So, there’s this new movie about bullies called “Bully” (not to be confused with the unexplainably watchable Larry Clark movie of the same name). While I haven’t seen the movie i did watch this preview recently and it got me thinking.
Bullies are assholes. No shit. They are cowardly people doing cowardly things , usually stemming from insecurity and their own personal issues. Looking at that unfortunate, questionably deformed, nerd kid in the movie trailer is pretty depressing. He seems like a nice enough kid and ,really , his only crime is looking how he looks. He’s an Uber-nerd simply because he looks like one. While classic 80’s movie nerd giveaways (such as genuinely embracing school work and having interests that don’t include sports and girls) may apply to him, we don’t really know that for sure. All we know is that he’s funny looking. And in this age of hyper-political correctness, where being smart is no longer frowned upon like it once was, the ugly , weird kid is still and will always be a prime target. No matter how much we strive to be our own people when we’re young, there is an invisible line between a quirky, off center kid and an outcast nerd, ripe for abuse.
When I was in high school, I was never one for bullying. In fact, I would usually go out of my way to be nice to those kids cause the people picking on them tended to be total dicks. I always gave those types the benefit of the doubt, as people. They were obviously living in hell and the last thing they needed was another person pushing them around. That said, while I was friendly, it’s not like I was gonna hang out with them and forge friendships. My whole idea was to just not add to the problem. Basically, I was thinking “if this person snaps, I’d like him to not wanna kill me first”. During my 11th grade year, I made a startling discovery that would forever alter the way I look at kids who get bullied. It turns out, people are people. And from the most popular kid to the lowest member of the high school social caste system, assholes are everywhere. Who knew?
There was this one kid in one of my math classes named Svi (the name alone put a bullseye on his back). Svi was a genius. He was in 6th grade but was taking 11th grade math (which was annoyingly easy for him). He was obese, had glasses, he smelled kinda weird, had a shrill high voice and when he spoke, you could hear the phlegm swirling in the back of his throat. He was like a short, pale, white frog who was amazing at math. Straight up, he was gross. Not surprisingly, he got relentlessly picked on. He’d get spit balls hurled at him, he’d get his pants pulled down in the locker room, he’d get pushed into the girls bathroom. Typical asshole bully shit.
Sitting in class , watching all that go down, I felt bad. Granted, he did things that garnered negative attention like throw tantrums in class over mathematic arguments or smugly correct kids when they didn’t know the answers. But, it still didn’t make his abuse okay to me. So, one day, I decided to just chat with him. sort of a low maintenance olive branch. Understandably, he was a little on the defensive. All he knew was that people wanted to fuck with him so he was perfectly justified to be apprehensive.
Once he realized I wasn’t a threat , he relaxed a little and things went smoothly.
About 5 or so minutes into the conversation I realized something. Svi was , in fact, an ego maniacal asshole. He was dismissive, contrarian , extremely condescending and completely full of himself. That guy I saw in class was not only real but it was toned down.
I was kinda shocked. Here I was expecting a nice, misunderstood kid but it turns out that he’s exactly the kind of person I didn’t like. I thought maybe it was just a defense mechanism but, as we spoke a few more times I realized that’s just how he was. He was an asshole.
After that, I remained cordial to him but I definitely felt a little less remorse when kids would pick on him. Sure, they were doing it for all the wrong reasons, but fuck that kid. While he didn’t deserve that treatment, he didn’t NOT deserve it either. Regardless, he left the next year and I’m sure he’s a millionaire now so, well, the jokes on us!
Anyway, later that year in school, there was another kid , Michael, who got harassed a lot. In his case, he was this fem drama kid. While people didn’t just come out and say it, it’s obvious the abuse was coming at him cause people thought he was gay. I didn’t go to a particularly intolerant school but there’s always a few jerkoff kids that are gonna take issue with that kinda thing. He and I had a class together but never spoke much, mostly due to him kinda keeping to himself and me not really giving a shit. The bullying he received was different than the kind Svi got. He didn’t get physically pushed around as much as he just got berated all the time. However, I always gave him credit as he seemed unphased by it all. He’d just roll his eyes, flip his hair and keep it moving (the hair flip certainly didn’t help his cause).
Much like Svi, I one day happened into a casual conversation with him and , within minutes, realized he was a pompous dickhead. It was more than a lack of social grace, he was simply unlikeable. I remember walking away from the conversation and things started clicking. Perhaps some people who got bullied kinda had it coming on some level? Like in a karmic sense. What he was getting picked on for was completely unjustifiable, but he was a prick outside of that so maybe , in a roundabout way, it all made sense. Obviously, picking on defenseless people for reasons they have no control over is never okay. But, in the case of both these people, they were legit assholes. I realize I wasn’t the judge and jury of this kinda thing but maybe they had no friends for a reason. Not cause they were social outcasts, but because they were just really unsavory people. Part of the bullying just came as a result of that friendless life , when seen by others in a social setting. Unless you carried a switchblade ,had a mohawk and seemed dangerous, “loner” types never had much of chance, socially, in high school.
Since then, I’ve come across countless situations similar to this where someone I once felt bad for proved themselves to be just as insipid as the people bullying them. Sure, in different ways, but once you’re an adult, all that evens out. It’s rare that an adult bullies another adult. Instead we’re left with self righteous people with a chip on their shoulder and passive aggressiveness. I’m convinced the population of Williamsburg is like 50% these types.
My point in all this is not to say that the people getting bullied have it coming. Of course not. However, I also think it’s unfair to immediately think that just cause someone is getting bullied, that they are automatically great people to be pitied unconditionally. Plenty of assholes get bullied. Plenty of downright despicable people have been harassed. Does it make bullying okay? Not at all. But I just feel like it should be noted that not every nerdy looking kid has a heart of gold. The same way not every stripper is a money grubbing piece of shit. There are always exceptions to every rule. That doesn’t make the bullying okay…but it can add some perspective beyond the typical “Big bad kid beats up little smart kid” way of looking at it. I feel like, in the end, very few people are ever totally innocent. And, on the bright side, people who bully tend to age poorly. I’m pretty sure all the kids I went to high school who used to pick on kids are now miserable and wishing it was still 1994 again.
Also, i’d like to add that bullying has been around forever. It’s led to everything from high school shootings to brilliant nerds making billions of dollars out of spite for the people who tortured them as youths. It will never go away. As long as there are kids who feel the need to prove themselves by picking on easy targets, there will be easy targets to get picked on. It’s just kinda how things go. It’s just too bad that there are so many avenues to take with bullying now that didn’t exist even when I was a teen. I’d much rather get thrown in a locker then aired out on facebook or twitter. That’s for sure.