There’s no point reading this until you’ve watched the new Todrick Hall video, so first –
Why ‘fag’? As Todrick says in the behind the scenes video – ‘we as the gay community should be able to take a word that has been so powerful to destroy us, and make a bop out of it’. Reclaiming a word is always very contentious territory, as of course many people still find the word incredibly triggering and insulting .
There are very few gay men who haven’t heard that word bandied about, and I would guess there aren’t all that many who haven’t been called that word themselves. As I write here, I find myself unwilling to write it because there is something about it that makes me intrinsically uncomfortable, having myself been called it many times. I’m very triggered by it anymore, but I certainly don’t like it.
So what do I feel about Todrick’s attempt to reclaim the word through this song? To be honest with you, I’m not so sure. Having spoken to a few people about this, one of whom is very sensitive to that word, it seems like their sentiment is similar. Todrick’s idea is hardly new. There are numerous words that have been reclaimed by the groups of people they were originally intended to harm, and many have been successfully taken back. This song is also an absolute ‘bop’, and the word is not used excessively during the song either. It is definitely empowering, the traditional ‘look at where I am now bitch’ approach never failing to make you feel good.
The choreography by Kiel Tutin is iconic, and the whole video is one continuous shot which is impressive (DOP is Will Sampson). As always with Todrick, you can expect diversity both in front of the camera, though sometimes there could be some more diversity behind the camera. The fashion is interesting and there is always something unique in the video that gives it that Todrick brand. There’s no drag in this video interestingly, but given the one shot approach not allowing many costumes changes, I think it really worked.
The music and the video are great, so that just leaves its ultimate aim. On one hand as I said, it made me feel good and I like to think of this word being reclaimed. On the other hand, it makes me slightly uncomfortable. Worse it makes me fear that people who are very much not LGBTQ+ will start to feel like this word is up for use all of a suddenly. And I am certain it is NOT to be used freely, especially by those who don’t identify (though who you’re meant to guess who is LGBTQ+ I have no idea). It only takes a glance in the comments to see the numerous ‘I’m not gay but I love this and feel empowered’ people that you see on any video, or anything really, that is for a minority group. People love to be saviours and jump in to be proud for us for some reason.
I know this has been rather unfocused in the sense that I am not giving you a clear opinion on one side of this argument. I don’t have one, and, like a lot of people who grew up hearing this word, I can’t quite throw aside the years of hearing it as an insult. What I am sure in saying is this – be careful. If you’re someone who is very comfortable with reclaiming this word and wants to do so, I think as a community we should respect that. But that does not mean that we want to hear it thrown around, and that you should use it irrespective of the fact that for some people, it’s still incredibly triggering. Some people are justifiably not ready to reclaim it quite yet, or at least they don’t want to hear it all that often.
I don’t think that means it shouldn’t be reclaimed though. Sing the song, enjoy it! If you’re ready to take the negative charge out of that word then I’m certainly glad, and I look forward to the day when it no longer holds such power. But be sensitive. We all have our own relationships to slurs like that, and no one should have to hear such a word just because you’re ready to start using it. People are on different points in their journey, and that word could do some damage if someone isn’t ready for it quite yet.
“So difficult it is to show the various meanings and imperfections of words when we have nothing else but words to do it with.”