This VH1 Anti-Bullying PSA Isn’t Charming, Or Cute, Or Helpful

VH1 Anti Bullying Video If someone posts this on your Facebook Feed, you have my permission to delete them, or tell them to go straight to hell, or slowly and carefully explain to them why this video does nothing to solve the horrible and widespread bullying problem that affects so many young kids today. It’s amazing that this video was even produced, much less is being spread around like it’s actually a “good message” for the youth of today – which can basically be dumbed down to I’m a nerd and you can bully me but one day I will bully you. 

Not only does this video show a whole lot of kids having things done to them that are scary, amazingly abusive, and downright savage, but it’s all done in such a jokey, cutesy fashion that this video works better as a Jackass-style guide to treating your fellow classmates like utter shit , but it’s all cool ‘bro because we rewrote the lyrics to a Gloria Gaynor song.

Bullying can drive a kid to suicide. It can alienate kids so horribly that they feel they have no other choice. It’s a serious issue, and it isn’t all as simple as some kid giving another kid a wedgie, because now bullying takes the form of raping other kids, stalking them on social media, and totally destroying their very lives.

The idea that some kids who are bullied grow up to lead happy lives where they are the bosses is fine. The idea that these kids will one day get their revenge on their tormentors isn’t. The idea that bullying can be somehow made better by a daydream accompanied with a song and dance disco number is offensive on so many levels. Kids need to be taught that it’s OK to tell an adult, to stick up for themselves, to be scared and upset and get help when they are tormented. This video may show cute kids singing a happy little song, but the reality is, bullying is a lot more serious than this. I have written far too many articles about the actual realities of bullying to find this shit charming.

(H/t: Jezebel, image: YouTube)

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  • Shelly Lloyd

    I would like to add that I don’t like the ideal that this so called “PSA” presents is that only “nerdy” or ugly, fat, kids are bullied. It almost seems as if they are victim blaming the kids who are bullied. See kids. the fat, ugly, nerds are bullied. So if you do not want to be bullied don’t be one of them. Never mind that lots of “normal” kids are bullied too.

  • Kay_Sue

    Do they not see what they are saying? Really, do they just not see it at all? How do you not see it? These are questions I need answered because I just don’t get it.

  • K.

    Really, this ad is made for hipsters. Everything about it stylistically is straight out of somewhere between 1988-1998, and the whole idea that “nerds shalleth inherit the Earth” is familiar if you are between 25 and 35 years old.

  • WriterLady

    This is horrific. in addition to all the great points you made, Eve, there is something about the “revenge” aspect that sort of makes me feel uneasy. As if tolerating the bullying now (as a kid) is okay, but you just wait to see what’s coming on down the road. Sure, they mention the bullied being the bosses of the bullies later in life, but the truly solemn tone of the whole video suggests something different—that the potential for violence or a lesser form of bullying is the appropriate ‘payback.’ No, no, no. Let’s get to the root cause of child bullying, and definitely don’t mock it. This does a disservice to everyone. Whoever created this PSA should be fired immediately, and the video should be removed…with an apology.

    • WriterLady

      I almost expected Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy” video to follow this PSA. It stigmatizes and stereotypes bullied children in so many ways, and it does absolutely nothing to help curb the causes and effects of bullying. Ugh…I’m not sure that we should have expected better from VH1, though.

    • pixie

      I agree, the revenge aspect made me uneasy, too. Especially the line “I’ll make you my slave” or whatever. None of what they’re saying is being a good boss and they’re pretty much saying THEY will become bullies themselves. Also, it’s not even close to being unheard of that a bully in school ends up successful later on in life. Some horrible kids grow up to be horrible successful people (or just successful, having repented their horrible ways)

  • tk88

    This is all showing physical bullying, and mostly of boys. Most of the “dangerous” bullying now is done at a computer. If they wanted a realistic PSA they should’ve shown a bunch of kids writing mean things on Facebook and then another kid at home crying and looking at a bottle of pills or something.

  • Alicia Kiner

    They make it sound like all victims of bullying actually end up benefiting from that bullying. As if being bullied makes you a stronger better person as an adult. I guess in some cases that might be true. But what about all these kids that are bullied so relentlessly that they commit suicide? They don’t get stronger. They don’t get better. They just get beaten.

