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At least once a year, a large social trend emerges that everyone on social media, YouTube content creators, and others jump on for better or for worse. The most recent trend that has taken over the internet over the past couple of months has been the social experiment trend, which is intended to raise awareness around social issues. About a month ago, a video from Hollaback titled 10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman went viral sparking several conversations around street harassment, and since then, there have been a new video almost every week.
The most recent video I came across about a couple of weeks ago was 3 Hours of Walking Around NYC as a Homosexual from DennisCeeTV.
In the video, the actor walks around Manhattan for three hours ‘dressed as a homosexual’ (insert side-eye here). What this means to him is dressing in a belly shirt with a deep v-neck and extremely red tight pants while carrying a Victoria Secret bag. Before the video opens up, the video states it’s meant to be a social experiment and not meant to offend anyone.
After this, viewers watch a short two and a half minute video where we see the actor get harassed multiple times by men and women, being called derogatory terms like faggot and batty boy. When he is not being called names, he is being mocked for his clothes or being teased by girls who are pretending to come on to him. The last scene of the video involves a man who decides to follows him down the block while asking him if he wants to go home with him while saying he needs a ‘real man’ to take care of him since he’s not a ‘real man’.
The video then blacks out and text stating he was harassed over 50 times during his walk appears. He then goes on to cite LGBT+ teen suicide statistics before asking everyone to share the video to make a change.
My reaction to this video was initially split because while I don’t think this video comes from a pure place like the team at DennisCeeTV claims, he does highlight something that’s been overlooked. With the gains being made in marriage equality and increasing hostility towards openly homophobic individuals, the mainstream have been trying to paint this pretty and progressive picture about how society is progressing about LGBT+ issues with marriage equality being seen as the ultimate benchmark. However, the reality for LGBT+ people, especially trans people, queer people of color and LGBT+ people who are not of a certain level of means, is often quite different.
LGBT+ persons, especially those who are people of color and/or tend to be more femme presenting, are prone to harassment and physical attacks. The number of trans women of color who died this year, alone, is stomach churning. Add to this, the rise in murders of black gays and lesbians over the past few years as the mainstream movement made previously unthinkable gains on marriage equality, the rise in homeless LGBT teens, and a recent study which confirms people are cool with marriage equality but not gay PDA.
In a short two and half minute video, DennisCeeTV takes the rose colored picture so many people have of LGBT+ progress to task.
However, as noted before, I don’t believe this video comes from a pure place. In fact, I believe this video is actually an attempt to exploit a marginalized community and a trend that hopes to foster important discussions for YouTube views and profits.
Now, how can I come to this conclusion about a video where a man is ‘dressed flamboyantly’ to raise awareness about the harassment of LGBT+ young people, you ask? I’ll explain.
A quick look at DennisCeeTV’s channel page will reveal this is far from his only video. A look at those videos will explain where the root of my suspicion comes from and why I am making this assertion. While this new video has gotten a lot of attention, social experiments are not the Dennis gained his YouTube fame. He, along with his frequent collaborator OckTV, are known for what are referred to as ‘hood prank’ videos. These controversial videos involve him or his associate going into ‘the hood’ to provoke the people around them.
The videos usually start with him and an associate detailing their prank and saying they hope they don’t get killed. Dennis or his associate then go around farting on people, asking if people want a gun or stepping on people’s Jordan sneakers while filming them. The video would always end with him or his associate in a dangerous situation.
This is how Dennis has built his YouTube brand, by exploiting marginalized communities and playing on stereotypes to increase his subscribers and views to make money. And this video is no different; they’re just going after a different community.
It’s understandable why. Media around social issues have been gaining more traction as the issues themselves have come to the forefront, and these marginalized communities have buying power. According to an analysis by Witeck Communications, the estimated buying power of the LGBT community was projected at $790 billion in 2012 and rose to $830 billion in 2013. In addition, if you can gain the loyalty of a community, then you will have a loyal audience that will watch your videos and support your endeavors.
At the end of the day, however, I see through this desperate ploy to keep up with trends and avoid a call out like their fellow pranksters got when they went to Hot 97. And if I can, please believe others can too. The issues that face the LGBT+ community are serious and deserve more than someone pretending to be an ally with a video that exposes the creator’s own problematic views about gay men. If DennisCeeTV is so concerned about creating and maintaining a fanbase, then he needs to focus on creating great content instead of making tired videos that rely on stereotyping those who are not like him, especially if he claims to be standing up for them.