Gov. Rick Perry’s anti-gay, anti-religious pluralism “Strong” adwhere he promises to “end “Obama’s war on religion” has generated more than 637,690 YouTube ‘dislikes’ (compared to 19,989 likes). The YouTube user (Perry’s campaign) has disabled the “comments” section.
But the number of “dislikes” cannot compare to the number of views of parodies of the “Strong” ad. During this holiday season, Perry’s original ad has been the gift that keeps on giving, producing creative, often faith-based parodies that have gone viral on the Web.
Gov. Perry’s “Strong” ad has been called an “audible dog whistle”designed to call the traditional right-wing values crowd to his side by targeting both gay rights and Obama as the source of a ‘war on religion.’ What Perry and his staff completely missed, however, is how powerful the ad would be in calling out the skills of the Millennial generation, showcasing their expertise in creating new media and their education in the use of humor as politics by years of watching Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.
Millennials, those who came of age after 2000, are extraordinarily adept at using new media like YouTube with confidence and ease, and they are also the most progressive generation in recent American history. “Millennials support gay marriage, take race and gender equality as givens, are tolerant of religious and family diversity, have an open and positive attitude toward immigration, and generally display little interest in fighting over the divisive social issues of the past. Almost two-thirds agree that religious faith should focus more on promoting tolerance, social justice, and peace in society, and less on opposing abortion or gay rights.”
In the Funny or Die video, “Jesus Responds to Rick Perry’s Strong” a very young, comically blond, longhaired “Jesus” objects to Perry “using my name” to persecute gays. “What have gays in the military ever done to Rick Perry except to keep him safe…?” asks the young Jesus with a little smile. “I get it,” Jesus admits. “I’m popular.” He goes on to say, with the confidence of the ‘spiritual but not religious’ faith of the Millennial generation, that “there’s not a moment in the New Testament where I remotely hint that it’s okay to put people to death, start a war, or give tax breaks to the rich.” Then this YouTube Jesus kindly forgives some kids who hit him with a Frisbee. What a guy.
Another rabbi, this time a more contemporary one than Jesus of Nazareth, has also made a parody of the “Strong” ad. Rabbi Jason Miller has created a parody that is zinging around the web; the clip is funny, short and poignant.
Rabbi Miller appears wearing a yarmulke and the by now iconic western wear tan jacket with dark collar also sported by Perry. “I’m not ashamed to say that I’m a Jew, heck, I’m even a rabbi.” But, contends Rabbi Miller, you don’t have to be a Jew to know that there’s something wrong in our country “where gays can serve openly in the military, but they can’t marry.” Rabbi Miller notes he lives in a country where Jewish kids have to sit quietly in school while Christian kids celebrate Christmas or pray. “That’s uncomfortable,” he notes.
Candidate Rabbi Miller will change all that. He promises to “fight to end this crazy talk about a war on religion and…fight to end discrimination based on sexual orientation.”
Then the rabbi says his best line: “Intelligence made our country strong” and it can “make our country strong again.” Mazel Tov, rabbi. In the comments, people have posted variations on “why isn’t this guy actually running for president?”
But the absolutely best parody of Gov. Perry’s “Strong” ad uses the governor himself as the spokesperson. The technical ability it took to make Rick Perry “Jacket” reveals Millennial generation-type skill. Perry himself is made to appear to say that “you don’t have to have my low IQ” to know there’s “something wrong in this country when a man can make a super anti-gay campaign ad only to find out on the ‘interwebs’ that he was wearing the jacket from Brokeback Mountain.” A picture appears in the upper left corner of the two cowboys from the film Brokeback Mountain who develop both a sexual and emotional relationship. The Heath Ledger character is, indeed, wearing the same jacket as Governor Perry in his “Strong” ad.
Even cowboys can be gay, governor. Get used to it.
Social media is changing everything, especially politics. In Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations , social media analyst Clay Shirky talks about how the consumers of media now have become producers and this “net value” will have enormous political impact, most of it (though certainly not all of it) positive. Young people in particular now know they do not have to sit back and do nothing about a politics of fear and lies.
Governor Perry and those who helped him make the “Strong” ad simply don’t get that young Americans not only don’t like this kind of politics, now they can do something about it through new media. And they are.
That’s a gift.