School Bullying Is Harmless

"It's funny how people who simply say 'stand up for yourself' never, ever, tell you how to stand up for yourself. Even adults find it difficult to defend themselves against the onslaught of bullies, especially a serial bully."

In Real Life, school bullying happens when a child knowingly tries to destroy another child by using various means (insults, bashing, rumours…) The Bully manipulates perceptions of adults and often manages to make them believe that his/her target is to be blamed. This can last for months, sometimes years, can be really traumatizing and often leads to PTSD or suicidal thoughts. The term 'bullycide' defines what happens when these suicidal thoughts caused by bullying are put into action. Some kids may be bullied even though they have a black belt in karate, have a lot of friends, are very beautiful or have a great sense of humour (in fact, comedians have higher rates of suicide, since comedy is usually used to cover pain).

Occasionally, there'll be a lighter, softer take on bullying, often in children's shows:

1. X bullies Y because Y is nasty, socially awkward or ugly. The viewers are supposed to side with X because X is better-looking or the narrator. Sometimes the bullying just stops just after Y stops acting like a geek (if male) or gets a makeover (if female).

2. X bullies Y but it turns out that X is secretly in love with Y or envious for any reason. Y decides to have a talk with X and at the end of the episode, X and Y become best friends forever.

3. X bullies Y until Y decides to learn kung fu or just says stop bullying me, I don’t like it. Then X gives up bullying forever.

4. Y mentions that he/she was bullied at school and was actually made stronger by the bullying. Y never suffers from any kind of trauma.

The most common counter argument against bullying, aside from "blame the victim," is that no bullying, in fact, is taking place. People using this line of argument will state that a given situation is simply a case of:
  • "Survival of the fittest" — i.e., the strongest, fastest and savviest were always more popular due to their abilities to accomplish and get results
  • Someone exercising the right to choose whom he/she wishes to be friends with
  • The "victim" simply being disappointed they either did not share the same successes as more gifted classmates, were not part of elite or "popular" social circles in a community (or, in some cases, were not even part of the community's social fringes), did not always get invited to birthday parties involving popular kids, have a date request from the most desirable boy/girl in class accepted, or had other mitigating factors that caused them to not obtain desired outcomes.
Sometimes, as part of the "blame the victim" argument, the accused bully will claim that an unwanted friendship is being forced upon him/her, particularly if a classmate is awkward or otherwise doesn't have the same interests, chemistry or other things it takes to become friends with and maintain said relationship. Additionally, some will argue that being bullied will motivate the victim to bigger and better success in life and sometimes use the "if you think it's bad now, wait until you get into the real world" line of argument — to wit, in the corporate world, the schoolyard bullies and elite will be nothing compared to demanding bosses, executives, managers, etc., who are interested in results and will not hesitate to express disapproval (often bluntly) if the desired results are not delivered. Hence, the bullying "steels" the victim toward demanding bosses who scream at employees who don't deliver on expectations. They seem to forget however that a CEO is interested in beneficial results for the company, whether they have to treat the employees in a nice or mean way, but a Bully is only interested in sadistically watching their prey squirm as the end result.

It doesn't help that some adults who see Bullying as nothing more than a "harmless rite of passage" tell the victims "not to be a snitch and tell on their "friend" because no one likes a tattler". They seem to grossly forget a few things, such as: 1 - The Bully is NOT a friend or someone who means anything good for the victim. 2 - Tattling is a very generic and vague term, which is also used in a Black and White Insanity context: according to the way it is used, anyone who "tattles" on an offender, be it a student sneaking candy at class, a bully tormenting a kid, or a criminal / murderer as a witness in a law court, is seen equally bad and/or guilty. Do not take in account what the offender did and its severity, the only worthwhile lesson here is that telling an authority figure what someone is doing is an inherently bad and heinous act regardless of circumstances.

One final misconception rooted in bigotry some people have, is that Bullying is some sort of "social immune system" that strikes the victims when they exhibit "unpleasant" traits. "Unpleasant" is a very subjective term, and while a lot would agree on a majority of what traits are considered "bad" (also in a subjective context, meaning what they personally dislike or have been indoctrinated to blindly hate), such as acting like a geek (enjoying Sci-Fi shows or RPG Games), nerd (being an overachiever or being curious and enjoy learning new things), or just having a poor fashion sense (never mind one may not be able to afford trendy clothes, or simply is not a fashion victim), none of these traits is bringing harm to others, so it is simply a case of "forcing your personal likes and dislikes on others" through harmful ways.

Also see Kids Are Cruel and The Bully.

As stories about bullying appear more and more often on the news and online, particularly ones involving cyberbullying (which takes the abuse far beyond the school itself), this is becoming more-and-more of a Dead Horse Trope except that stories of Type 2 can and do happen, as proven by British magazines. (So it's in limbo between Dead Horse Trope and Undead Horse Trope.) In any case, many more recent works give a much more honest take on bullying, often with advice that can actually help.

