How and why is a social group represented in a particular way? Throughout history, revolution has been sparked by the influence of social change. Humans are clever, finding dozens of ways to adjust an unsatisfactory establishment into an adequate alternative. With methods ranging from strict non violence to genocide, and producing such change as radical transformation in government or sudden, fundamental shifts in public opinion on social issues.
Today, Americans in the United States find themselves in the midst of a new revolution; the equality and acceptance of the homosexual community. Like all revolutions, there are many influential figures who affect this revolution through their actions and prominence in any given movement. In this essay, the music video for the song, “Same Love” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, will be analyzed in order to show how the homosexual community is represented by Macklemore in order to gain public support and empathy for their cause.
The music video for same love follows the life of a boy, from birth to old age, as he faces the trials and tribulations of a gay person throughout three major stages of his life and sexual identity; adolescence, adulthood, and finally old age. These three stages are used to not only represent common issues in the homosexual community, but also show the underlying similarities between the homosexual community’s wants and desires with those of the heterosexual community.
In the first stanza of the song, the viewer is introduced to a teenager (for brevities sake we will call him Charlie) partaking in activities one would expect of someone his age; Playing football outside with his father, attending church, and going to parties with his friends. Charlie seems to be a normal kid. The camera cuts to a party. There is a group of racially ambiguous teenagers sitting around a bottle a young woman had just spun. The stops pointed at Charlie. Charlie laughs with his friends but something is wrong, Charlie looks down and rubs the back of his head. It is obvious he is uncomfortable.
Charlie is then seen walking up stairs, away from the party, locking himself in a room. It is at this point the chorus (sung by Mary Lambert) begins, “And I can’t change, even if I tried…” The viewer now realizes that young Charlie is gay. We follow Charlie through the entire chorus and part way through the second stanza. Charlie is seen having fun but whenever a romantic couple situation arises he looks unhappy and alone. Charlie is seen looking hard in the mirror, analyzing himself, who he is. The director of this video is very deliberate with how he wants young Charlie to be portrayed.
Charlie is made to look as a happy normal adolescent in public but forlorn when alone. The director does this to represent the young, closeted men of the homosexual community. There are two major messages the director wants to get across; one, the only difference between gay people and straight people is sexual orientation. And two, society is responsible for the unnecessary grief homosexuals feel which causes depression in thousands of teenagers in the United States. The first message is addressed by using Charlie as a generalized example of a person who is gay.
Charlie does all of the activities we would expect a normal teenager to do, Charlie dresses and looks like any other teenager, and finally Charlie has feelings like any other teenager. The director hopes that the act of giving the issue a face instead of leaving it as an abstract idea because, quite frankly, most Americans can not relate to the grievances of this minority. This tactic follows the same logic as the saying, “One death is a tragedy, a million is a statistic”, if the audience focuses on the woes of a single person then it is much easier for the people at home to empathize.
The second is accomplished by using Macklemore’s lyrics as the primary focus of the viewer while showing film that is passive in order for the viewer to focus on the meaning of the lyrics. For example, Macklemore when says, “If I was gay, I’d think hip hop hates me… ” video of Charlie is shown. However Charlie is not actually doing anything. He is the focus of the camera but does not make any active movements or facial expressions which would distract from the words. The viewer is now free to consider the meaning of the words.
Macklemore does not mean hip hop as a genre of music, no, he is talking about hip hop culture. This speaks specifically to his fan base as it corresponds with his style of music. Hip Hop is known for being stereotypically homophobic. Macklemore continues to say “have you seen the YouTube comments lately? ” this speaks to yet another subculture, internet users. The YouTube community is vast and is quickly becoming the face of new media with hundreds of personalities and literally millions of users.
This advanced new technology is quickly juxtaposed by the unsophisticated nature of the comments. It is a vulgar and malicious battleground of verbal attacks of anonymous internet users. Macklemore places blame on both the YouTube community and hip hop culture. Most of Macklemore’s general audience can relate to at least one of these groups and are known being consistently progressive. Because of the overall progressiveness of these groups, the members of them can become unaware of conduct that is derogatory of the gay community.
By doing this the artist makes the young audience of their own mistakes and creates the incentive to rectify their actions. It places responsibility on his established supporters to advocate for gay rights. The second stage of Charlie’s sexual identity is adulthood. He has a stable job, has come out of the closet, found a partner (We will refer him to him as Garth). He seems to have moved on from the unhappiness he felt in his teenage years and is finally living happily with his partner. Charlie and Garth are seen walking into a house to have dinner with his parents.
It is obvious his parents are religious, they hold hands and saying grace, and Charlie’s mother crosses herself. The parents do not seem too pleased to hear about Charlie and Garth’s relationship. Charlie is sad because of his parent’s disapproval, but accepts it to maintain his relationship. He has evolved as a person and realizes that living for other people is exhausting and ultimately unfulfilling. This gloomy mood shifts dramatically as Charlie and Garth experience pure joy in each others company.
They jump into river and go swimming together, they hold hands in public, and sit at home listening to records. All of the things you would expect from any couple in love. And even though people might look at the couple differently, or even threaten them physically, they just brush it off, ignore it, and continue living their lives. Eventually, Garth proposes to Chris and they have the cliche church wedding idealized by many couples lean towards when planning a wedding. They are married and kiss at the altar in front of all their friends.
The couple is overwhelmed with happiness at the reception as they dance and celebrate with all of the people who support their lifestyle and accept them for who they are. It is truly a heartwarming sight. This scene cuts in between the celebration and shows Charlie once again, as a teenager to show the extent of his development as a person then cuts back to the couple. In this section of the song the director makes a point to represent a second group of the homosexual community, the openly gay men of the United States trying to live their lives like everyone else.
He portrays Charlie as a mature adult who no longer tortures himself by seeking the acceptance of his peers or family, rather, he has accepted who he is to himself and has decided to do his very best to make himself happy. The reason the director chose to represent this group this way was because it; one, shows the audience how unthreatening they are. And two, highlights the similarities between homosexual and heterosexual couples. The first is a very important point to get across to those who are against gay marriage.
One of the main arguments the opposition uses to counter the support is that gay people are a threat to the traditional family and they are a threat to the institution of marriage. The video shows this gay couple and it is made apparent that the only agenda on these two peoples minds is the pursuit of happiness. The only thing these two men ask is that their inalienable right not be infringed. Some members of the audience may never have actually seen a gay couple and do not understand this fact. Showing it on video may change the way they view these people.
The second is very important as well and concerns the same people in the audience that the director was trying to reach in the first. By highlighting the similarities like holding hands or simply enjoying each others company, it makes the couple more relatable. The more similarities a person has with another, the more understanding said person will be of the other. And finally old age. The director is very poetic in the sense that the exact same shot of the light in the hospital that is used at the beginning of the video when Charlie is born is used to introduce Charlie, in a hospital, on his deathbed.
Charlie is laying down with his eyes closed and Garth is right there by his side, holding his hand just as Charlie’s mother held his at birth. The final image of the elderly couple, holding hands, proudly wearing their wedding rings, fades into white. The final message the director wanted to get across was the genuine love these two men felt for each other. He did this by showing the couple together until the very end, the commitment these two had for one another is unquestionable.
It dismisses the notion one might have of their relationship being based completely on lust. Ultimately it shows that the love is real and silences any naysayer. It completely validates the reason for supporting gay rights. At the end of the day the title says it all. A gay couple is no different from a straight couple. Homosexuals deserve the right to pursue happiness in the same way a heterosexual would. We share the same desires, the same needs, the same feelings, the same love.