‘It’s deeply disappointing, but it’s not gay’: Rainbow Youth looks to change the conversation—UPDATED

In its first-ever TV spot, Rainbow Youth is challenging the use of the word ‘gay’ as an expression of frustration or as an insult.

Conceptualised by Y&R NZ and shot by Eight, the spot shows two blokey guys on the farm having a conversation about a dropped pie.

The first character, named Nigel, responds to the demise of his lunch as ‘gay’, after which his co-worker explains to him in an utterly matter-of-fact tone that ‘it’s deeply disappointing, but it’s not gay’.    

In releasing this ad, Rainbow Youth is looking to draw attention to how the seemingly inconsequential turn of phrase has the potential to cause harm. It’s a point perhaps best captured in the fact that the entire conversation regarding the use of the word ‘gay’ plays out in earshot of another character Steve, who is revealed to identify as gay.

Notably, it isn’t Steve who stands up to Nigel for the use of the word but rather the only character not to be given a name in the ad. The point here is that anyone can choose to speak up rather than be complicit in their silence when someone utters a slur. As shown in the clip, the conversation doesn’t have to be uncomfortable. Simply pointing something out can go a long way toward influencing the way people talk.

The decision to set the spot in a farming scenario was made specially because Rainbow Youth found that many gay youths in rural communities lack support to come out, which in turn drives them to the city.

The campaign is part of a wider mentoring programme where the MediaWorks Foundation works with a local charity for a year, offering strategic and marketing advice, culminating in a brand piece supported with free MediaWorks network placements. MediaWorks Foundation approached the Y&R NZ to develop the Rainbow Youth campaign, and then the teams worked together. 

Production company Eight and director Jamie Lawrence generously donated their creativity and resources to bring the campaign to life, along with Franklin Rd who came to the party with audio. 

““This was a total love project for us,” says Katie Millington, executive producer at Eight.

“When Y&R approached Jamie Lawrence and me with this script, it was a no-brainer. It’s a great piece of copywriting that deftly handles the issue of subconscious bigotry. Not surprisingly some of New Zealand’s best acting talent, film crew and post-production technicians clambered aboard the love boat to help bring the script to life.” 

This sentiment is also shared by Y&R NZ chief executive and chief creative officer Josh Moore, who says: “There’s no better feeling than being part of a campaign that makes the world a little bit better. A massive thank you to the teams at Eight, Franklin Rd and Toybox.”     

To assist those who would like to support the cause, Rainbow Youth has also released a supplementary video that explains how all New Zealanders can be allies to the LGBQTI community.      

In this sense, the campaign has a few parallels to the recent ‘Give Nothing to Racism‘ initiative, fronted by Taika Waititi and a number of other celebrities, who called on New Zealanders not to tolerate casual racism in their presence.

As Waititi intones in the spot: “to the people receiving the racism, they’ll be getting hundreds of bits every day. So it will add up. It will be noticed.”

The same rule applies any time an insensitive phrase is used. It might seem inconsequential in the moment but those individual phrases contribute to an over-arching narrative that normalises certain phrases. The more people who think a certain word or phrase is okay, the more often it will be slipped into everyday language and the more likely it will hurt someone’s feelings.

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