Examples

Literature
  • Harry Potter: Luna Lovegood just smiles and shrugs it off when people steal her things or give her nicknames, though her bedroom reveals that Harry & co.'s friendship is a bigger deal than she let on.
    • Subverted with Severus Snape as he still hates his bully, James Potter, years afterwards, even after he stopped being a dick. As Sirius points out, Snape gave just as good as he got. By the point James had reformed, Snape joined the nascent Death Eaters, who bullied half-bloods and "mudbloods", turned into a blood purity organization that was a cross between the Nazi party and KKK, and even after he switched back to the good side Snape wound up turning into a Sadist Teacher who took his childhood resentment out on his bully's son.
    • Done weirdly with Harry, who does not appear to suffer any major lingering trauma from his abusive and unhappy childhood, but who does have a great deal of empathy for other bullied kids - to the point where he suffers a Heroic BSOD when he sees his father and godfather horribly bullying Snape in a Pensieve Flashback.
    • The behaviour of characters such as Draco Malfoy and Pansy Parkinson could also be considered bullying and Rowling has received letters before from fans that said that something they read in the books helped them to deal.
  • Judy Blume’s Blubber describes kids' cruelty and lack of empathy very well.
  • Ben Elton's Past Mortem explores the effects of childhood bullying on adults. While the exact nature of these effects varies, in pretty much all cases it is shown to be far from harmless, and to have lasting effects on the victims..
  • The Taffy Sinclair series plays with Type 1. Taffy is implied to be the bully, as she's blonde, pretty, hit puberty earlier than most of the girls in her class, and is a bit stuck-up. It is assumed that the reader will side with Jana and her friends regarding their hatred of her, because most people can empathize with feeling inferior or intimidated by somebody more attractive, particularly during those awkward puberty year. Except that Jana and her friends have outright formed a club called "The Against Taffy Sinclair Club" which is devoted to embarrassing Taffy in any number of ways. Not until Taffy's mother and Jana's mother confront the girls about this do they have a Heel Realization and realize that they are the bullies in this case—Taffy, for all her admitted bitchiness, has never really said or done anything to them to warrant their ill treatment.

Live-Action TV
  • Ashley from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is bullied by another girl. It turns out that the bully had misunderstood her and they just exchange a few words and reconcile. Their parents, on the other hand....
  • Averted in The George Lopez Show. Carmen is a victim of Slut Shaming after her ex-boyfriend falsely tells everyone they had sex. They even vandalize her house. Even though her parents George and Angie manage to get the leader of the bullies suspended and get her ex to tell the truth, she continues to get bullied. George and Angie eventually transfer her to a private Catholic school.
  • The Big Bang Theory:
  • Friends: Ross, Chandler and Monica all mention they were bullied growing up in various capacities. It's played for laughs, even though some of the stuff sounds horrible and they suffer lingering affects.
  • In 30 Rock, Liz goes to a Class Reunion bent on Reunion Revenge against the Girl Posse and other bullies who made her life hell. She discovers that everyone at her school thought she was a bully — what she saw as hiding within a Deadpan Snarker shell, everyone else saw as being thoroughly and devastatingly bitchy in response to the slightest confrontation. And it was far from harmless for several of them.
  • Supernatural
    • One episode showed a group of two boys who bully another kid and think it is harmless until they accidentally drown him and it comes back to haunt them 35 years later when his ghost starts killing off their loved ones.
    • Also "Wishful Thinking" had a bullied kid gain Super Strength and decide to turn the tables against his tormenters. It's hard to feel bad for them, even when it's clear the kid is well on his way to becoming a supervillain. Eventually he loses his powers, but Dean pretends he still has them just so the other kids will leave him alone.
    • Yet another episode dealt with a character that was a victim of bullying and a bully himself, who had committed suicide, and spent a majority of the episode possessing victims of bullying and causing them to enact bloody revenge.
  • Mostly averted in Frasier, where we can see the Crane brothers were deeply frightened and effected by being bullied as children. That said their reactions to it were largely Played for Laughs. In-Universe Martin mainly held his opinion, not only did he not do anything to stop it from taking place but also felt ashamed Frasier ran away from his bullies instead of trying to fight them off. In a later episode he told the boys it was their own fault for being picked on because they made themselves easy targets and wouldn't be bullied if they were "normal."
  • On Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, this is so averted, it's taken to perhaps one of the further conclusions seen. Grant Ward became a psychopath Hydra member thanks to the bullying he suffered at the hands of his older brother and abuse of his parents, to the point where his brother made him torment their younger brother for being the favorite. This pretty much completely destroyed him, and traumatized him for life. When he finally got his chance, he put his older brother, now a senator, through the same thing the brother made him put the youngest through until he admitted he did it, not Grant (as he'd been claiming Grant was the evil brother), and then Grant pretended all was better. Before killing his older brother, the brother's wife, and their parents, burning down yet another family house. This is actually sort of a Running Gag of Joss Whedon works: bullying will get you FUCKED. UP.
  • Numerous times, bullying was used in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, especially in the first three seasons. Bullies were not long for this world, unless they were Cordelia Chase or Harmony, and even then, they went through mountains of character development and hell, especially on Angel. Other bullies got punished via such things as their former victim getting to be invisible, them finding out that they're bullying the most badass Badass Normal this side of Giles (seriously, don't fuck with Xander, he's ripped), getting flayed alive, or other numerous punishments. Joss Whedon hates bullies. As an outspoken atheist who specifically hates the Christian God, there's a reason the main insult he uses is calling him the "Sky Bully".
  • Dollhouse has an entire subplot involving Summer Glau's awkward, geeky character who used to be bullied and used. Nobody lucked out on that one.
  • Firefly even has a bit of anti-bullying messages, namely using Jayne. For all the hell he puts River through, not only does she end up returning it, but Mal sets him straight, almost spacing him. And then she terrifies Jayne in a random lucid moment.

