© Copyright 2017 Amanda Conrad, Ryerson University.
How To Look At Heaven
There is no doubt that, regardless of your beliefs, you are familiar with the word “heaven”, and what it may mean. For many, it is the beautiful place where their soul will go after they have died. Whether your image of it is different, and whether you believe in a heaven or not, it is surely a concept that you can recognize and understand. With an understanding of heaven, comes as well the understanding that, depending on faith and a persons own ideas, there exist certain rules to follow or standards to uphold in order to receive admittance into heaven.
Now look at the image to the right of your screen.
It is a still from the music video for “Heaven”, a song by Troye Sivan, a young gay pop artist. The video, entirely in black and white, depicts the artist singing the song in a dark space, in the rain, and at other times singing the song while embracing an unidentifiable man. The video often switches from these scenes to archival footage of LGBTQ history. This still works to represent the video as a whole, and the idea of heaven that is present throughout it. In this video, it can be understood that you are in heaven when you are in the arms of the person that you love.
When you picture heaven, this may not be what you see. It is important to realize that while classic depictions of heaven are based off of a lot of the same stereotypical imagery of clouds, entirely white spaces, bright lights, pearl gates, and angelic beings, everyone has a different, often very personal image of heaven. In the context of this music video, in its visuals, lyrics, and overall message, heaven may be having the freedom to be with the person you love. Not all love is accepted in heaven though, according to many faiths, which is something that Troye Sivan struggled with. He, and many other religious members of the LGBTQ community, wonders, “If there is a God, does that God hate me? If there is a heaven, am I ever [going to] make it to heaven? And if there is a heaven but I can’t be myself up there, then maybe I don’t want heaven.” (McDonald) It is this acceptance that being yourself may exclude you from heaven that is the powerful message sent through the video, and its still images.
So, how should you look at this particular heaven? First, you must realize that the video and its visuals are not subtle. Its message is loud and clear, made louder and clearer when you consider when it was released. The music video was released, purposefully, on January 20, 2017; the inauguration of Donald Trump as the President of the United States of America. It was an occasion met with marches and demonstrations, and in some cases near riots, and this video served as another, different kind of protest. It reminds the viewer of victories that were fought for, and pushes them to consider how fragile these victories may be with incoming power. It invites the viewer to see that this heaven, the freedom to love, is at risk of being unreachable.
Elkins, James. How to Use Your Eyes. New York, Routledge, 2000.
McDonald, James. “Troye Sivan on How Coming out Inspired New Song, “heaven.”” OUT, 4 Dec. 2015, http://www.out.com/popnography/2015/12/04/watch-troye-sivan-how-coming-out-inspired-new-song-heaven.