Bullying has become marketing gold. Write about, do a special about, or post a video about bullying and man you got it made in the shade. Exploitation at its finest.
Typically, if I were writing this for more than a handful of people, I would qualify my statement with something like, “I know bullying is a big issue in America and is affecting a lot of lives and I want to be sensitive to that and blah blah blah.”
But screw it; I’m not saying that because, really, I don’t believe it. What I do believe is that kids are just getting pussier and pussier. Meanwhile, we have begun to increasingly validate tattle-tells, drama queens, and narcissists, which only adds to the severity of the bullying.
It seems like the growing theory is that if shows like Glee run enough anti-bully messages, we will finally take a stand and put a stop to the number of douchebag teenagers tormenting those different from them. I assume they often do this as their own form of a defense mechanism against what is likely at least one crappy parent. But it’s not going to happen, because as long as there are crappy parents out there, bullies will always exist. So I wish shows like X-Factor and Glee would stop trying to capitalize off of buzzwords like “bullying.”
I know, you’re probably thinking it’s easy for me, Mr. Cool himself, Mr. Good Looking Charmer, the life of the party and everybody’s boon companion, to talk as if bullying is no big deal. But before you hang up on me, let me tell you a story.
I attended 7th, 8th and 9th grade at Irving Junior High School in Pocatello Idaho.
As a fresh faced 7th grader, I was feeling pretty stylish one day wearing my green and blue button up silk shirt and some tight black AC Slater jeans. I looked good and felt good as I sat one morning in Angie Dorman’s Geography class.
As she regaled us with stories of schools in the ghetto and their version of Guns ‘n’ Roses’ “Welcome to the Jungle”, I got what I like to call “The Panic Alarm.” I’m sure you’ve experienced The Panic Alarm as well. It’s the worst of all feelings. It’s that feeling you get when you know, without a doubt, you only have approximately 22-27 steps in you before you crap your pants.
Looking up, I’m certain Dorman saw the terror in my face as she motioned that I could be excused. I rushed up two flights of stairs to the boy’s bathroom, carefully counting my steps. When the count got high and I couldn’t remember if I was at 23 or 32, I knew I couldn’t risk it anymore and had to perform a sort of flying, pants-less leap onto the toilet in the first stall.
I don’t want to get gross here, but let’s just say my innocent little seventh grade butt clearly enacted his vengeance upon that poor toilet. Hippies have been known to protest smaller acts of violence than what happened in the stall that day.
Stay with me, I promise this story is about bullies. Well, not bullies… Bully. Because what I didn’t tell you, and didn’t tell my parents, and didn’t tell my teachers, and didn’t tell anybody, is what happened next. In fact, half of the people I ever told this story to ended-up dying in a tragic train crash (I will always miss Adrian Thomas).
Because what I didn’t want to tell anyone was, in those upstairs boy’s bathrooms, the stall doors hardly closed, and the walls around the stalls were only about four feet high. In my rush to reach the toilet, I didn’t make closing the door a priority, and I was left sort of holding it closed with my left foot.
Soon after I entered the stall, a rather large 9th grader wandered in. I know him. I still know his name and can picture his face. I can picture it staring at me with that mocking grin and those probably-abused-at-home eyes.
He saw me in the stall and propped his elbows up on the right side wall, where he casually leaned over the stall to watch intently as I did that most private thing.
At first, I laughed nervously and asked him what he was doing. He responded by calling me a little faggot and telling me he was just there to make sure I knew what I was doing. I stayed quiet as he told me to hurry up and that he was going to time me. As he barked through his counting, grinning all the way, he never took his eyes off of me. I didn’t feel so cool in my green and blue silk shirt anymore.
Finally I finished and began folding up toilet paper for the delicate art of clean up as he laughed and told me how gross I was.
While I washed my hands, he told me I better not go tattle or he’d kick my ass. He walked out, leaving me alone and shaky in my sweat drenched and fancy silk shirt.
Are there side effects from that experience? Sure. I check stall doors pretty closely nowadays, and for years I lifted my feet up against the door whenever I heard someone else enter a public restroom. And no, I never wore those pants or that shirt again. To me, they smelled like a mix of diarrhea and shame.
But am I a victim of some horrible crime? No. I am just another age old example of one kid being picked on by another kid. Did my bully have self-confidence problems? I think so. Did he have a crappy father? Yes. Does he probably have a small penis? Probably. But after school specials disguised as primetime entertainment aren’t changing him, they are just making his victims feel more like victims.
A Glee special would not make more people aware of this stupid moment from 20 years ago, a moment I had such a hard time typing out just now. Instead, Glee creates an even more sympathetic and helpless fan base, wallowing in our self-pity and tears. And who knows, isn’t it possible all the hype around bullying is simply giving bullies better ideas?
All I know is this: Glee and others like it sure do get to charge a lot of money for advertisers to show commercials during their very special episodes.