are dealing with this crisis by recreating the same hatred of difference and diversity that we're supposed to be fighting against. I've even seen some people who couldn't be bothered to think about anything besides marriage and DADT repeal for the last decade suddenly get mad when people involved with LGBT youth raise important questions and make suggestions about what we can do to prevent more suicides. "My armchair is more sincere than your actual work, dammit!" they cry, usually with a good "Fuck you for disagreeing with me and making me think! I'm a victim, dammit, I don't have to behave like a human being!"

It was like this right after Prop 8 passed and after that infamous DOMA brief. And the people who shout the loudest about how we're never, ever allowed to criticize anyone they agree with because it's just so impolite will disappear and the rest of us will ask each other why it got so quiet again. This is why I'd caution gays who've disparaged the angry mob mentality they've seen online from the transgender/transsexual community: we're just as capable of it ourselves.

Anyway, what Yasmin said. If you have a point, make it and let's talk. This is a blog that was specifically created to facilitate these discussions because both me and Bil and many of the people we work with were/are generally disgusted by group-think. If you want the What To Think Network, there are plenty of other spaces created just for that.

You know, I think most of these are genuine. Kathy Griffin needs to be excommunicated from the gay community. She's no ally. The crap she allowed to go down in her guest spot on Law & Order SVU's most homophobic EVER show was proof of that.

As far as I'm concerned, Ellen has nothing to prove. There are only a handful of celebs with that kind of immunity in my mind, but Ellen has been there, done that, and made the world an awful lot better for many of us.

But a lot of these are little more than homemade PSAs to prove their liberal creds. That's not what the project seemed to be about. I love watching people tell their own stories of struggle and victory. I don't want to listen to straight people tell me it's gonna be ok. How the hell do they know?

The appearance of this campaign coincided with the release of a survey of more than 5,000 college students, faculty and staff who are LGBT published last month by Campus Pride found one in four reported harassment, related to sexual orientation and gender identity. W. J. Blumenfeld, at Iowa State U, author of the Campus Pride study,also conducted a survey of 350 LGBT students ages of 11 to 22. Half reported being cyberbullied in the 30? days before. A quarter had suicidal thoughts. source: NT Times. So the promise that life instantly gets better after high school may just postpone suicides until freshman year of college when kids see that warm and fuzzy encouragement has not gotten to the roots of hatred. Just as one of the results of the "coming out is a great relief" campaigns is that kids come out, and then one in four are thrown out of their homes. We have thousands of homeless LGBT youth just in New York City. I love this campaign but we need to offer solid support, not just feel-good stuff. The Campus Pride study proves it does not get better. Just not true.