Bullying & The Entertainment Industry

While not my normal range of topic to blog about, last night I was watching television with my 15 year old daughter. (Confession time….) I usually enjoy the lighthearted shenanigans of iCarly and the Wizards of Waverly Place. Sure, you could deconstruct either of these shows and find ‘something’ questionable in regards to their use of stereotypes or representation, but for the most part, I think that when they deal with teen related issues, no matter how sugarcoated, they have a tendency to try and handle them in a diplomatic, mostly comical manner that gives the ‘right’ message.

But last night I was watching a YTV show called Mr. Young, about a genius kid who teaches high school… bad acting and nerve grating story line aside, I was struck by the over-the-top use of stereotypes and the use of bullying for comedic effect. Of course, the bully is an overgrown oaf, surely many years older than his classmates, and at the start of every class, he puts the over-the-top whiny skinny white boy into the garbage can. The characters are so exaggerated that it is hard to feel pity for the kid in the garbage can while everyone laughs. THIS, I think is one of the problems. The dialogue is set up to almost make you feel like “of course that nerd got stuffed into the garbage can!” …. and sadly, this is how the character reacts as well. In one scene, the bullied kid asks if he is going to get stuffed in the garbage again, because if so, he might as well just wear his dirty jeans. Laughter ensues. My stomach turns.

In another scene, the tables are slightly turned for comedic effect, but the stereotyping is painfully obvious when the bully is treated as if he is dumb and told to sit in the corner and wear a dunce cap (an odd punishment from a teacher – who is meant to be 16 in this show – if you ask me …) only for the bully to reply “no worries, I had one made – I have a very big head … blah blah blah – some bad joke about a mad hatter…”. What really bothered me about this show was ow casual and flippant the writers (and actors) had towards bullying and its effects. It was all one big joke. This is only one show – I have come across this in many other kid/teen shows and the schtick is always the same…

No wonder kids think it’s alright to bully (and be bullied!) – there was no story line that addressed the bullying besides its use for comedic effect essentially making fun of both sides.  All I could think of last night is that until Hollywood stops making fun of bullying – stops making light of how is plays out and its effects (on both parties even!) then a lot of the anti-bullying campaigns these very stations (and actors) rally against will continue to fall on deaf ears.

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