Friday, February 08, 2019

‘Let’s talk’

The video above, “Let’s Talk”, is an ad for OUTline, a phone support service for those dealing with LGBT+ issues, whether for themselves, a family member, or a friend. It was made by Spark New Zealand, a telecommunications company that is a sponsor of OUTline, and their ad agency, Colenso BBDO. It’s a very good ad.

There was an open casting call for the commercial last month, and it was scheduled for shooting on on January 23. They specifically said that they would love to include trans and non-binary people, and they did. All of which is the reason for the authenticity in the ad.

One of the things that makes the ad so strong, beyond its authenticity, is that it points out that sometimes the families and friends of LGBT+ people need support, and that OUTline can help provide that. This is particularly important since many people don’t know where to turn. Thanks to the ad, more will.

The ad comes not long after TVNZ finished screening the 3-part British TV series Butterfly, a show about an 11-year-old boy who decides to transition into a girl before any male development takes place. It received generally favourable reviews in the UK. Here in New Zealand, there didn’t seem to be a lot of noise about it. What this means is that maybe the ad won’t be as “controversial” as it otherwise may have been.

In fact, I only saw one negative comment about the programme, and that was on TVNZ 1’s Facebook Page when they shared the promo for the series. One person, who may or may not be a real person, scrawled in reply to a comment, “Trans and homosexuality [sic] is a mental problem, NO ONE is born this [sic].” As near as I can tell, that was it. Even New Zealand’s far-right “Christian” activist, who I frequently tussled with during NZ’s marriage equality debate, didn’t say anything about the show, as far as I can tell, even though he campaigns against trans people’s rights all the time.

When Spark posted the ad on their own Facebook Page, there were negative reactions, mostly religious-based, not surprisingly. Spark’s moderators delete hate speech, and while some of the negative comments were strident, and some were clearly bigoted, they weren’t hate-filled. Moderation of comments has that effect.

So, while things may be better here than in the past, and better than in many other countries today, that doesn’t mean everyone’s come along for the ride—yet. The show Butterfly didn’t really challenge people—they could always watch something else if they wanted to. This ad’s been shared online, but I’ve only seen it on broadcast TV once (and it was the short version), though that was on top-rated 6pm news show, TVNZ’s One News.

A realistic hope is that it may help people get used to the idea that trans people exist, and that they’re part of families. When that happens, when they see trans people as human beings, antipathy toward them will slowly begin to diminish. That’s too much to ask of one ad, but it’s a good place to start because its actual purpose is to help people dealing with LGBT+ issues to know they have a place to talk. I hope they do.

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