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School Bullying Is Harmless

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"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).

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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 "being difficult","being weird and creepy", or gets a makeover.
  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 made stronger by the bullying. Y never suffers from any kind of trauma.
  5. X harasses Y not out of sheer malice, but rather because X views it as a game or harmless teasing and genuinely doesn’t see what he does to Y as a bad thing. On the plus side, however, if X ever realises that what he’s doing is wrong, he may try to patch things up with Y and they may or may not end up becoming friends for real.
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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:

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Sometimes, as part of the "blame the victim" argument, some will argue that being bullied will motivate the victim to bigger and better success in life, or use the "if you think it's bad now, wait until you get into the real world" line (never mind that the argument is built on a fallacy). It is true, however, that bullying is just as common in the adult world, and that schoolyard bullies are nothing compared those who may be encountered later in life. In this mindset, the bullying "steels" the victim toward abusive bosses, executives, managers, etc. who are only interested in results and will not hesitate to punish those beneath them if the desired results are not delivered, regardless of feasibility or responsibility, and teaches them that this should be accepted as normal and right.

Some misguided adults see Bullying as nothing more than a "harmless rite of passage", and exacerbate the problem by telling the victims and those who attempt to help them "not to be a snitch and tell on their "friend" because "no one likes a tattler". This ignores a few important things, such as: 1 - The Bully is NOT a friend with any good intentions towards the victim. 2 - What Black and White Insanity equating sneaking candy in class to tormenting another human being calls "Tattling" is also known as "doing the right thing in the face of social pressure or physical threat". The only lesson being taught here is that you should ignore the suffering of others, and you will be punished for trying to stop wrongdoing.

One final misconception, again rooted in bigotry and victim blaming, is that Bullying is a sort of "social immune system" that strikes the victims when they exhibit "unpleasant" traits which should be corrected. "Unpleasant" is a very subjective term, defined mostly as what someone personally dislikes. Traits such as enjoying Sci-Fi or Fantasy, being a curious overachiever, or not caring about fashion are clearly flaws that society has a duty to correct for the good of the victim.

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, works in the 21st century give a much more honest take on bullying, often with advice that can actually help.


Examples

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Averted in A Silent Voice. Shouya Ishida's thoughtless bullying of deaf girl Shouko Nishimiya ends up almost ruining both of their lives when he takes it too far and gets into serious trouble, then in turn becomes the target of bullying by the rest of the class as the scapegoat for what happened to Shouko. He spends the rest of the series trying to atone for what he did as a child, as well as get over the deep psychological scars the ostracism left him with. For her part, Shouko was left with severe depression by the abuse, but she covers it up very well. Both kids attempt suicide as a result of the suffering the bullying they face inflicted on them. Ironically, the series actually had difficulty finding a publisher in Japan because a group attempted to have it blocked for focusing on Japan's very real bullying problem that they don't want to acknowledge.
  • Completely deconstructed in Suterareta Yuusha No Eiyuutan, the victim, Katsuragi Daichi, is not only blamed for the bullying he receives, by the bully ringleader, and the rest of his class, but is ignored by the teacher, with the teacher actively making the bullies' job easier by dragging him to class when he tries to hole up in his dorm room, for fear of his life. When the tables are turned after getting to the world of Randolia, and the bullies find themselves on the receiving end, they suddenly realize his trauma wasn't so "harmless" after all.
  • In My Hero Academia, Izuku Midoriya (The Hero) starts the story having endured the constant bullying of his former childhood friend mad current bully Katsuki Bakugo for ten years straight, constantly getting hit with attacks from Bakugo's Quirk (the capacity of sweating nitroglycerine and setting it off at will), being called names (his nickname "Deku" is (at first) a Malicious Misnaming Pun on the kanji of his name that means "puppet" (in the 'you're as useless as...' sense)) and in the first chapter even a Suicide Dare, all of this brought up by Fantastic Racism (Midoriya being Quirkless in a world where Everyone is a Super) and Bakugo's absurd sense of superiority. Throughout the whole story Izuku absolutely refuses to consider Bakugo as nothing else but a friend and even shrugs off some of his behavior as "Kacchan being Kacchan", and even when Bakugo endures Character Development into a more standard Jerk with a Heart of Gold, the idea of asking for forgiveness for such a long period of being a bully us never even hinted at by either boy.

