Our society has made bullying acceptable, so how can we really punish children for repeating behaviour that we taught them? Can we really expect them to do as we say, not as we do? Bullying is so pervasive in our everyday lives, that most of us are so immune, we no longer notice it at all. To prove this, one simply need turn on the television.
Now, I know not to sit down and watch “Real Housewives from Anywhere” or “Bad Guy Wives” with my children in the room, but bullying has become so pervasive in television that it’s becoming so I can’t watch anything but kid shows with them around. For some reason, it seems that producers have become convinced that people want to watch bullying, and sadly, ratings reinforce both the producer’s belief and the social acceptance of the bullying behaviour.
And it’s not just prime-time comedies where characters frequently refer to each other as “dumbass” or “jackass”, that now have titles like “I Hate My Offspring”. One long-running prime-time comedy, while never being family-friendly viewing, now doesn’t have a single episode that doesn’t feature multiple violent shots to the face.
Admittedly, these shows have appropriate viewer-warnings, but bullying has become so pervasive that even real-estate / renovation / redecorating shows are filled with disrespect and vulgarity. One show features a realtor and a renovator going head to head to convince homeowners to either move or remain in their renovated space. Not a bad premise. It’s the language and bickering and producer-staged skits / fights that I take issue with. The manner in which the professionals speak to each other, co-workers, contractors and even the home-owners themselves, is downright rude, insulting and antagonistic. This is not how we should be speaking to each other. Other home and garden focused shows are the same. Scripted skits about time-delays and performance, poorly executed by decorators berating co-stars and contractors alike.
Other shows have entire premises’ based upon bullying and conflict. One program actually pits future mother-in-laws against each other in the planning of their childrens’ wedding. One of the worst I’ve seen lately has stage-mothers pitted against coaching professionals where the fallout of their behaviour on the child-performers is actually abusive.
Even commercials for coffee makers are about bullying. Barcodes are exclusive cliques whose members are discourteous to anyone who doesn’t belong. In fact, one of these commercials contains the line “What’s with those milk people?” Substitute the word milk with a race or offensive label and it wouldn’t be considered appropriate, so why are we allowing it? The most recent of these ads now resorts to the use of physical violence to gain acceptance into the barcode clique.
And no one seems immune to the bullying. A major retailer is now “Taking On Santa” in their ads. Really, Santa? The character that is nothing but benevolent, distributing toys to children throughout the world? The fellow who is looked up to and revered by children the world-over is now the object of antagonistic ridicule.
How can we realistically expect to reduce bullying when we fail to even recognize it? Legislative bullying won’t make it go away. It’s a great first-step, but society has to learn to recognize bullying and stop tolerating it. Only then can we hope to reduce it.