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“It Gets Better” Project is a social media campaign launched by American author and gay rights advocate Dan Savage in an effort to prevent suicide among LGBT youth by encouraging gay adults to spread the message that their lives will improve. Since its foundation in September 2010, the project has grown into an international movement with more than 50,000 video messages and 50 million views.
The project was founded by columnist Dan Savage in response to the suicides of Billy Lucas and other teenagers like Raymond Chase, Tyler Clementi, Ryan Halligan, Asher Brown, and Seth Walsh who were bullied for their homosexual orientation or suspected to be gay. The project was formally announced on September 21st, 2010 in a YouTube video titled “It Gets Better: Dan and Terry” featuring Savage himself and his partner Terry Miller.
In the video, Savage and Miller reaches out to teenagers who have ever been bullied for their sexual orientation and tell them that although life may seem difficult now, things will get better in the future as they grow older. The video was positively received within the YouTube community, accumulating one million views and over 200 video responses the first week of the campaign.
On the same day that Savage and Miller’s video was uploaded, celebrity blogger Perez Hilton posted a similar message on his YouTube channel, becoming one of the first contributors to the project. In addition, Hilton’s video went on to spawn at least 30 response videos from his YouTube subscribers.
By the following week in early October 2010, YouTube channel ItGetsBetter reached its limit of 650 video uploads and as a result, the project was relocated to its own website at ItGetsBetter.org on October 8th. The project rapidly spread across YouTube and other websites including LGBT communities and advocacy groups, further fueled by the news media and blog coverage as well as active participation from various well-known celebrities and public figures. Savage’s campaign was picked up by a number of major publications including the New York Times, USA Today and ABC News, his long-time column series in The Stranger, as well as other blogs like Queerty, YouTube Trends Blog and TED Blog among others.
Throughout October 2010, the project drew participation from dozens of other celebrities including TV hosts Lala and Ciara, the cast of Wicked, comedians Kathy Griffin and Sarah Silverman, actresses like Jenny McCarthy, Anne Hathaway and singer KE$HA among others. Numerous politicians contributed to the project as well, most notably Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and president Barack Obama, as well as employees of Google and Facebook.
By October 20th, It Gets Better Project reached the milestone of 10 million YouTube views and 100,000 pledged supporters. Towards the end of 2010, the project continued to gain video contributions and financial support from influential figures and institutions in various industries and political parties. On the Thanksgiving Day of 2010, It Gets Better hosted its first film festival in Houston, Texas. In January 2011, employees of Microsoft and Yahoo! created their own video messages.
During the New York Fashion Week in February 2011, Derek Fabulous hosted an It Gets Better Lounge event and drew video contributions from dozens of renowned fashion icons and designers. In April 2011, Apple employees created their own video message. In June 2011, the project garnered massive contributions from the employees of well-known financial, tech and media companies, from Dell and CBS to Ernst & Young and GM. In the following months of July and August 2011, numerous American professional sports teams participated in the campaign, including the San Francisco Giants, Boston Red Sox, Baltimore Orioles, Seattle Mariners, Philadelphia Phillies and Tampa Bay Rays among others.
2012 Emmy Governors Award
On August 29th, 2012, The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences chairman Bruce Rosenblum announced that Savage’s “It Gets Better” project has been chosen as the recipient of its prestigious Governors Awards of the year, praising it as “a great example of strategically, creatively and powerfully utilizing the media to educate and inspire.” The press release was picked up by several news media outlets, including the Chicago Tribune and Variety.
“This is television moving well beyond the traditional physical set in the viewer’s living room to the intimacy of the monitor, laptop, tablet or mobile device and delivering the ideal mix of inspiration and creativity to affect awareness and, ultimately, change. The Academy is proud to celebrate the success the project is already having on LGBT youth, and, to hopefully, drive more visibility for this important cause.”
In addition to the Governors Award, MTV’s contribution to the project is also nominated for an Emmy in the category of Outstanding Children’s Nonfiction, Reality or Reality-Competition Program. Both awards will be handed out during the 2012 Creative Arts Emmy Awards ceremony on September 15th, 2012.
Shortly after “It Gets Better” began to gain momentum in September 2010, actor Gregory Bonsignore posted a YouTube video parodying the campaign from the perspective of the bully. The video was quickly pulled from YouTube on the grounds that it contained hate speech, but a duplicate version was soon uploaded onto DailyMotion, where it gained nearly 100,000 views.
After Bonsignore’s parody video was taken down from YouTube, the news reached the official “It Gets Better” Facebook group and drew some criticisms in defense of the video. Bonsignore, who is a self-identified gay, later defended his parody as a “coping tool” for LGBT teens to imagine how terrible life has become for the bullies. On October 19th, Mitch Magee posted a similar video on the online comedy site Funny or Die. Magee’s video explored a similar sense of humor by portraying the bully as a ignorant, self-victimizing college dropout.
Clint McCance vs. George Takei
In late October of 2010, an Arkansas School Board member named Clint McCance posted an angry, hateful rant in response to the anti-bullying “Spirit Day” supported by the gay community. It quickly gained a lot of attention, especially from the It Gets Better Project. The group was a large part of the petition to get McClance resigned. Not long after McClance’s rant, actor George Takei released a humorous It Gets Better video in response to the former’s statement. Takei’s YouTube video spawned several views and parodies, further amplifying the movement.
Rise Against Music Video
In June 2011, American punk band Rise Against released its music video for “Make It Stop” in support of Savage’s project, which was later nominated for an MTV Video Music Award in the category of Best Video With a Message.