Saturday, 29 June 2013

Not #ProudtoLove

2013 has turned into a landmark year for LGBT rights. We have seen France move to legalise gay marriage with the UK hot on its heels, and of course the overturning of Prop 8 and DOMA in the States just last week. People have been celebrating and with this weekend the end of Pride Month I myself will join in with some of the festivities in London. It's a good time to be gay.

Unsurprisingly YouTube has jumped on this and chosen to celebrate the role the website has had to play in the humanisation of LGBT folks and the support it has given to countless people struggling with their own sexual identity. The platform has been a great tool in the furthering of gay rights and I think it's great to be recognising this. Google and YouTube always have a presence at pride parades around the globe and they should be commended for this.

This aside, I am not a fan of the way they have chosen to highlight pride month, with the #ProudtoLove campaign.

#ProudtoLove was rolled out with videos from some of the most prominent LGBT vloggers on YouTube where they listed things that they were, surprise surprise, proud to love. Because creators were asked to provide videos there seems to be a disconnect with the content and the intended message, with people saying they were proud to love comic books or pizza and a couple even using the hashtag as an advert to plug their own content.

To be honest, the whole thing felt a bit dead behind the eyes, disingenuous and vague. If this was meant to be a celebration of the good that YouTube and its community has done for LGBT causes it has fallen flat on its face. 

Other YouTube phenomena like the It Gets Better project, the curation of 'coming out' playlists, the pro gay marriage adverts that became popular online were all grass roots movements that naturally went viral and moved countless people to get involved. These movements were heartfelt and candid, where as the majority of the #ProudtoLove videos left me with a 'so what?' taste in my mouth.

I feel like YouTube was maybe half heartedly trying to turn this into a gay vlog-tag-game. It's seen the good that its users have done with this format, as well as the prominent gay community on the site, and thought, "Awesome! Another tent-pole event".

But when these kind of events are dictated from above and not organised from the user base, sincerity is lost. I feel like a similar thing happened with YouTube's Comedy Week: a hash of unrelated videos that were ironically unfunny. They've tried to do something similar here, to create a welling of positive nostalgia towards YouTube's gay movement, but I fear that they have failed again.

I by no means want to take away the good that the site has played in creating a strong, queer community. But this good was brought about by the individuals using the site as a tool, not by YouTube the company. Leave the content and community to us, YouTube. You're invariably bad at it.


Helen Ashman said...

I agree with all the points you made in this post x

Michael Markman said...

Thanks for this, Jazza. I've had gnawing mixed feelings about #proudtolove, but never quite worked out why. I think there's no question that online communication, social media, and especially YouTube have provided a lifeline to LGBT kids (and adults) struggling with identity, bullying, isolation, and disapproval. It's provided a platform for people campaigning for same-sex marriage rights. It's even provided an opportunity for a few people to actually make a living simply by being entertainingly queer on camera. It has been a substrate for a community to attach itself to. No question that there's a lot that YouTube can be proud of with regard to its accomplishmets. (More accurately, the accomplishments of its creators and viewers.)

Still, there's a fine line between celebrating that and exploiting it. Ah, the things we do for views.

(That said, while some of the posts have seemed only marginally connected to the topic, a few have, nonetheless, been quite moving. It's an ill wind that blows no good.)