As writers, we should always seek to promote integrity in our work. For me, this means a clear moral stance with a focus on social justice. I work hard to let these shine through in my own work. Yet, as every creator knows, trying something for yourself is not enough. To truly excel, you must find people that emulate your objective, whatever that may be.
For me, this person is Dylan Marron, an actor, video creator, and podcaster from New York City. Dylan Marron’s work focuses strongly on social justice and respect – both for people we agree with and people we do not. Marron’s resume is enormously impressive for someone who is only thirty years old. “Most of my work stems from things that I grapple with, challenges that I face,” says Marron, who is both biracial and queer. He uses his identities to advocate from personal experience, but he also advocates for people who are different from him.
Marron launched his acclaimed career when he joined the performing group The New York Neo-Futurists, where he performed in several of their plays. He also wrote his own play, “The Human Symphony”, which was nominated for a Drama Desk award. Following his time with the Neo-Futurists, Marron accepted an offer to play the of character Carlos on the hit fiction podcast “Welcome to Night Vale”, a role which he is still in today. “Welcome to Night Vale” has been heralded for its diverse cast of characters and eclectic story telling.
Although Dylan Marron is an excellent performer, he began to expand his horizons to video making when he took a job at Seriously.tv. In 2015, he launched his wildly popular video series “Every Single Word”. “Every Single Word” edits down popular movies such as Gone With the Wind, The Fault in Our Stars, and the Harry Potter series to only the lines spoken by people of color. The results are often very short clips which demonstrate Hollywood’s lack of diversity. With Seriously.tv, Marron wrote and produced several other video series, all with a social justice bent. Some satirized political events, while others pointed out the prominent issues around lack of representation. Among others, these included “Unboxing”, in which Marron unboxed ideologies like products, “Extreme(ly Queer) Muslims”, in which he interviewed people identifying as both muslim and queer, and “Sitting in Bathrooms With Trans People,” a series created in response to North Carolina’s bathroom bill.
Marron’s videos with Seriously.tv achieved media attention, but with that came negativity from internet “trolls”, as well as from people who disapproved of his work or his identity. In response, Marron was never aggressive towards the people who left him negative messages, but thanked them and affirmed their humanity. He interviewed one commenter, Josh, in one of his online series. After Marron left his job at Seriously.tv, he expanded on this concept by turning it into a podcast. In 2017, he launched “Conversations With People Who Hate Me” on the Night Vale Presents network (the same network which created “Welcome to Night Vale”). In the first season of “Conversations With People Who Hate Me”, Marron called people who had left him negative comments online to ask one question: “Why did you write that?” The conversations are not debates, nor are they confrontational. Instead, they provide a forum for open dialogue. The guests often express that they see Marron differently after talking with him one-on-one. “Conversations With People Who Hate Me” was widely acclaimed, and in 2018, it won a Webby Award. The podcast is now in its second season. Marron occasionally sticks to the original format in this season, but has also introduced a new format, in which he connects people who have exchanged internet negativity with each other.
Dylan Marron’s work is an exceptional example of how to promote social justice. He emphasizes his point through multiple formats and demonstrates respect for everyone involved – even the people who write hateful messages to him. With the variation in format, Marron is able to appeal to various audiences and address multiple issues.
Activism through creativity is something that I aspire to, as I believe all creators should. Although I work primarily in fiction, and he does not, I am greatly inspired by Dylan Marron. True courage and passion are required for the work that he produces, and he truly possesses these traits. But the things he creates are never about him. He uses his platform to give voice to others and to advocate for equality. This, more than anything, is a testament to his integrity as a creator.