Sunday, June 6, 2010

American Bully

For the past couple of months, there has been case after case after case of intense "bullying" in schools across America. Many of these cases have resulted in the bullied victim committing suicide (like what happened with Phoebe Prince in South Hadley, MA.) or at least having a traumatic mental breakdown of some sort. Bullies, of course, have always existed in schools, but why have they become even more intense and so vicious over the past few years? Honestly, it took me a while to find an answer to this question...but today I think it hit me.

I was surfing through some television channels while munching on a bite to eat and I happened to catch about five minutes of a show on VH1 called "Undateable". The show features a bunch of hack comedians making fun of guys who do the wrong things during first dates. Although the show is funny to some degree, the overall tone of it is condescending, making the male sex look like a bunch of idiots. OK, I get it. Sometimes we're clueless. Women rule. Men are dumb. Wow, really funny. Great TV.

Anyway, watching "Undateable" reminded me of how many shows there are on television that consist of smart-ass comedians making fun of people, whether it be celebrities, figures of pop-culture or just regular people in general. I'm thinking of shows in the vein of VH1's "Best Week Ever" or the "I love the 80s" type-shows or "The Fabulous Life" or the E! Channel's "Talk Soup" or Fox's "TMZ". For some reason, making fun of people (i.e. bullying) has become a very entertaining thing to do that apparently makes for some extremely good television.

And, again, some of these shows can be very funny (like "Talk Soup"). I mean, I admit that I can't help but laugh when I watch them. However, the overall effect of all this condescending TV programming can be extremely detrimental to our society. I would argue that the bullying we see all over the media today is largely responsible for the increased bullying we see in our American schools. And it's just not on the television; it's in the tabloids (that constantly poke fun at the celebrities), and on the radio (think Glenn Beck making fun of Obama's 11-year-old daughter), and in blogs (Perez Hilton), and even in 'parody' films like Epic Movie that make references to/make fun of people like Paris Hilton/Lindsay Lohan etc.. Young, impressionable minds who are exposed to all this kind of media, over time, come to understand bullying as something that is normal, even socially acceptable. The message they get is that it's OK to make fun of others.

Now, a lot of people - such as the hack comedians on VH1 and E!, or the scumbags at TMZ - would probably argue that the people they make fun of on their programs deserve to be made fun of, because they're 'celebrity divas', or, to use a new term that's become popular lately, 'celebutards'. But, really, who are they to judge? As Jesus would say, "let he who is without sin throw the first stone", or, to put it another way, 'let he who is without fault make fun of a person who is with fault'. I mean, what ever happened to compassion and understanding? What ever happened to tolerance? Even if there are people who "deserve" to be made fun of, isn't it a waste of time to call them out on it? Get a life. There are so many other positive things one can be doing with their time.

It's probably true that bullying makes for good ratings and sells more tickets or tabloids, but it's just flat-out wrong when you think about it and (if the Phoebe Prince tragedy is any indication) it has extremely tragic consequences in our culture as a whole. We need to be sending today's children a much better message.

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