Saturday, November 6, 2010

it gets better- critique one

The two following blogs are a commentary on the popular “It gets better” videos on youtube right now. One is just from a randomly picked video—an average citizen. The other was purposefully chosen as a celebrity who many people will view.

"Life after high school gets so much better for you gay kids out there who are considering suicide or who just feel really really lonely and sad about life because you just feel so isolated and there's no one like you..."

Two things about a lot of these videos is that they over generalize and over exaggerate. For many people, life will definitely get better outside the culture of high school and middle school. But for many others, it may not. If a non affluent lesbian who can’t go to college, and is stuck in a small town with all the same people and ways, will things get better? Yes and no. Since every single person has a one of a kind experience on Earth, it is difficult to justify universal truth’s—which is what these videos are trying to do—establish a universal truth that “it gets better”. Maybe a new project should be started called “it gets better, but”.

"I lost every friend I'd ever made since elementary school because I came out, people started treating me pretty badly- I was called fag a lot. It was pretty detrimental to my self-esteem..."

This is where the “It gets better” project is probably really helping people. A large part of Women’s Studies that is very unique to the academy is the strong sense of narrative’s backing up theory. Women’s Studies is about studying lives and often times the ways that lives have been hurt or stunted by other people or simply by intersectionality. Isolation is a key piece to most people who are in pain—they are not in this—whatever this may be—with someone else. Being able to go online and watch endless amounts of videos with people saying, for ME, it got better, is undeniably hopeful. Power and results form out of large numbers of people. Yes, as said in the October 26th “It gets better critique” post on the blog, a lot of these people are white, and a lot are male. Things may and probably will be different if you are not white, or not male. In the end, it seems that stories and testimonies—from people in similiar situations (being lgbt or queer)—are still worthy and valid, regardless of what sex, skin color or class they belong it. It seems equally discriminatory to sort of disregard white males…just because they’re white males. If they’re the ones showing up for the cause then their the ones showing up.

"And that was basically the worst of it. I didn't have friends for basically most of high school until senior year..."

Henry recalling a specific, vivid memory is also where he does a good job. Sometimes, the more specific the story is, the more relatable it is. Many kids watching this will no doubt be very touched by Henry’s anecdote. Mentioning several times throughout the interview that didn’t have any friends is also a very provocative declaration. Admitting that out loud—no less on the internet, having the capability to reach many people, some who you might know—takes real courage. A lot of these videos are very forthcoming with their personal stories—there is some real tenderness and vulnerability in them.

"And it was just uh really detrimental to my ability to socialize with people and it was just really terrible."

Henry goes on to really put emphasis on how hard people made it for him during school. Again, I believe that saying this is a great message—he’s relating back to them that he’s been there.

"I kind've struggled with a lot of really intense depression from lack of self-esteem from, you know, the years of getting bullied, um but I had, I made some of the best friends that I'm probably going to stick with for the rest of my life- um people who were nothing like the immature bullshit crap people who I knew in high school and middle school. It was just like literally like this magic place where I could basically come into my own and it was the greatest experience of my life"

This is where Henry goes wrong, I believe, is not clarifying that for him it got better—not everyone will go to a “magic place” where they “come into” their own—let alone have “the greatest experience” of their lives in college. Henry mentioned that it was an art school. Based on his environment it may have been easier for him there than let’s say a state school, or a community college. In his environoment, people changed. In other people’s environoment, it could be a change of address but the same exact kind of people. Henry does not mention this which is unfortunate.

"Please don't kill yourself. You have no idea how terrible it is for people like me who were able to endure all that, you know, tormenting..It sends a terrible message to other kids out there who are like me and who are like you, you know, um, like it's infinitely better after high school. You learn who you are and you actually learn that because you are are going to have ten times much more of an exciting and interesting life than the assholes who were trying to make you feel bad about it...You're life is going to be amazing, it's gonna be amazing, I'm telling you right now...My life for the past two years..after I got over all that depression I was having has been the most rewarding ever..when I first came out to her [his mom] she said some of the most beautiful things I have ever heard from anybody..It was great; and if you kill yourself in high school you can't have those rewarding experiences. You're denying yourself um the chance to meet people who are going to make you feel amazing. You're destroying your parents, you're destroying your friends, imagine the future person you could eventually get with. If you don't kill yourself you may find someone and fall in love. At the very least don't deny us the chance to meet you, and to get to know you, and to love you, and et cetera et cetera- and to like go to pride parades and stuff-that'd be so cool...Don't kill yourselves. And e love you so much. Get through it...It's going to be so much better and you're going to be amazing happy and glitter and sparklies and rainbows..."

A lot of people are saying something to the effect of, don’t kill yourself because it sends a bad message to other kids. Well, yes, it doesn’t send an extremely positive or happy message to anyone. But Henry doesn’t define what “message” these kids are sending. If these videos really are for struggling LGBT youth than it seems odd to ask someone to stay alive for the other kids—that is partially the problem! They often don’t know anyone else like them. These kids have often never seen other kids like them. And if a kid/teenager is suicidal it is probably not wise to (I’m sure unintentionally) essentially try to guilt them into not killing themselves because of the effects it will have on other kids. A suicidal kid’s last thoughts (one who has been bullied) are on the kids it will effect—they’re probably only familiar with deep sadness over the pain other kids have had on them. Henry also says “you know, um, like it's infinitely better after high school”. Again, what Henry fails to do is say that it was infinitely better for him. It may not get better, it may actually get worse. A lot of these videos are very optimistic—and that’s their point. But there’s optimism and then theirs also just plain truth. Henry talks as if he knows the person, saying that “you’re life is going to be amazing.” That’s sweet, but if you don’t know who you’re talking to I don’t see justification for saying it over and over. Henry has no authority to say to anyone how their life is going to be. Henry then goes on to mention his mother’s welcoming arms after he came out to her, saying that “if you kill yourself…you can’t have those rewarding experiences.” When one chooses to willingly die, they are killing not only themselves but the future—which, for the majority of people, probably had one positive experience somewhere in it. They kill not only the hard parts of the future, but also the fun and lovely parts too. Henry also doesn’t seem to have experience with family not being able to accept him. This is much different from friends. He makes it out to be that coming out is always a rewarding experience—and while it is empowering and freeing, I’m sure, I doubt it is always a rewarding process. Again, Henry kind’ve places blame on the suicidal kids watching this saying that “you’re destroying your parents…friends…[future partners].” Henry neglects to mention that they may be “destroying” very few people at all, unfortunately. Not everyone has a family. Certainly not everyone has friends, as he himself is very aware. Suicidal people don’t want to be hearing things about how horrible the people they leave on Earth will have it. Often the people closest to you are the ones who hurt you the most—simply because they have the power too, but also because they are just conveniently right by you. He ends by saying “you’re going to be amazing happy and glitter and sparklies and rainbows…” My one question for him is this: how do you know? And his answer should be “I don’t”. And that is the problem with tons of these videos. It got better for all of these people—and that’s fantastic. But it will not get better for everyone. That’s a fact that not many people are facing and that no one seems to know how to solve.

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