When I was very young—I won’t say exactly when, thereby aging myself—the first books I read were mysteries with kids my age as the protagonists. I started with The Bobbsey Twins and Trixie Belden, eventually moving up to the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew as I got a little bit older.
They were great and I liked the fun mysteries the plucky little kids were tasked with cracking. But one thing about them always annoyed me: the bully. There was always some terrible bully who would make things difficult for the main characters, even the teenage characters like Frank and Joe Hardy and Nancy Drew.
I brushed them off thinking that these were clichés the author used to move the plot along and give us a reason to root for the heroes a little bit more. Then, once I got into middle school, I found out the truth. There were not clichés. Bullies actually existed! I don’t think there was one grade from middle school on where I didn’t run into at least one archetypical bully. Contrary to popular belief, the girls were quite vicious. Any new girl in the class was fair game for their terrible verbal abuse. There was always at least one boy bully, too. While the girls were poetic in their nastiness, the boy bullies tended to use physical means to get their rocks off.
When I was in school, teachers rarely did anything about it. Times are changing. But back then, they’d shrug their shoulder or look away thinking, “Kids would be kids.” No real punishment or attempt at conflict resolution. Maybe the teachers just assumed that once these kids got older and graduated (or dropped out) they’d see the error of their ways and stop their bullying.
Well, anyone who watches reality TV knows that just isn’t true.
Kids who were bullies in school often stay bullies and the kids who stood by and watched generally tend to continue getting their jollies like that today.
Take the popular shows like Tosh.0 or Smoking Gun Presents World’s Dumbest. The format is similar. A group of D-list celebrities sit around and watch videos of accidents. Some of them are innocuous, like a husband and wife who fall into a pool at a wedding. No injury, no big deal. But then they watch other videos where people are actually getting hurt. Badly. They’ll show a clip of a skateboarder who lands on his head after falling down. The kid could have a concussion, or worse, and these people on the show are sitting in the studio taking delight in the moment. And people at home must be eating it up too, otherwise the shows wouldn’t keep airing.
Fox News has had a grand ol’ time denigrating the First Lady’s weight of late. I’m not speaking to the politics of it – but the fact that anyone’s weight and the mocking thereof should make the “news” is just amazing to me. This is bullying, plain and simple.
And of course there are a myriad of shows and so-called celebrities whose sole purpose seems to be coming up with vile insults that pick apart the supposedly horrible way people look. No wonder our society has so many issues today. This is popular entertainment. This is what we’ve become…millions of people sitting on their couches laughing at others and feeling superior.
Observing this behavior has forced me to come to the following conclusion: People have no empathy and no pride. Mocking others isn’t exactly a prideful moment. The lack of respect for our fellow human beings is shocking.
Need proof? Here’s the latest and greatest in human nature: Yahoo Article on “People of the Iowa State Fair.”
This isn’t the official page of the Iowa State Fair, but it’s a page someone created to share photos of people attending the fair. Roughly 90% of these photos seem to have been taken by a bully–yes, a bully–looking for overweight people or people dressed in a unique and different way. The photos have captions that ridicule the innocent people who were just being themselves trying to have a fun day.
Of course, not everybody enjoys these photos.
According to the article: Several visitors who find the site offensive have asked the administrator to take down (or at least take responsibility for) the page’s hurtful content, but to no avail. The administrator posted this response on Tuesday: “People watching is one of the great traditions of the Iowa State Fair, and this site was made to allow people worldwide to enjoy that… The internet is full of offensive and disgusting things, and if I stumble across a website that offends me, I re-direct my browser elsewhere immediately and do not go back.”
The italics are part of the article, but I’d italicize them if they hadn’t been, because that’s a common excuse.
“If you don’t like it, don’t watch.”
Well, the problem is, what about the people who do like these degrading photos and captions? They are society’s problem…because those adults are going to teach their kids that “fat-shaming” and “different-from-us-shaming” is okay.
And that’s so sad.
I was talking about this with my Mum today after we saw the ratings for dancing and singing shows were down but shows like “Big Brother” still get big ratings?…How?
Although I don’t watch it myself, I know people who really enjoy it. I always thought it was a cool concept though — throwing all those strangers in together to see how they’d react living together in such close quarters with the added tension of having to cooperate for certain tasks and such.
I haven’t watched the last couple of seasons of Dancing with the Stars but I used to love that show. I was disappointed in the way it’s been handled recently though. It just seems like it strayed from it’s original concept and turned more into a popularity contest.
