Jane Espenson & Brad Bell (Husbands) at the 2013 Anti-Bullying Coalition Mixer
This was the second year in a row the Anti-Bullying Coalition made an appearance at San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Last year they had a mixer for members of the media, and content makers, discussing ways we could all work together to both create content that put out messages about the negatives of bullying, the basic moral it is wrong, and how to cover stories on bullying to re-enforce the message of what a negative it is in our society.
After attending the mixer I recall talking to a friend in another country and he remarked that there had been some picking on kids and some hassling of younger kids ‘back in the day’ but now, with more and more international content coming in, the problem had increased noticeably. It was a wake-up call to me, because I realized in that moment that we may not be putting in messages that were pro-bullying in our shows, but as we drift away from making shows with morals in every episode, and away from programming designed to teach lessons and present the rose-tinted view of how we want people to behave and our culture to be, we are no longer specifically setting the example that bullying is bad, and harming another, or hurting their feelings should make the person doing the harming feel bad.
Does that mean we need to return to the days of Leave It To Beaver programs? I do not believe so. But if you watch shows like Melissa and Joey, The Fosters, or some of the more provocative ABC Family shows, for instance, I at least find that while they have a lot of the drama and intensity of a lot of other shows, they also have consequences, repercussions, and they hit you where it hurts, and tug at your heart when someone is hurt — leading the audience to dislike the person doing the bullying and not wanting to ever be that person.
Chase Masterson (known by many as an actress on Deep Space Nine, and Dr Who) and author Carrie Goldman are on to something powerful here, encouraging content creators to think about subplots, and characters, who bring out the best in our society, our children, and our future.
If you are at a convention where the Anti-Bullying convention has a panel, take the time to attend. They have great ideas for how to help kids support one another, instead of feeling like powerless bystanders. As Chase Masterson says in their press release, “We all love superheroes, so why not be one?”
“We all love superheroes — so why not be one?” asks Founder Chase Masterson. “We’re working to inspire, enlist and excite pop culture fandom to join us in strategies to end bullying. Partnering with the United Nations Association is both a natural and powerful choice, and we are honored to have them onboard.”
United Nations Association San Diego Chapter President Bettina Hausmann stated, “The painful effects of the preventable “disease” of bullying are wide spread, knowing no country borders, and deeply felt, often lasting for a lifetime. Rededicating ourselves and our efforts toward eliminating this poison in our homes, schools, workplaces, and communities is the social justice issue of the 21st century.”
“In our digitalized, media-driven society, pop culture has a constant influence on the way that both children and adults interpret the world. When kids see celebrities take action against bullying, it resonates strongly and sends the message that cruelty is not acceptable,” remarked Founder Carrie Goldman.
The Coalition’s panel, “End Bullying! Responding to Cruelty in Our Culture” was touted as one of the top ten events at Comic-Con and moderated by author Carrie Goldman (Harper Collins’ Bullied: What Every Parent, Teacher, and Kid Needs to Know About Ending the Cycle of Fear). Panelists included Bettina Hausmann (President, United Nations Association, San Diego), Brad Bell (Executive Producer and Star,Husbands), author Anthony Breznican (St. Martin’s Press Brutal Youth; Senior Writer, Entertainment Weekly), Ashley Eckstein (Her Universe; Star Wars: The Clone Wars), Jane Espenson (Executive Producer,Husbands), Dr. Andrea Letamendi (The Arkham Sessions), Alice Cahn (VP Social Responsibility, Cartoon Network), Tina Malka (Associate Regional Director, Anti-Defamation League, San Diego) and Masterson(Star Trek: DS9; Doctor Who: Big Finish).
Panelists discussed strategies to overcome bullying and create witnesses and allies out of bystanders; topics included geek bullying, LGBT bullying, cyber-bullying, and analyzing how media and entertainment affect our attitudes toward bullying and aggression
“Cartoon Network’s STOP BULLYING:SPEAK UP Campaign is proud to support the actors, writers, and artists who use their talent to create characters and worlds that embrace diversity and acceptance,” saidCartoon Network VP Alice Cahn. “Entertainment media has an important role to play in speaking up for youth.”
“Educators and administrators are reaching out to the ADL to help them navigate the growing problem of bullying. This provides the ADL with an important opportunity to not only address these concerns, but to deepen people’s understanding about the connections among bullying, bias-motivated behavior and hate activities,” said Tina Malka, Associate Regional Director, ADL San Diego.
“I wrote a book about the tragedy of bullying in a fictional school where such harassment went overlooked and unchecked. Unfortunately, that happens in real life more often than we want to believe,” said Anthony Breznican, author of the dark coming-of-age novel BRUTAL YOUTH. “At the ‘End Bullying!’ panel Sunday, we met real people in the audience who have been scarred by that kind of torment. They only ever needed a friend, and hopefully this panel was a place where they found many. Their heartbreak definitely broke mine, but we discovered that our pieces fit together to make something that beats much stronger.”
President Hausmann concluded, “It is a human right to live lives free of hate, violence, and ignorance — the three legs of the bullying stool. The United Nations as a global body enacted in local contexts supports efforts not only regarding anti-bullying, but pro-openness, pro-understanding, and pro-empathy. It takes dedicated individuals like Chase Masterson and Carrie Goldman, who tirelessly volunteer to promote this important cause, to unite us to stand up against bullying and discrimination. We, the UNA-USA San Diego are proud to support their invaluable works with and through the Pop Culture Anti-Bullying Coalition.”