I'll be the first to admit that I didn't have high expectations before I watched this music video, produced by high school students through RAW Art Works' Real to Reel Program, and featuring a song by local activist/musician Jen Grygiel.
RAW is a program that uses art as a vehicle for change and betterment in the lives of at-risk youth in Massachusetts, while Grygiel is a prominent figure in the Boston arts and LGBT communities, headlining the Boston Dyke March, and performing at Boston Pride this year. The themes of the video are the adolescent struggles of LGBT youth, including violence, suicide, and survival.
And it's awesome.
You can't be more surprised than I was. For starters, my liberal arts educated heart quails at the words "student work," which immediately calls to mind interpretive dance pieces about "freeing Tibet" by kids who may, or may not, be able to find it on a map.
Added to that is the fact that the general theme of "it gets better" has so over-saturated the LGBT media landscape, that I find the idea of anything new coming from that direction hard to imagine. You can see why I was dubious.
But this piece just works. On a technical level, the visual elements and cinematography are exemplary, and the acting is on-point. The video quite literally doesn't pull its punches, something which I at least, really appreciated. However, the video itself could still easily have crossed into the hackneyed feel-good wasteland that has claimed a lot of similar projects, if not for GRYGIEL's (whose name appears in all caps when referring to her musical career) lyrical and musical choices.
"Make It Out" the song is catchy and enjoyable in itself, but that isn't what takes the whole project to a higher level. Perfectly accompanied by the powerful imagery of the Real to Reel students, GRYGIEL isn't telling her audience that "it gets better." Rather, one gets the distinct feeling that she's ordering them/us to survive. This isn't a placating song, or even really a song about hope, although those messages are in there.
Rather, one comes away with the impression that she, the students making the video, and by extension the whole LGBT community, are saying "we're working to make it better, but you've got to meet us partway by giving this whole 'living' thing a chance."
Check it out below and see what you think: