If your high school experience was anything like mine (and I don’t mean a regrettable Tripp pants phase), the phrase, "That’s so gay," was ubiquitous in classrooms and hallways. Backpacks were gay. Shoes were gay. People who weren’t even remotely gay were so gay. Everything in high school was so gay, and not in the fun way that everything is actually so gay when you’re an out adult. Gay was used as a synonym for stupid, gross, ugly, too feminine, or whatever else your peers deemed uncool.
And yes, it was hurtful. Yes, it’s bad for the word gay to be associated with all things negative. But if we’re looking for a silver lining here, at least we got one hell of a public service announcement out of it. In 2008, Hilary Duff—Disney star turned singer of the best breakup song ever—recorded a PSA for GLSEN’s "Think Before You Speak" campaign.
The PSA starts with two girls shopping. One girl asks the other, "Do you like this top?" Her friend responds, "It’s so gay."
"Really?" she asks.
"Yeah, it’s totally gay."
Little did they know, Hilary Duff was waiting just around the corner, ready to swoop in like a guardian angel whose sole purpose is to make sure high school girls don’t say stupid things they cringe at as adults. "You know, you really shouldn’t say that," the ever perky Duff says though a somehow vaguely threatening smile.
"Say that something’s gay when you mean it’s bad," Duff says. "What if every time something was bad everybody said 'Ugh, that’s so girl wearing a skirt as a top'?" She stares down the girl who called her friend’s shirt gay, her grin frozen, her eyes slightly mocking.
Skirt-top girl is speechless.
"Those are cute jeans, though," Hilary says in a way you can’t quite be sure is genuine or condescending. Duff saunters off to spread her wisdom through the boutiques of Los Angeles, leaving skirt-top girl’s mouth on the floor behind her.
Wanda Sykes had her own brutal "Think Before You Speak" PSA where she casually mocks an eighth-grade boy with a barely-there mustache, but something about Duff’s unfaltering peppiness and the perfectly passive-aggressive way she tears skirt-top girl to shreds then compliments her jeans really stuck with me in high school. It’s a skill to tell someone they’re being a jerk with a smile on your face, and Hilary Duff has clearly mastered that skill.
Here’s the now iconic PSA so you can enjoy watching it over and over again!