Bullying: The Avoidable Annoyance


Picture by Cody Wilson

   Peter Parker is the epitome of a bullied high schooler. Anyone with a vague knowledge of Spider-Man comics will recall his constant harassment at the hands of Flash Thompson, the dull-witted big man on campus.

   What most fail to recognize is the reality that Parker’s troubles were ultimately his own fault. In Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s classic run on Amazing Spider-Man, he loitered near the bullies after class, ignored Flash’s attempts at reconciliation, and even threw insults back at his bully.

   Peter Parker is not as blameless as many believe he is, and this actuality highlights a larger truth that applies today: those who are frequently bullied usually bring abuse upon themselves.

   Bullies derive amusement from others’ pain, so naturally, they thrive on reactions. While the victims cannot affect those encouraging the bully, they can control their own reactions to abuse. When a jerk hurls a cruel insult, even a subtle sign of annoyance from their subject is enough to motivate them to continue the harassment.

   The absolute worst, but most common, response from a victim is an overreaction. By yelling at the top of their lungs over an offense or by returning an insult, a bullied kid might as well write the words “I am an easy target” on their forehead. These types of reactions further publicize to the bully’s actions, and nothing satisfies a tormenter like attention, whether it be negative or positive.

   Similarly, going to an adult over an incident of harassment rarely solves any underlying problems. Bullies are not naturally prone to respecting authority figures. After having a teacher or principal reprimand them, a typical rascal’s rebel streak will drive them to return to the victim with harsher threats and more harmful insults.

   Of course, physical assaults warrant the notice of an adult, as students can be suspended for such attacks. But reporting minor jibes is completely useless; administrators can only (metaphorically) slap the bully on the wrist, and they will return for more harassment.

   The quick-witted victim will instead completely ignore the bully until they grow bored and find someone else to pick on. Without any reaction from a target, the pest is deprived of attention like a fish is deprived of water. The bully is disappointed, and the potential victim is spared.

   Of course, the best defense is a capable offense. The only sure way to prevent oneself from being placed in an uncomfortable situation is to consciously take steps to avoid such a position.

   Many may feel like the only way they can avoid being bullied is to stop expressing their unique tastes. This sentiment is only partially true. For example, t-shirts with images of superheroes or other fandoms are safe. Bright pink Mohawks or Pikachu onesies, however, make kids easy targets. There is a difference between professing one’s fandom and attracting negative attention. Any aficionado should use their judgement about how they present themselves.

   Additionally, Quartz Hill High School offers many advanced courses such as AP, IB, and honors classes, all of which tend to repel idiots and jerks. Bullies need control, and they generally avoid being put in difficult classes they may not be able to handle. Instead, honors students befriend others like them in an academic, inclusive community. Intelligent kids are traditionally the bullied, so honors classes act as a safe haven for the Poindexters.

   The Fanatics Society, essentially a club for fandoms like comics and Star Wars that meets during lunch on Tuesdays and Fridays, is full of what many would consider traditional targets for harassment. However, the club members have succeeded in avoiding persecution.

   Weston Fitzgerald, a member of Fanatics, feels bullied at home by his older brother, but he is rarely picked on at school. He reasons, “That is generally because I am nice to everybody else.” Taking honors classes has also helped him dodge any pestering.

   Tim Martinez, a senior, admits, “I could be an easy target because I look like a five-year-old.” Continuing the trend, his AP route has directed him away from would-be tormentors.

   Even half a century after the publishing of Peter Parker’s debut, bullying is not an uncommon dilemma. However, any smart student can easily avoid being picked on by using good judgement. One can switch their role in life from that of a martyr to that of a survivor with but a change in strategy.