My brother is obsessed with the show, but I enjoy the dancing shows. So I am also disappointed about what they’ve done to those shows =(
You were lucky. I experienced bullies from age 5, and they generally turned their attention to me. BUT, I have met some of those bullies recently, and they’ve turned into very pleasant, compassionate people. PS I don’t watch reality shows.
Thanks for reading and commenting! I’m sorry to hear that you went through that as a child. But I’m very glad to hear that some people can indeed change.
Well said. I taught my kids that everyone deserved respect.
Thanks — mine were too. It’s just the way it should be.
And they don’t leave their bullying behind at the playground after they grow up. The workplace is full of bullies — especially the passive aggressive ones. Many of them make it into the management ranks. It’s sad.
Huge hugs to you.
You are so right about that! And it makes for a very stressful situation for the lower ranks. It’s like we never get out of high school in some respects. It’s ridiculous. Thanks for commenting!! Hope you have a good week! 🙂
what a great post you give us here – and I agree – that girls can be quite vicious – I did not see this too much in my own school days – I feel blessed to have been in smaller schools and well, spared from much. But as a teacher in many different school systems – I have seen girls more hurtful than guys – especially verbally – and you are also right about how teachers minimize it – ignore it – and all that. And I witnessed a kindergarten teacher shame a child for speaking up – she told him not to tattle…. and so you are so right to note the teacher’s role –
I have also seen the “mob effect” or “group mood type of influence” kick in – where others team up to put someone down – and I think half of them do not really realizing what they are doing. I know of one school in our county where this is higher than normal – and I also ways wonder about the mix of things that allowed this to fester – and I do think that anger and personal hurt is at the root of bullying – but there is also lack of empathy and just a mean spirit behind it too – and
I am not sure about the fair photos – but I get what you are saying – and we heard they have a site like this for the “people of wal-mart” and a few times we have been shopping and then we noted that someone would make a good fit for that website – and well, we have to catch ourselves and just look the other way… lol – but I get what you are saying – it is just classless and not edifying!
And what a waste of cognitive energy to be assessing to criticize. This “put down” spirit and it develops out of sloppiness and usually stems from someone’s own pain. the old adage – “hurt people – hurt people” rings in my head and the folks I know who do this “putting down of others” on a regular basis are sully the ones with personal probe – like low self- esteem or just sloppy behaviors.
last thought – I have not seen the shows you listed, but last month I told my teen he could NO LONGER watch the show ridiculousness – at first I thought it was a benign show – a modern version of Candid Camera – but quickly realized it was junk TV – and so just like he is not allowed to have chemicals and junk food a lot – I feel as if I owe it to him to protect him from junk TV like that. he was cool about it too –
and do not even get me started on Fox news – I know very little about it – but enough to say -YUCK> My cousins had it on when I was at their house last November – and I was worn down from their bashing and bashing – and constant berating of everything.
anyhow, have a great week – 🙂
Thank you for sharing your views! I’ve always thought the mob effect was a very interesting point, I think people often feel absolved of any responsibility when they’re involved in that type of behavior (everyone’s doing it). And that kindergarten teacher should’ve been ashamed! They tell kids to speak up and then shame them for doing so. That’s just so wrong. You mention empathy….personally I think the world could do with a lot more empathy and respect in general…a lot more. As for Fox News — I know waayyy more about Fox News than I’d like and it drives me nuts on sooo many levels. LOL I’ve never heard of the show Ridiculousness but I think it’s great you look at t.v. the same way as junk food and such. I’m the same way although I’ve always been a bit more lenient on the junk food. (okay, so nobody’s perfect) I hope you have a wonderful week too!
When I was little we use to say sticks and stones will break your bones but words will never hurt me…so untrue that turned out to be. It used to be there was a big bully on the block that you had to stand up to but it was just that one bully. Now it is the wolf pack mentality of bullying and of course cyber bullying which is even worse, nothing kills a person’s self esteem like bullying. Sadly lack of respect is at the root cause of bullying. I too taught my kids to respect EVERYONE.
The wolf pack mentality is the worst. It’s bad for the victim and it’s really bad for those involved because those involved sometimes (emphasis on sometimes) don’t realize the damage they’re doing by “going along with the crowd.” Sometimes people are afraid to stand up on their own and face down the crowd, they’re not strong enough, so they just go along and in doing so they’re hurting themselves as well as the victim. It’s a vicious circle. Like you, I taught my kids to respect everyone and to stand up to bullies whether they were the ones being bullied or if it was someone else they saw being bullied.
I enjoy reading your blog…keep up the good work !