Chains, hulking physique, and the complexion of a zombie. Yep...typical Middle School bully.
"He's big, he's dumb, he's got the IQ of gum, he's got the brain about the size of a sourdough crumb! But he'll beat on your head, like a big-bass drum! His behavior is truly unruly; He's a Bully!"
In fictional works involving young characters, school bullying is commonly used to create conflict and/or build sympathy for a Woobie
protagonist, but it is often limited to physical bullying, with comparatively few works acknowledging or depicting psychological and social bullying. The ideal "Hollywood Bully" is invariably a physically imposing, thuggish, Obviously Evil
bigot who terrorizes victims through overt, obvious physical force that can easily be recognized by anyone.
This kind of bullying easily lends itself to the visual media, since a loud, fleeting schoolyard scuffle is much more interesting to watch on the big screen than hours of more subtle psychological torment. A climactic fistfight with a bully also provides a much simpler (and easier) way for writers to resolve a conflict, whereas psychological/social bullying doesn't give viewers a loud spectacle, it is harder for adults to recognize and resolve (and harder for victims to prove), and it requires far more attention to Character Development
to make it convincing (since a bully has to be believably popular to have the circle of friends needed to pull it off). At the end of the day, delving into the consequences of scrapes and bruises is a far easier job for writers than delving into the consequences of depression, self-loathing and social isolation.
Interestingly, this represents something of a gender Double Standard
as well, since thuggish bullies in fiction will almost exclusively be male, with the most common of such being the Jerk Jock
, whereas the few times that psychological bullying is
shown, it will exclusively be the domain of petty, giggling Alpha Bitches
who torment less popular girls with verbal barbs. With female bullies, physical fights will shown to be the incredibly rare exception to the rule, while the opposite is true of male bullies. Much like with brutish male bullies, though, dealing with a bullying Alpha Bitch
will invariably be as simple as dispatching her with a cathartic series of pranks or a simple verbal smackdown.
This is on its way to becoming a Discredited Trope
with the recent rash of cyberbullying and bullying-related suicides making news, but it only makes the few works that cling to this misconception stick out like a sore thumb. With tighter security in schools in the post-Columbine era, fistfights in crowded high school hallways in full view of crowds are also far less believable that they once were. For this reason, it also tends to be far more common in works that are at least a decade old. However, due to Values Dissonance
, it is still Truth in Television
in the United Kingdom, especially as there have been well-publicised reports of teachers being unable to control their students there - so it is still an Omnipresent Trope
in British educational programmes (e.g. Waterloo Road
) and a Cyclic Trope
elsewhere in British society, despite cyberbullying being common.
of The Bully
. Compare Women Are Delicate
(the reason for the above-mentioned distinction between male and female bullying), Obviously Evil
, and Card-Carrying Villain
- The Karate Kid is a major offender, since it ends with a bullied kid solving his problems by besting his tormenters in a karate tournament. It operates under the belief that victory in a fight always stops bullying, which is a big contributor to this trope.
- The Karate Kid's bullies are referenced in The Social Network, where the Winklevoss twins worry that attempting legal action against Zuckeberg might make them look like thuggish bullies.
- In The Amazing Spider-Man, Flash Thompson's Establishing Character Moment involves him dangling a kid upside down over a picnic table in the middle of a crowded high school quad while dozens of other kids cheer him on. And a few seconds later, he beats the snot out of Peter Parker in full view of said kids, and somehow manages to get away without any consequences. Even Gwen Stacy doesn't bother to help Peter beyond telling him to see the school nurse (because, as per this trope, the damage inflicted by bullies can always be solved with a trip to the nurse and a few bandaids). Eventually, though, he sympathizes with Peter after Uncle Ben is killed, and ends up becoming a friend.
- The Nasty of The Neverending Story 3. Led by Jack Black.
- Scut Farkus in A Christmas Story, full-stop. He's about twice as tall as Ralphie and his friends, he has a near-constant maniacal laugh (which is about the only thing that ever comes out of his mouth), and he allegedly has yellow eyes. And, of course, a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown late in the movie ends up solving all of Ralphie's bullying problems forever.
- In Harry Potter, Dudley Dursley and his gang are introduced like this (with Dudley's game of "Harry Hunting"). Averted with Draco Malfoy, who is a far more complex, conniving portrayal of the high school bully and leaves the physical stuff to Crabbe and Goyle. Both Dudley and Malfoy eventually get a dose of reality and grow up.
- Tom Browns Schooldays does this with the bully Flashman and his crowd. The episode of Ripping Yarns mentioned below is a parody of it.