    Fan Fiction 
  • Subverted in Hit List. The reason a lot of the attackers participate in Ganondorf's plan is because they were bullied, ignored, or marginalized and wanted revenge. This shows up pretty early on, when Link stops one of the shooters from killing Ruto and Darunia out of bitterness over Darnia's popularity and Ruto turning him down when he asked her out. The end of the fic has Link, when giving a speech commemorating those who died in the attack, calling for special attention to be given to bully victims, so something like that could be prevented in the future.
  • Parting Words: Subverted and deconstructed in the third chapter of the story, which takes place right after the end of the canon episode "One Bad Apple". Part of the reason why the bullying the Cutie Mark Crusaders (and to an extent, Babs) have suffered through has gotten as bad as it has is that the adults didn't do anything to really help the kids because they didn't think the bullying could possibly be that bad; it was just harmless teasing and a part of growing up. This is continued in the sequel...
    • The Great Alicorn Hunt: Bullying is portrayed realistically, via the introduction of Babs Seed's personal bullies, and it's explained that at least part of the reason she became a bully was so as to be on the giving end of such behavior for a change. We also find out that one of the reasons Twilight was so scared of being sent back to magic kindergarten in "Lesson Zero" was because she was bullied a lot as a young filly and it was giving her flashbacks. She's mostly over it by now, but it can still make her eye twitch.
  • In Danny Phantom fanfic ResurrectedMemories: Greatly Averted as it's revealed that when Ember was alive, she was severally bullied by the popular students, most especially by a girl named Alexandria Green. It's obvious that the bullying, along with several other issues she had is what jaded and embittered her into becoming an Evil Diva in the first place
  • In Mudsnake, the Headmaster has this viewpoint. When Snape confronts him about Ron mocking Hermoine behind her back, he lets Ron off easy because he's just a growing boy. He also tells Snape that he needs to get over the bullying that occured to him twenty years ago.
  • Averted to hell and back in Her Inner Demons. The reason why Sci-Twi could become Midnight Sparkle was that the bullying and disdain she received from everyone else was already making her vindictive and angry, and the events of the Friendship Games were just the straw that broke the camel's back. And the Shadowbolts end up feeling ashamed for not realizing her distress.

    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. Snape turns into a Sadist Teacher who took his childhood resentment out on his bully's son.
    • Done weirdly with Harry, who deals with bullying in his own school fairly easily, but only because he had experience with major trauma from his abusive and unhappy childhood. Harry 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 behavior 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.
  • Sweet Valley High plays with this. It's averted among the tertiary characters, showing how it affects not only the victim but the perpetrator— by the time he reforms and wants to make amends, no one wants to be his friend, and no one believes his sincere efforts at redeeming himself. But it's sometimes played straight with the main or secondary characters—Jessica and her friends often get called out for doing this to others—but rarely explicitly punished, whereas behavior from Elizabeth that could be considered this is rarely even acknowledged.
  • Family Skeleton Mysteries: Subverted in book 3, where the consequences of bullying are shown to be very serious. To the point where a girl was Driven to Suicide by a group of four cyberbullies. One of them finally confessed to being responsible... and was murdered in return, setting off the plot of the book.
  • Deconstructed in Yaqui Delgado Wants To Kick Your Ass, which specifically targets this assumption (and related ones, like Bystander Syndrome, Slut-Shaming, and the idea that transferring schools due to bullying is cowardly/an invitation for more ridicule) in its look at school bullying. Even though the ringleader is punished and the main character is able to transfer schools in the end, she's never the same afterwards and has clear signs of PTSD, taking school bullying very seriously.

    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, "After School Special", 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 something of a sociopath and a 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 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 and their parents and burning down yet another family house. This is actually sort of a Running Gag of the Whedon's 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, to realize the error of their ways and grow up out of it. 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 has bones to pick with the Judeo-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.
  • This is averted and deconstructed with extreme prejudice in 13 Reasons Why. The bullying and harassment Hannah received over a long stretch of time (which included Slut-Shaming and being blamed for her own rape) and the lack of help she got from the adults that didn't think it was anything too bad drove her past the Despair Event Horizon and ultimately kill herself. Most of the thirteen people she held responsible for driving her to do this are forced to own up to their actions and are put through the emotional wringer in the process.
  • Deconstructed in Cobra Kai. The bullying (both in-person and online) that Miguel, Aisha, Eli, and Bert have had to deal with has been largely ignored or written off by the other adults around them who didn't think the bullying was anything worth worrying too much about, even though the kids are hurting and are desperate for some kind of solution. When Johnny reopens the Cobra Kai Dojo, several kids sign up in the hopes of learning ways to defend themselves because they see the classes as the last resort they've got to resolve their problem that they have to take into their own hands. Even when some of the kids go into He Who Fights Monsters territory, the narrative makes it clear that they're still good people who've just been pushed way too far.

