Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Trailer: When We rise

The video above is the new trailer for When We Rise, a new seven-part mini-series for the USA’s ABC television network, to be broadcast in February. The series traces the evolution of the gay rights movement in the USA starting with Stonewall in 1969, and seen through the eyes through a diverse family of LGBT people who were part of it. It sounds like “Must-see TV”.

And yet, getting the embed code so I could share the trailer here also revealed how much work is left to be done.

The series was created and written by Dustin Lance Black, the screenwriter for Milk, for which he received an Academy Award. He also directed the final two parts. Gus Van Sant, who, with Black and others, was an Executive Producer, also directed the two-hour first part.

The cast has many well-known stars, some in unexpected roles. It looks fairly accurate, as near as I can tell from a mere trailer, and the trailer looks to have addressed the controversy around the trailer for the 2015 film, Stonewall. (I blogged about that film, and included the trailer, at the time).

When I went to YouTube to get the embed code, I noticed that the dislikes outnumbered the likes by nearly two to one. When a video is about anything positive about LGBT people, that’s usually a sign that the rightwing has descended on it to spread spite. The comments proved that to be true.

The comments on YouTube videos are often among the worst on the Internet: People say mean and hateful things all the time, but for something like this trailer, the comments become darker and are more likely to be truly awful—even hate speech. In fact, I reported maybe a couple dozen to YouTube for containing hate speech or extreme violence.

There were several comments that called for LGBT people to be killed. Others used language intended to vilify LGBT people and incite hatred. And, a few were even anti-Semitic, even if only subtly (one person simply pointed out that one of the Executive Producers is Bruce Cohen, and the point wasn't his body of work…).

But it was the sheer stupidity of the rightwingers that was the most stunning: They simply did not know that the mini-series was about real events, or that it was a docudrama about history. Instead, many thought it was a totally fictitious story, that it was about current events (the anti-Trump protests), and even that it was anti-Trump. There were even sadder ones who said it was designed to tear down white people (white men in particular), because the anti-LGBT people were “all white people”. All those judgements based on a 2:15 trailer! And yet they couldn’t even read the text on-screen.

All of that is part of what’s wrong with YouTube—that it brings out the dregs of conservative America, people who are clearly bigots, usually quite stupid, and unrelentingly aggressive. As I scanned the comments, though, I wondered to myself how many of those people who wrote bigoted comments—especially the racist and anti-Semitic comments—would have done so before Don’s election victory. We can’t really know the answer to that, and YouTube is plagued with people leaving such comments, but I nevertheless got the feeling, perhaps unjustified, that some of the people commenting were somewhat newly emboldened. Or, maybe I just need to believe that, because that could mean they were merely sucked into Don’s bigoted rhetoric, and they can be reclaimed by humanity.

Reading all that bigotry and ignorance reminded me, as if I needed reminding, of how far we have to go. Worse, though, it reminded me how fragile all our progress really is.

Still, this mini-series will show the path the LGBT civil rights movement took, and the struggle it was. There will be some people who will watch it and see history they never learned in school, and that’s a good thing.

I’m looking forward to watching it.

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