- The very first episode of Smallville involves a Jerk Jock and his buddies dragging Clark Kent out to a cornfield and leaving him chained to a post in his boxers like a scarecrow. Despite the stunt being grounds for arrest, this is said to be an annual tradition of the Smallville High football team.
- 'In "Tomkinsons' Schooldays," the first episode of Ripping Yarns, "School Bully" is an actual title. Tomkinson is bullied by the School Bully, and actually earns the job by the end of the episode.
- Loca from Thats So Raven is a female version of the classic thuggish bully.
- Family Matters IS this trope. In fact, here's a fun challenge: watch the entire series from start to finish and name one under-20 male character (besides, of course, Urkel and Eddie) who isn't a thuggish bully or complete jerk.
- Even Waldo, before being rewritten as a Kindhearted Simpleton, was originally a bully in his earliest appearances.
- Subverted with Alan on Freaks and Geeks, who's neither athletic nor popular. He tends to use psychological torment more often than physical torment, only really resorting to physical torment when it's convenient (ie. after school).
- Averted for laughs in one episode of Modern Family, where Manny and Luke try to retrieve a lost model airplane, and find it being held hostage by a gang of skinny, bespectacled nerds who immediately start taunting them and pushing them around. A confused Luke says, "I can't tell if they're bullies or nerds," and the leader of the gang indignantly responds, "Don't pigeonhole us! We can be both!"
- In Bully, there's an entire "Bully clique" that consists entirely of brawny thugs who spend all of their time beating up and extorting other kids and is led by a giant, hulking brute that speaks in pidgin. They're not the only clique in the game capable of committing the act of bullying, but their portrayal (and the fact that they're the only clique in the game explicitly called "The Bullies") shows this trope in action perfectly.
- A young Australian called Casey Heynes became an instant internet celebrity and received tens of thousands of messages of support in a matter of days after a video of him throwing a bully to the ground went viral. Fans were impressed that he had stood up to the bully in a physical way, comparing him to Zangief.
- The Nostalgia Critic find this In-Universe to be a Pet Peeve Trope, partly because the bullies tend to be so one-dimensional, and partly because they never seem to be having fun with their bullying (just doing it because they're evil).
- In The Simpsons, Dolph, Kearney, and Jimbo are an Obviously Evil gang of petty criminals with intimidating looks and dress (skull t-shirts, spiked wristbands, etc.) who are identified more than once as being "from the mean streets", and get into fights every chance they get. They're also unambiguously identified as "the bullies" by everyone, and they're the only kids at Springfield Elementary who are explicitly labeled as such. Principal Skinner actually introduced Jimbo to his students as their school bully.
- Depending on the Writer, Nelson Muntz. Not as tall as the previous three, but definitely heavier and more thuggish-looking than the other kids. In later seasons he his given Hidden Depths and his bullying is largely restricted to taunting.
- Averted in Pelswick. Since the title character is in a wheelchair, the school bully Boyd knows he can't punch him because "you can't punch a kid in a wheelchair". However, Pelswick is still his favorite target and Boyd picks on him using psychological means such as taunting on the stairs, forcing him to grovel for a rare trading card, or manipulating a popularity list.
- Wolfgang from Hey Arnold! is a perfect example.
- Buford von Stomm in Phineas and Ferb is a card-carrying bully who spends nearly every other scene pounding a weaker kid (usually Baljeet), to the point that it comes off more as a pastime than an act of violence. He also has the stature and IQ of a troll, and wears a black skull t-shirt 24/7. The musical number about him provides the page quote.
- Francis in The Fairly Oddparents. He's about twice the size of everyone else at his school, he wears heavy chains on his clothes, he has grey skin, he apparently feeds first graders to his dog, and he's brought medieval weapons to school on at least one occasion. You know...just like bullies in real life.
- Roger Klotz in Doug is a mild case. He has the stereotypical "tough guy" looks (chains, black leather jacket, and slime-green skin), and is usually threatening people with acts of violence, but generally confines his bullying to the occasional name-calling. In the show's defense, though, the writers usually don't attempt to use bullying as a major source of drama, and Doug always manages to resolve his conflicts peacefully.
- Gelman from Recess
- Gilda from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic is never seen physically assaulting anypony, but she fit much of the sterotypical bully: A hulking brute who terrorizes Ponyville and drives Fluttershy to tears with her roar.
- Flatts the Flounder, from the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "The Bully", has only one known goal: kicking Spongebob's butt for no apparent reason.
- Stelio Kontos, Stan's childhood bully from American Dad!. Stuck a bat in his pants. Enough said.
- Reggie Bullnerd from "ChalkZone".
- Penny from "The Mighty B!".
- EVERY SINGLE "CatDog" VILLAIN.