I shouldn't be surprised at how some folks are willing to turn the sublime into the scatological. After all, what red-blooded patriot doesn't want the American dream? There are plenty of ways to get your face out there, baby, and you've always got to be ready to jump on an opportunity and run with it.
How's a talent scout, record producer, literary agent, or director supposed to discover what a great athlete, singer, writer, or actor you are if they don't see you? And what about your fans? They have to know you care even when you don't. When you're trying to turn that opportunity into spun gold, you have to connect on their level, right? It's not "commercial," it's "caring."
As I've watched the It Gets Better project evolve, I've expressed concern about the rash of celebrities jumping on the idea, making their own videos, and showing concern for all those LGBT kids who can't buy their albums, books, or DVDs if they're dead. What started as our community telling our youths that life does, hopefully, get better as they escape the hell that childhood can be for queer kids, has turned into nothing more than a commercial sell out.
Dan Savage has a book deal, Hillary Clinton makes a touching video only to turn around and tell an Australian audience that we're not worthy of marriage rights, but now, now, we can see the penultimate result of making a killing off suicidal teenagers. You can show your deep concern for queer kids while promoting your band's song on a queer website and boosting your iTunes sales at the same time.
Over at The New Gay, editor Zack Rosen has taken commercialism to a new low. He's promoting one of his favorite bands, Free Energy, and has slapped the It Gets Better label on it in a transparent attempt to make it relevant to the project. With a song name like "Hope Child," how can this not be a success?
In an e-mail Rosen sent to me to promote his post featuring the video, he writes:
I put up another contribution to the It Gets Better project today, its a philly [sic] band called Free Energy dedicating their song "Hope Child" to queer youth who might benefit from its message. ... I'm hoping that using bands like this will get more straight people, or apolitical queer types, to support the It Gets Better Project. Hope you enjoy,
I call bullshit.
If you watch the video though, you can see that the band doesn't actually dedicate their song to "queer youth who might benefit from its message." Oh, no. They dedicate it to Rosen's website. Instead, it's Rosen who admits that he's gone to their show to see the band and tries to throw a suicide sticker on the video to make it somewhat pertinent.
Maybe I'm just cynical but I've been in this business for quite a while. I know what it's like to try and get a few minutes of spare time with an entertainer, politician, or activist. Like any PR agent, you have to make your pitch by giving them a reason why they should talk to you. What better way to get exclusive video than to say you're doing it for suicidal gay kids? Plus the band gets free publicity for a new album and shows how concerned they are about bullyingteen suicideAIDSfarmersingrown hairs something.
After all, when Rosen ends the video by cajoling the musicians to take off their pants, you can feel the despair, right? One can easily discern how much queer youth can "benefit from its message." If taking off your shirt counts as getting "more straight people, or apolitical queer types, to support the It Gets Better Project," then every porn shoot is a suicide hotline.
The first time Rosen posted one of these music videos, I gave it a pass. This one, however, passes out of the arena of bad taste and goes directly into tawdry, cheap, and vulgar. Rosen may not be selling vodka, credit cards with a rainbow on them, or a cruise ship full of lesbians, but he's definitely attempting to cash in on the pain of troubled families.
That's not the "new" gay. That's the same old gay that sees our lives as just another marketing opportunity.