With number 5 in my list of favourite musical contributions to the It Gets Better project, the contributions become much more ambitious artistically. It gets more and more satisfying to rewatch each video and remind myself why it is special.
My 86-year old mother has visited the It Gets Better project site, and so I hope you have too. Watch some of the over 10,000 videos contributed by people, from all walks of life, with a common theme: encouraging youth who are being bullied, and perhaps contemplating ending their lives, to believe that life gets better after high school — and that they too should stick around to see it happen.
Number 5 on my list is a song which narrates a short film, with a really marvellous story arc and inventive directing. Self-made new media song-and-dance man Todrick Hall wrote and performed the song. It speaks directly to the hurting queer heart. It has melancholy which acknowledges the pain, but it is also a catchy tune which points hopefully to the future where “it gets better”.
I wish I knew who directed the accompanying visuals. The characters and the vignettes are in places very powerful and moving. The film opens with a Rubik’s cube, in the hands of a blond youth who twists it frantically, trying as hard to find a solution to the cube as he does to the unfriendly school we see him struggle through. The cube twists and tries through the film, until it is the subject of a moving resolution at the end. Interwoven with these vignettes is the short story of the second character, a dark-haired youth, who moves from petty unkindness at home, to beauty as she prepares to go out, to assault and tears, to despair. This story is told in minimal glimpses, deftly acted. The third character slips unsteadily from cruel brother of the dark-haired youth, to casual bully at school, to redeeming angel by the end. Let’s hope that this was an intentional optimism that even the bullies may learn to show compassion and affirmation.
What frustrates me about this video are the parts that fall short of the exceptional creativity and polish of most of the piece. The lyrics are mostly directed at the suffering queer heart: “Hey you, trying so hard not to cry, well, I know you’re fed up, but keep your head up….” So couldn’t they have found a better way to start the song, than with this sarcastic message for the bully: “Hey you, with your head held high, well you got him real good, I hope it feels good.” The urban visuals behind Todrick the singer are convincing, but some other images of ballet dancers seem less connected to the story. The montage of spoken It Gets Better messages from various celebrities is powerful — those clips were picked for a reason — but I wish Todrick and friends had dared to carry the message the rest of the way home themselves.
Still, this is an authentic and beautiful piece of work, true to the It Gets Better spirit, and a document of the rising talent and ambition of Todrick Hall (who would like you to follow @toddyrockstar on Twitter. Very worth the watching. Excellent job.