What do you get when you mix glamour shots and drive-thru activism? The NOH8 campaign. Even the most agoraphobic queens have had the stark white images of impassioned faces stamped with a “NOH8” temporary tattoo thrust upon them. And how could I forget the duct tape covered mouths—that’s the most important part; the symbolism is as haunting and poignant as a Madonna ballad. “Love is a bird, she needs to fly…” But if John Waters dreamed up his own parody of the overwrought photo campaign, DEFEC8 might be it. Steven Paul, creator of the DEFEC8 Campaign, is not poo-pooing the original campaign’s “silent photo protest” against California’s Proposition 8—he’s just over it.
“One day last week I was on Facebook and I came across another fucking (NOH8) picture and I’m like, ‘Ahhhhh! I’m sick of seeing it. I get it guys, I get it. I wanted to come up with something that was a slap in the face to this fucking campaign.” So instead of duct tape, Paul decided on shit. Doodie. Feces. “I just thought this is a clever play on words, it’s disgusting, and it will get peoples’ attention.”
And it certainly grabbed my attention. I, too, was perusing my Facebook page last week when I noticed what resembled a NOH8 photo of a subversive queer pal of mine from Sarah Lawrence. Is Tony actually buying into this?, I wondered. Upon closer inspection, I noted his yellow rubber kitchen gloves covered in–wait, what is that? Chocolate? Oh shit. It’s shit. Fierce y’all.
(NB: It’s not actually shit. Or so I’m insisting.)
In addition to the hyper-saturation of the NOH8 campaign, what really gets Paul’s goat is its exploitation by no-list celebrities.
“Kim [Tardy for the Party] Z. from the Real Housewives of Atlanta? She was performing at [New York City gay club] Splash last month. She is trying hard. I mean you’ve got to be fucking kidding me. She knows that the gays have all the income—it just drives me nuts!”
But it’s not just no-list celebs who are vying to have their NOH8 portrait done. According to a dreary new documentary about the NOH8 campaign, over 1200 people RSVP’d on Facebook to pay $40 a pop for their photos at an open shoot in New York City. But who can put a price on a fully retouched photo that can at once be used as a Facebook photo and promote your peoples’ rights? (And according to the NoH8 website: Funds raised by the NOH8 Campaign will be used to continue promoting and raising awareness for Marriage Equality and anti-discrimination on a global level through an educational and interactive media campaign.)
Although in his home base of Manhattan the responses have been great so far, Steven Paul is preparing himself for a shit storm of negative feedback. “I think [NOH8 creator and photographer] Adam Bouska’s gonna be pissed. Like how can you make fun of something so serious? I might be wrong. If it’s done right it’s gonna work and people are gonna love it—and hate it.”
A mockumentary of the making of the DEFEC8 campaign is in the works. Its working title: Defec8tion Nation.
NEXT UP: A scattering of defec8tions.