This is a tiny bit outside my normal range of topics, but two of my intellectual influences, blogger Andrew Sullivan and Slate writer Emily Bazelon, have both written about it in recent weeks, and I am impressed by their argument. Many, too many, anti-bullying videos dramatize bullying and its effects in ways which make bullies look powerful and victims look weak and defenseless.
Bazelon, in her piece “How Not to Prevent Bullying” points to other current videos in circulation which really go the wrong direction. In them the bullies often look attractive in their social power, in a way almost akin to the way some anti-cigarette advertising can actually romanticize the practice that it seeks to condemn. Even more problematic, videos which show bullied students resorting to suicide only reinforces their sense of powerlessness. As Bazelon says about one of them,
But the video has nothing in it about how Jenna could have gotten help, no models of kids or adults reaching out to her, nothing to help kids remember that however awful bullying feels in the moment, high school doesn’t last forever. It’s like the dark opposite of Dan Savage’s It Gets Better project, offering hopelessness instead of hope.
The video provided above, on the other hand, shows the power bystanders have, and the way students can stand up, be strong, and make bullying behavior look anything but cool– instead, her it looks kind of pathetic. The denouement here, reminiscent of that wonderful climactic scene in the Kevin Kline film In and Out, is heartwarming and inspiring: we all have in our power opportunities to stand up and make clear we don’t stand for homophobia. It is a great bit, and worthy of showing in our schools.