Culture / Media

TGIF Video: Sez Me!

My kids watch stuff on screens, as do many, many kids. Before I was a parent, I was convinced they never would – you know, because they’d be busy doing macramé, carving quill pens out of bird feathers we’d have found on a hike, writing poetry in iambic pentameter, and so on. (You’re always the perfect parent right up until the moment you became one.) As it turns out, they do engage in a huge amount of self-directed creative activity. But they also want to veg out. They also want to see more of the world than I’m able to expose them to. And they know that their mama and I gather a whole lot about the world thanks to our consuming media on these  screens.

So! I’ve let go of my early pseudo-Amish dreams for them and made my peace with their (thoughtful, interrogative) media consumption. Except for one thing.  I have run across precious little visual media for kids that shows them diddly squat about LGBTQ people or gender diversity. Dottie’s Magic Pockets, a kind of lesbo Mr. Rogers, was great, and we wore holes in the DVD from repetitious viewings, but they haven’t pulled off any additional episodes beyond the one. Buddy G, My Two Moms and Me is a cute enough cartoon (we overlooked the lo-tech computer animation since the kid had two moms), and again, my kids watched it a ton. That one cartoon. But these two came out around 2007, and I have been looking, but haven’t seen anything come out.

Enter Sez Me, a “webseries for children celebrating differences and diversity with a focus on the GLBTQ community.” All right, then! Different model – web series, not DVD for purchase; different format – short, eight or ten minute episodes; different aesthetic – genderf*ck punk.  Inspired.

Lee Free, Charmin Ultra, and Mor Erlich, of Sez Me. [PHOTO CREDIT: MOR ERLICH]

Lee Free, Charmin Ultra, and Mor Erlich, of Sez Me. [PHOTO CREDIT: MOR ERLICH]

This project comes from a handful of uber-creative queer folks in Bushwick, Brooklyn: Mor Erlich (creator, director, and animator), Lee Free (sound), and Jeff Marras’ drag personna Charmin Ultra, who is the host.   “Think of it as the queer Schoolhouse Rock,” say Charmin, in a piece on the show in the Bushwick Daily.  In a December Huffington Post article about the show, Erlich, who works as a youth counselor at New York’s Ali Forney Center for homeless LGBT youth, describes the inspiration for it this way:

 The inspiration and drive to create this series comes from a lack of queer references growing up. Every day I think about a young trans/gay boy or girl in, let’s say Nebraska (That’s where Brandon Teena was from, I am from Israel), who are contemplating their identity, feeling isolated, lonely, being bullied or ridiculed. I fantasize about the moment when they discover “Sez Me” with all its magical might, that it brightens up their day and gives them and their community tools to spark up a healthy conversation about identity, gender and individuality.

I was hepped to this show by a recent PR mailing sent to me by Mary Jo Cameltoe, one of the Sez Me crew (also a Bushwick-based “F to F” drag queen and bartender):

 This project is intended for parents, children, professionals, and other adults who find themselves in need of a dialogue that is inclusive of GLBTQ experience, gender fluidity and young people…  The show collaborates with ordinary kids from diverse family units (singleparent, gay parent, lesbian parent, inter-racial, hetero-normative/non-normative, etc.) The kids both interview and are interviewed by members of the GLBTQ community with a focus on the involvement of adults who represent non-traditional gender expressions (self-identified drag queens, masculine women, feminine men, gender queers, and trans people). The interviews are unscripted and the resulting topics effortlessly flow from hobbies to haircuts, fashion to fantasy, the genderization of color to the basics of identity and human rights.

I watched each of the three episodes they have up on the site, plus the PGP primer (all right?) and loved them all.  (The first episode was published to YouTube in May 2012, and the third just came out last month.)  You’ll see kids at the center, in the opening episode driving conversation with Charmin about her transformation from Jeff, and how she floats between “he” and “she” depending on how s/he presents, or in another, interviewing an out lesbian supermodel and asking about her relationship.

The design is DIY-funk-superlative: animator/director Erlich maximizes what flows from the unscripted dialog with dynamic animations, sound effects, a brisk pace, and peanut-gallery commentary from Charmin. Check out episode one below, then check the rest of what they have, and spread the word.

 

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