In TV shows, Movies, Books. Evil people are evil just to be evil. Dicks are just dicks. There is no deeper meaning or reason behind what they do and no one’s motivation is truly important unless the point of the story is to examine their motivation.
Recently I posted about two different kinds of bullying. The bullying of “I am having fun at your expense and it makes me feel better to hurt you” and the “You are not acting like the rest of us step in line bullying.”
In the last 5 years or so our media has jumped all over the first one while virtually ignoring the second. Usually the two don’t touch so I don’t have much of an issue with media not necessarily wanting to touch it as it’s hard to make people see themselves as the problem and solution.
This brings me to Girl Meets World. There are two different episodes that specifically deal with bullying in the show and they handle it in two very different ways.
In the first they explore the motivation behind the bully and turn the bully to a friend. In the second they condemn and ostracize the bully and in fact this “ghost” isn’t even shown on screen she doesn’t matter she’s nothing.
At the time I cheered alongside everyone else when Riley stood up to her bully. Today I realized I had cheered for someone “standing up to” me.
I wasn’t a bully in middle school. Not like this girl who bullied Riley but I know why she bullied Riley. Because her anger was my anger I just didn’t express it to specific people I would just be mad.
See in the American School System when you go from Elementary to Middle School to High School they merge schools. So Middle School will be the combination of three to four Elementary schools and so on.
Riley went to an elementary school where she met Farkle and Maya thus having friends that embraced her manic pixie perky dream girl ways and loved her for them.
Riley’s bully didn’t go to their elementary school but was just like Riley. No the show never tells us that but the show doesn’t give us a reason and makes it clear that Riley pisses off the Bully just by being Riley.
Do you know why just the way someone is would piss off a middle schooler? Because she spent from 1st to 5th grade being mocked, teased and tormented for being like Riley because at her school there is no Farkle or Maya and the other kids find who she is annoying don’t get to know her and work to change her not caring how that hurts her.
She arrives to middle school with not just the rest of her elementary school but the other elementary schools too like the one that Riley, Farkle, and Maya went to. More kids and more maturity result in a lot of the kids that Bully went to school with liking Riley and thinking Riley’s pretty cool and isn’t it awesome how upbeat she is.
Suddenly Bully is shocked for a second she felt sorry for Riley knowing any day her peers were going to turn on Riley but instead Riley becomes popular and well liked by the very people who tortured Bully for being just like Riley. Bully carries this anger around in her for a long time. Then one day something snaps. The wrong person could pick on her and a fight would break out. One of her peers that loves Riley and no longer remembers why they hate Bully picks on her out of habit. But neither of these things happen.
Instead Bully walking sad and alone after school comes across Riley the girl that’s just like who she was. Riley is being carefree and happy. It’s just not fair Riley is popular and well liked but Bully was tortured and teased. So Bully snaps and starts to show Riley what it’s like starts torturing Riley like she was.
But then Riley’s friends rally around her and the kids that used to pick on Bully rally around and the whole School rallies around her and they all stand up to Bully and they show Bully. “You don’t matter, you’re nothing you’re meaningless you don’t exist” So Bully goes away. Bully vanishes. People forget Bully even exists.
But we cheer for them because they stood up to bully. We cheer for them for destroying bully. We forget Bully was person. We forget Bully cared too.
Unlike when Farkle was bullied by a popular kid who was just jealous of his friendship with Lucas unlike the popular kid who fit in and had a name and was forgiven. Bully is erased.
If Bully is lucky in High School she will find others who will let her be like Riley again. Will let her exist again. Maybe not until College. But hopefully if she lives long enough she will exist.
So if the media is going to take it upon themselves to stop bullying then don’t they have the responsibility to show all causes of bullying not just the “easy” causes like jealousy?
A few years ago my daughter went to her mom who said, “they are just insecure” and said nothing to the teachers. She went to her grandmother who said “Just ignore them”
When she got to me I had to ask her what was wrong and got it out of her that she was being bullied at school. I was the first one to ask her exactly what they were doing.
It turned out they were making yo mama style jokes. This meant one of two things. They were trying to hurt her feelings or being little kids they were telling stupid jokes in an attempt for friendship.
Either way the solution is the same. You laugh. It’s not the solution to all bullying and each case of bullying can have different underlying causes but there’s enough of a sense you can figure out which. I told her “If they say a yo mama joke about your mom you laugh and make another one yourself”
My daughter was excited the next day when she got home from school because she had tried my advice and had gained herself new friends who loved talking about Pokemon. My kid like me is a babbler and they just didn’t know how to talk to her or get a word in edge wise. The jokes were their trying to reach out.
One of the biggest hugs I ever got from my kid.
To answer the question earlier I think yes Media has a responsibility. Riley could have befriended her Bully she could have figured out why her Bully was mad. It even could have played out right up to her dancing anyway right up to her speech even filmed the same way and then be asked by Riley “Why do you make fun of me for this” that moment the camera could have suddenly turned and Bully is no longer an invisible girl but is a girl named Sarah who is holding back tears pointing at some of the kids supporting Riley and muttering “All the way until the 5th grade those kids mocked me for acting like you do but they think you’re awesome and it’s not fair it’s just not fair” She would have broken down crying Riley would have hugged her and then the show would cut to a couple days later the empty hall after school Riley comes into view and starts dancing and is joined by Sarah who starts dancing with her. A bullied broken girl pulled back from a bad path and given a chance to be a friend.
Because let’s remember this about these shows they’re still just kids. Not Monsters.