Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Two Words on Bullying

Oh hey, it's 2013 now, isn't it? And I haven't posted anything here for you guys since last November. Obama was rightly reelected, of course, but predictably, we've only seen the usual disappointment from the government since. That's a matter for another irate ramble, however. Normally, as I've meant to for the past year or two and still haven't gotten to, I'd start out the new year with some big rambling post summarizing things as of late - personal, boring nonsense. There's not much to report as of late, though I'll probably babble enough about it at some point, from my having been freelancing for over a year and a half now to tentative efforts to escape the south that I've been focusing on to present ongoing health problems threatening to derail more than I care to think about.

At any rate, just over three and a half months into the year, I'm starting out 2013 with a couple of things I felt compelled to post.

I've never really been the preachy type, and I pretty much feel like writing about bullying and conveying anti-bullying messages is after school special material. I kind of expect some of the darker jokes I've made and am making in future novels may even get me accused of 'bullying' in some sense in the future due to my fondness for cruel jokes in my works of fiction. Thus, you haven't seen me write about bullying here before, and it's not a subject I particularly plan to spend a great deal of time on.

No point in making any secret of it, though - I was bullied growing up, by all sorts of people and in all sorts of circumstances. It wasn't fun, and I don't like to think about it, but it's certainly made a lifelong impact on me that's reflected in who I am today. That is, after all, what tends to happen to people who go through that. In retrospect, most of my protagonists in my novels so far were bullied too. My empathy lies with them, so I write about losers in one sense or another. Each screwed up in their own way with their own unique damage.

It's with that observation about victims of bullying that I get on to the point of this post - sharing two videos that ended up popping up on my Twitter feed within the same 24 hour duration last week, both sharing the subject of bullying. I wouldn't call either after school material, and both worth experiencing for what they are, for their opposite, and yet appropriately complementary responses to the subject.

First up we have To This Day, a collaborative animated art project with numerous contributors, adding animation and music to a dramatic poem about bullying and its lasting impact on victims by poet Shane Koyczan. I learned of it through a relevant link that cartoonist Kate Beaton posted on Twitter.

I watched this expecting to get bored and close the tab a minute or two in, thinking, "Hey, good message, but I probably don't need to listen to a seven-minute poem about the subject." Then the poem's message, wordplay, content, and tone just kept escalating - I found myself unable to break away, and to my surprise, I was actually moved. I found myself actually reflecting on my past experiences that I generally try to forget and not to think about, even though I live every day with the damage done. This isn't hokey like I cynically expected - it's just honest and powerful. It articulates with eloquence things I've definitely felt, and some I still feel, from old bruises to shades of hopelessness. So even though I don't tend to do PSA type things here on this blog - those would also require a public to read this hole-in-a-wall blog, seeing as I've been running it for close to six years now and I'm still a writer without a single published book (Hoping to change that this year) and without a readerbase to speak of - I felt the need to share this. Some part of my subconscious probably loves the idea of being some secretive writer whom nobody reads, a weird, nebulous ghost out of there on the internet left to be discovered only decades after his death. (Let's be honest, we don't have centuries left as a species.) This probably comes from the same part of myself that hates being looked at. But then every writer needs their readers, and we all need to eat to live. Anyway, watch the video. Watch it and bask in the irony of my now linking to - and actually liking - the Vimeo service after I wrote a blog post jabbing at in the early days of Spiral Reverie over a potential weird viral marketing thing they may have done that I read about on the Something Awful forums. Living up to the goon name.

Now, hit the link and watch the video.

Were you moved? Good. Few things are more important than the casual and routine exercise of empathy - most exercise it far too infrequently here in American society, and that's one of our diseases that cut right to the core of our problems politically and societally.

Now, let's move on to the second video - an episode of an ongoing web series on YouTube that I'll be highlighting sometime this year in its own blog post as I bring back my old one-part series, Internet Spelunking. (Because the internet is a cave and there are stalactites and stalagmites and this will be on the test. Also jokes about giving your brain the black lung.) That series, of course, is none other than Puddin', an ongoing series created, written by, and starring in silence Patton Oswalt's brother, Matt Oswalt, who shares his brother's gift for amazing twisted humor. (See: Patton's joke in his Finest Hour special about the stripper whose father fucked her in a Garfield mask. You weren't expecting a reference to that in a post about bullying, were you?) Of course, it's comedy legend Eddie Pepitone who carries each episode of Puddin', while Matt sits there eating pudding in the office break room where every episode takes place, largely ignoring him and trying not to crack up. In this particular episode - and they're typically pretty short - they're joined by a number of members of the hilarious 5secondfilms crew, whom I'll probably dedicate a future Internet Spelunking post to as well, because their special brand of micro-comedy is worthy of attention and regular laffos too.

Do you feel slightly violated now? Do you perhaps want to cry a little bit? Or do you feel incredibly vindicated? I saw both of these things in the same 24 hours - now you have too. And they do go together. Let's not lie to ourselves here. You've probably never seen a better pairing of bullying-themed videos in your life. And I subjected you to both of them. Take that, every bullying-themed after school special and all those televised and internet-based anti-bullying campaigns. What're you going to do? Cry about it?

So, it's 2013 now. Be cool to each other, kids. You too, overgrown kids. One of the many things adulthood has taught me, as I near the end of my twenties, is that most adults don't have any idea what they're doing either - we're all caught up in this big, ridiculous society game, just trying to survive, and we can all stand to be kinder.