    Magazines 

    Music 
  • Scratch 21's song "The Rhyme" directly calls out this trope. The title is a reference to the rhyme "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me."
    "But what they forgot was/That you don't need to break my bones for you to break me"

    Newspaper Comics 
  • One early Dilbert Sunday strip played with this. Dilbert and Dogbert encounter by chance a former classmate of Dilbert's who used to bully him. Dilbert has a chat with him and at first it seems like it's a Type 4 with Dilbert claiming that the bullying made him the man he is today...a bitter adult, obsessed with thoughts of revenge. He and Dogbert then proceed to mock the former bully.

    Video Games 
  • Invoked in Bully (naturally enough) - Principal Crabblesnitch characterizes bullying as "hijinx" and "mischief." Gym coach Mr. Burton encourages bullying as a means to toughen up weak kids.
  • Yandere Simulator averts this so hard that it's the basis of two elimination methods. There's a clique of bullies at the school, and if you spread rumors about a student, the bullies will harass them. If it's your rival, you can egg the bullies on until the rival either stops coming to school (reputation at -100) or commits suicide (if you drop her reputation more). If it's a student with a 'fragile' persona, you can have them bullied near to the point of suicide and then lie to them about who was the ultimate cause, resulting in the fragile student killing your target and then themselves.
    • The aversion also figures into the backstory of the Delinquents- they were once meek and easy bully targets, the Guidance Counselor didn't interfere, and the bullying became so bad they almost committed suicide. They eventually started emulating Osoro Shidesu (your eighth rival, the delinquent leader) because they wanted to become strong enough to never be bullied again, even if it meant being feared by the other students. The Guidance Counselor herself thinks of it as My Greatest Failure, and has staked her job on reforming them in ten weeks.

    Visual Novels 
  • This trope has been consistently averted in the Danganronpa series, as every character who has been bullied (which there are a fair amount of) always came out negatively affected by it, sometimes with psychological issues persisting for years. To wit:
    • Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc: 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.
    • Super Danganronpa 2: Bullying features into the backstory of several characters. 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. Although Danganronpa 3 reveals that the reason how they fall into despair was something completely different.

     Web Original 
  • Taken to an absurd degree in the response to "To This Day Project". Not necessarily because of any of the above reasons, but because detractors criticize the program for not focusing on so-called real problems such as starving children and war...yes really. It's sadly not too hard to find similar criticisms towards pretty much any anti-bullying program.

    Western Animation 
  • On Family Guy, Meg suffers from Type 1. She is occasionally harassed by Connie D'Amico, a blonde, petite popular girl at James Woods High School. Of course, it also has a lot to do with Meg being the Butt-Monkey. Deconstructed whenever Connie ends up getting her comeuppance (usually because of the overkill involved into said comeuppance—like getting Quagmire to meet her.
  • 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.
    • Averted in "Newbie Dash", as the bullying that Rainbow Dash received at the same time Fluttershy did still hurts her when the Wonderbolts give her the Embarrassing Nickname "Rainbow Crash", which happened to be the insulting nickname she was given by the bullies. Instead of letting her new wingmates know what's going on, she instead attempts different means to dump the nickname and get a new one and her attempts disturb her wingmates and end up affecting her performance. Even after she finally admits what's going on and the Wonderbolts let her know that this sort of thing isn't meant to be out-and-out bullying, she is reprimanded for her actions.
  • 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.
  • Subverted in the Static Shock episode "Jimmy". Jimmy is constantly bullied in school and Virgil and Richie are the only ones who stand up for him at all. Virgil getting upset when Jimmy suggests showing off his dad's gun (a Berserk Button since Virgil's mom died in gunfire) and Jimmy's escalated bullying leads to him pulling the aforementioned gun on his tormentors and accidentally shooting Richie in the leg. The episode ends with the viewers being urged to step in and help anyone being seen getting bullied.
  • Decidedly averted in the Recess episode, "Gus' Last Stand," which takes a more realistic approach to Gus' bullying at Gelman's hand. Not only is Gus too scared to go out into the playground, his efforts to stick with his friends fail him, Gelman can easily see through his Paper-Thin Disguise, and even Miss Finster's threats do not deter Gelman from continuing to attack Gus. And in the climax of the episode, Gus is severely beaten in a Curb-Stomp Battle with Gelman!

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