Ellen Page and Ian Daniel Talk About Documenting Homophobia and Hope Around the World
The first episode of our new LGBT travel series <i>GAYCATION</i> airs on VICELAND today. We spoke to hosts Ellen Page and Ian Daniel about their experience making the series.
Yesterday, we launched our new TV channel, VICELAND. One of our new shows on that channel is GAYCATION, an LGBT travel show hosted by Ellen Page and her best friend, Ian Daniel. In the show, Ellen and Ian travel the world, documenting the LGBT communities in Japan, Brazil, Jamaica, Canada, and the US. We spoke to them about what it was like experiencing gay culture in so many different places.
VICE: How long have you guys known each other?
Ellen Page: We have known each other now for eight years.
Why was it important for the two of you to do this show?
Ellen: Well, I guess I first had the idea because I love travel shows. I think when you're a member of the LGBT community and you're traveling, you have things to be mindful of—particularly if you're going to specific places where it might not be the easiest thing to be a member of the [gay] community. And I wanted to explore what it meant around the world [to be gay] and to speak to the community—particularly those who are the most vulnerable and maybe don't often get an opportunity to share their situation or their perspective or their voice. That's what felt important to me.
Was it difficult to film with these communities? I just watched the whole season in a single day, and I felt kind of drained by the end of it. There's so much hardship and trouble shown. Was it difficult to witness that first hand?
Ellen: Of course. I mean, there are situations that are maybe the most inspiring moments I've seen in my life. Like being at the first pride in Jamaica was an unbelievable moment to witness, and I felt so humbled to even be there. And of course, there are moments that are utterly devastating, and of course, that's hard to witness. I think the main takeaway is that we meet so many people in those spaces who really are just the most courageous, brave, unbelievable human beings who you could ever even have the gift of the opportunity to meet and speak to. And I think those are the moments that really are the most inspiring. Of course, it can take a toll on us, but we're not the ones who are dealing with that struggle. I think what Ian and I are thinking of are the people we meet who really deal with extreme obstacles every day of their lives.
In GAYCATION episode one, Ellen and Ian travel to Japan. You can watch the full episode right in that little YouTube player there or on our new TV channel, VICELAND.
Was what you saw a surprise to you? Or is that what you were expecting when you set about making this show?
Ian Daniel: I think you want the show to be balanced—you want it to be fun, you want it to be moving, you want it to be inspiring, you want it to be real, you want it to be truthful. So just thinking on that broad level, I think you expect you're going to see people who are oppressed and marginalized and people who have a really hard life. Then you're also going to see people who are out and proud and activists who are fighting the fight in their country. I think we expected that'll be the spectrum of what we'd witness, but you can never be prepared for what happens in a moment. You can't really be prepared for going and meeting the homeless kids in Jamaica and seeing their living conditions and the scars on their bodies and the bullets that are still lodged in their bodies and the tarps that they live under because their little wood shack was set on fire. I don't think you can really ever prepare yourself for those face-to-face interactions. But on that note, I don't think the word is "difficult." For us, it's an honor, you know? It's like, OK, thank you so much for allowing us into your space because you're already marginalized and vulnerable, and we're aware that you're even more vulnerable being on camera and meeting us.
The US episode has some pretty tough scenes. So much progress has been made with LGBT rights, but at the same time, there's been an increase in hate crimes, and all of this legislation against trans people. Why do you think the country is taking steps backward at the same time as it moves forward?
Ellen: You know, I think we've just had a major milestone with the recent Supreme Court decision on marriage equality, and I think you have a certain segment of the population that doesn't like that, and they're doing what they can to make sure that progress doesn't continue.
Ian: I think you also have to put it in perspective—there's a group of people in this country and in the world that refuse to evolve with the times. [They refuse to] look at the entire country and how people are feeling. I would say the majority is feeling like, Let's be more open-minded, let's be more loving, let's be more accepting.
Speaking of people refusing to get with the times, you had a run-in with Ted Cruz while filming the show. Does it worry you guys that there's a chance he could be this country's next president?
Ellen: Yeah. I mean, I think with anyone who at any point in his or her political career has actively fought against equality—how would one be not worried about that? How would one be not worried when someone has those beliefs and already has a lot of influence? He's a senator who's campaigned with a pastor who advocates for the death penalty for LGBT people. Let's just be real. I don't know how to wrap my head around that, really.
Ian: Anything's possible. We're in this strange time of fear where we're looking at all of these candidates thinking, My God,if one of them becomes president, we're all screwed. But personally, I feel optimistic because I just think people are smarter than that. I think when it comes down to the end race between the Democrat and Republican, I'm just really optimistic that people will understand that we're moving past that sort of ancient, hateful, fear-based language.
Ellen: And we hope the show can really display what the costs are of that rhetoric. I think a lot of people hear it, and it doesn't fully enter them, or they're just thinking like, That's so silly. They just kind of write it off whether it's homophobia, transphobia, racism, xenophobia. That manifests in our society [and] is really destructive.
Ian: Yes, just the amount of time all of these images and these languages are projected and promoted in the media. That has harm on our society. It has harm on the way we think. It has harm on children already having a hard time in their towns and other minorities having a hard time adjusting to America. I mean, it has extreme repercussions that I think we're not fully aware of, and we sit back and allow it and feed off of it in the media. I think it's extremely dangerous. I feel like hopefully our show can kind of contradict that on some level.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
The first episode of GAYCATION, which is about Japan, airs on VICELAND tonight at 6 PM EST. You can also watch it by clicking on the embedded video in the middle of this post, or through the VICELAND app.