Magazines

Visual Novels
  • This trope has been consistently averted in the Dangan Ronpa series. To wit:
    • The first game features Touko Fukawa's bullying and humiliation at the hands of the boy she had a crush on. While it may have led to her discovering her talents as the Ultimate Writing Prodigy, it also left her a Nervous Wreck with self-esteem issues and likely contributed to the rise of her Serial Killer Split Personality, Genocider Syo. There's also Chihiro Fujisaki, who was bullied so severely that he became a Wholesome Crossdresser just to make it stop.
    • Bullying features into the backstory of several characters in Super Dangan Ronpa 2. There's Mikan Tsumiki who was bullied by her peers (and possibly abused by her family) for so long that by the time the game rolls around, she's fallen into a habit of humiliating herself because she's so used to that being the only way to get attention. Kazuichi Souda began acting like those who bullied him because he internalized the idea that that was what it meant to be strong. Hiyoko Saionji, who frequently bullies both of them, is herself the victim of bullying by her own family, which drove her father mad. Saionji's Morality Pet, Mahiru Koizumi, was the victim of bullying by a girl she knew in middle school. It eventually got to the point where one of her friends, Satou, ended up killing the bully in an argument. Said bully happened to be the younger sister of Fuyuhiko Kuzuryuu and he ended up killing Satou in revenge. All five of the characters in question ended up falling into despair, and helped bring about the end of the world.

Western Animation
  • On Family Guy, Meg suffers from Type 1. She is occasionally harassed by Connie D'Amico, a blond, petite popular girl at James Woods High School. Some people find it acceptable since Connie is slimmer and prettier.
  • In the French animated show Lou !, twelve-years-old Lou has been bullied by the same girl since kindergarten. However, Lou doesn't suffer from any kind of trauma and her best friend is the only person who noticed anything. One day, Lou decides to tell the bully how fed up she feels, and the bullying stops, even though the girl is One Head Taller than Lou.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic
    • Type three is shown in the "Sonic Rainboom". The same bullies, as colts, show up in the flash back episode "Cutie Mark Chronicles."
    • Another Type Three shows up in "Call of the Cutie".
    • Averted in "Hurricane Fluttershy", where it's shown that the teasing Fluttershy received is a major factor in her lack of flight strength and ability, due to being insecure from said teasing to really build it up and push herself.
    • Played with in "One Bad Apple". Babs Seed's bullying is played as genuinely hurtful to the CMC and far more seriously than Diamond's. The forgiveness at the end as well as her motivation comes very close to a Type 2. Played straight in that adults take no action. Babs' bullying is the result of being bullied so badly that she's left deeply insecure about her lack of a Cutie Mark and is envious of the CMC's condfidence in this area, and only bullied the girls to keep from being bullied herself.
    • Played with again in "Flight to the Finish", where Diamond Tiara ups her usual Type 1-ish bullying into taunting Scootaloo's physical disability of not being able to fly. After a pep talk from her hero, she's more or less over it (so far), but the duration of the episode, it got to her a lot more than anything else had.
  • Care Bears: Welcome to Care-a-Lot When a girl named Madison keeps bullying a girl named Kaylee, the Care Bears advise her to tell Madison how she feels and even give her tips on body language. When Madison still refuses to stop the bullying, the Care Bears use a Care Bear Stare and Madison is forced to cool down and explain why she's been bullying Kaylee. It turns out it was a case of jealousy. They agree to be friends, but if not for that Care Bear Stare...
  • Type 2 on TOTO (This One and That One), a short-form series featuring two young cat-people, This One and That One, airing on-demand on a service called Kabillion on some U.S. cable/satellite providers. When a bully takes This Ones's sandwich, he and That One brainstorm ways to beat the bully, but are overheard by their Mom. She explains that the bully is worried because he might be about to fail math and is trying to make himself look tough. This One and That One reveal that they know his secret and offer to help him with his math, and it works. It can be watched officially, for free, here.
  • Hey Arnold!:Helga Pataki is an example of a realistic approach of why she would bully the boy she has a crush on —the titular Arnold. She comes from a home with an implicitly alcoholic mother, and an neglectful father and is The Unfavorite finding compared to her older, prettier, more academic sister Olga. Though this doesn't excuse her actions it is a backstory that lends her bullying ways Truth in Television because she comes from a bully making environment. Arnold is one of her main targets and, due to her crush on him, she's aggressive and insulting to everyone around her.