About three weeks ago, the Rhodes Bros, twin brothers that make YouTube videos, posted a video of the two of them coming out to their dad. Between sobs, the two took turns telling their dad about who they truly are while the other caught his breath. Although their father wasn’t stellar about it, he handled it better than how some dads would. The video is a tearjerker, especially for those that have had to deal with the same situation. But above that, the video exposes something that is very problematic.
The process of coming out is very personal and intimate and by creating videos like this, it’s being made public. We are creating a spectacle out of something that people are working hard to normalize. People are using the media, and the media is using people, to exploit experiences that they know will get viewers.
It’s no surprise that the media exploits people that are deemed to be “unconventional.” They’ve been doing it for years now. However, when the media exploits a population that has been working hard to normalize themselves and change the way the world perceives them, it’s counterproductive. By using LGBT people as a means to get views, they are only further being portrayed as a taboo — which is exactly the opposite of the LGBT goal.
Furthermore, the Rhodes Bros received relatively positive reactions from people outside of the LGBT community. However, people within the LGBT community scrutinized the twins — claiming that they used their coming out story as a way to gain viewers and pave their way to fame.
This is a bold claim. Whether or not it’s true, doesn’t really matter. I believe the LGBT community was right in their criticism of the brothers. In publicizing their coming out story, the message they sent should have been towards youth that are experiencing the same situation — telling them that it gets better. However, that was not the message I received. I saw the video as a step backwards in the fight to normalize sexual preferences.
Similarly, Bruce Jenner, former-Olympian turned reluctant-reality star on “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” has been the subject of the media’s ruthless speculation about his gender identity and expression. People have commented on his lips, his hair, everything. In the pinnacle of insensitivity, InTouch (a celebrity gossip magazine) truly proved that it is indeed out of touch and Photoshopped him as a woman for the cover of its Jan. 14 issue.
Initially it was easy to feel bad for Jenner, but now rumors are being confirmed that they are producing a reality series all about his transition from man to woman. This hasn’t been confirmed by Jenner or the family, but if it does happen, it will be just another page in the history of traditional media exploiting LGBT people. While people should feel free to express themselves and come out as gay or transgender or whatever they may be, these displays succeed only in commodifying real people and their experiences. This kind of visibility is destructive. If the media wants to help the LGBT community, it needs to start with a better representation of LGBT people. In Hollywood, LGBT characters are historically portrayed as drugged out and living a life of despair.
The world is working hard for equality amongst all that inhabit it. By using the media to portray “taboo” people to gain views, we are only causing harm and destruction to ourselves. People, of any walk of life, are not commodities. If we are to truly normalize equality, it starts with the elimination of exploitation.
Ben Nguyen wants “normal” to be normal.