'It Gets Better': Dan Savage on the MTV-Logo Special, How Hollywood Is Crucial to the Movement
“It gets better. It really does,” says Dan Savage, co-creator of the It Gets Better Project and executive producer of the It Gets Better special to air jointly on MTV and Logo.
The viral YouTube video-turned-international movement inspires hope for young LGBT members who are bullied or harassed for their sexuality. Two years ago, when Savage asked his partner, Terry Miller, to create a film about the hardships they faced -- and, more importantly, how their lives have improved -- he would have never expected to have such a huge impact, let alone have his husband agree to the project.
Savage tells The Hollywood Reporter, “I expected him to say no because of all the years we’ve been together, he would never go on television or do a print interview. He’s always said 'no' because he’s a private person, but he instantly said, ‘yes, let’s do this.’”
The project has since inspired more than 50,000 user-created videos viewed more than 50 million times and received submissions ranging from political figures like President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Hollywood stars including Anne Hathaway, Glee's Chris Colfer and Project Runway's Tim Gunn, to name a few.
Most recently, Savage and Miller were honored at the 2012 Creative Arts Emmy Awards with the Governors Award for the It Gets Better Project.
“The overwhelming response is supportive, and to be handed that award by the entertainment community for this viral DIY blown-out effort is pretty gratifying,” says Savage. “It’s humbling.”
While receiving the award was a surreal, yet rewarding experience for Savage, he explains that, “Even if we got 10 videos and no recognition, but saved a life, it would have been a success that we have gotten so much positive response and help save so many kids. That’s what matters.”
His most recent project with the campaign is a new It Gets Better film, which follows the lives of three teens: Hunter, an incoming freshmen who deals with his father’s acceptance; Natalie, a college sophomore finding confidence to tell her parents about her sexuality; and Vecente, who is afraid to tell his best friend that he’s gay. Savage anchors the special, which airs on Logo and MTV at 11 p.m. Tuesday.
“The single most important act you can make is to be out,” says Savage, while clarifying that the right time to do that is different for everyone. He advises: “Ask for love, ask for support. There’s nothing that undoes homophobia faster than knowing someone who is gay. That’s how we’ve changed the world.”
But that's not to say coming out is the final step in creating acceptance.
“Often, coming out for young people is seen as the solution to all your problems and that everything is great after you come out,” explains Savage. “But the truth is, coming out is the beginning of new problems -- better problems, more honest problems. They are still problems and there’s work to do afterwards after you come out.”
While coming out may result in new issues, Savage declares: “It does get better, because you see Hunter, Natalie and Vecente doing the work to make it better.”
He adds: “I’m really proud of the show. What it does is show that coming out is protracted, messy, complicated and it can be hard. It isn’t just a button you press and it gets better."
Celebrity participation in the movement was crucial to its success, with Savage citing gossip blogger Perez Hilton as a key catalist in getting Hollywood on board. Among the early contributers to the cause were Anne Hathway, Vinny Guadagnino from Jersey Shore, Colfer and Gunn, whom Savage says "made one of the most amazing and heartbreaking videos."
"For [a bullied] kid to know that Katy Perry or Lady Gaga is on his side, he can literally leverage that," adds Savage. "He can literally say to them, ‘You can’t hate me and love them. You can’t hate gay people and be a Katy Perry and Gaga fan.' It helps create that cultural currency for those kids and that matters.”
It Gets Better Project plans to continue to grow as Savage and his partner work on international affiliates, which would help other countries expand the branded movement to their nation.
And on top of continually reaching out to the LGBT youth with the It Gets Better Project, Savage also plans to release a collection of essays in his book titled American Savage, due out in May.
The second It Gets Better Project special airs Tuesday, Oct. 9, at 11 p.m. ET/PT on MTV.