    And it’s not like bullies are only in the form of asshats in schools. They can be classmates, parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents, neighbors, the kid down the block, some random person online. Teaching kids they will survive, and this too shall pass is a very good lesson, but this is soooo not the way to do it. What were they thinking?

    • Kelly

      I sure didn’t benefit from it. Between being bullied at school and abused at home, I look back and wonder how I didn’t kill myself. I was terrified to speak to people by the time I graduated high school. It took a lot of work to get past all that. Shit, I’m in my 30s now and I still flinch if a stranger raises a hand near me.

    • Alicia Kiner

      I honestly don’t know what to say to you, but wish I could give you a great big hug. No one should have to deal with all that. I hope things are much better for you now.

    • Kelly

      Thank you. My life is pretty awesome now but this topic still gets me riled up. I don’t want other kids to have to go through that hell.

    • brebay

      I feel you girl. That was me, and it’s hard not to think the whole world is against you when you get kicked EVERYPLACE you go. And the people who should have helped, the teachers, seem to side with the popular kids. The thing is, most abused kids (despite what country music videos would have you believe) are NOT very likeable. They’re angry, they don’t know how to have healthy friendships or relate to adults, and I think sometimes, the teachers don’t like them very much either and are all too willing to look the other way. I’m 40, I don’t flinch anymore, it may still get better for you.

    • Ann Starr

      Bullying doesn’t make a person stronger.

      The cracked ribs healed.

      The concussions healed.

      I survived my suicide attempt at 12.

      I survived having body spray sprayed into my face to trigger my asthma and my puffer held over my head until my wheezing pleas satisfied my torturers.

      I got used to carrying my entire supply of school books constantly because my locker was always stuffed with dog poo and rotten food.

      I still have panic attacks in crowded rooms or halls.

      I still can’t speak in groups of more than four.

      I still have the scars from electrical burns down my back.

      I still limp from the knee that was shattered, twice. It still aches in cold weather and makes it hard to walk.

      I still have nightmares.

      I still can’t walk down a street without looking over my shoulder.

      Bullying doesn’t ‘pass’. The scars stay for a lifetime, even when those who inflicted them have found someone else to assault.

    • Alicia Kiner

      I am so incredibly sorry for the abuse you had done to you. To me, what you are describing isn’t bullying, it’s flat out torture, criminal even. No child should EVER have to endure anything of the kind. I sincerely apologize if you felt I was in any way belittling your experiences. I assure I was not. I was speaking simply of the bullying that I saw in the video and what I saw when I was in school. And it was nothing like this.

    • Ann Starr

      I don’t think you were belittling what I went though.

      I just get very touchy about sayings like “this too shall pass” when it comes to bullying. People used to say that to me, on the rare occasion I dared speak up, along with “high school is tough”, “kids can be cruel” and “why would they do that?” and other similarly dismissive phrases.

      I don’t think for a moment you were being dismissive, but that particular saying is something of a hot button for me when connected to bullying. Sorry if I jumped down your throat.

  • Kelly

    I’m at the point where I hate when people talk about bullying on facebook. It turns into a bunch of shitheads patting each other on the back and sharing how they weren’t bullied because they’re so superior to those who were.

    “Oh, I wasn’t bullied because I actually know how to use my words to solve problems.” “I wasn’t bullied because I have a sense of humor.”
    “I wasn’t bullied because I’m athletic.”

    It’s so offensive and such bullshit. These assholes don’t seem to understand they’re saying bullied kids don’t have these qualities and therefore deserve it. It’s the same exact thing as saying, “I was never raped because I don’t wear short skirts.

    • Iwill Findu

      If you weren’t bullied there’s a good chance you were the bully. Plus I can pretty much say getting “revenge” on your old bullies sucks, even if you just call it karma. I felt nothing but pity when the kid that bullied me for 12 yrs died of cancer before the age of 30. Must be because I’m not a awful person. Who knew.

    • Kelly

      That’s a good point. I wonder if some of the offensive comments are said because the person is ashamed of their actions and gets defensive instead of owning it and apologizing.

    • brebay

      Ugh! And the ones who say if you stand up to a bully he’ll back down. Right, a boy with 50 pounds on her will TOTALLY back down to a nerdy little girl telling him off…

  • Kitsune

    My husband just was telling me about a study that just came out the shows a very strong link between being bullied as a child and mental health issues later in life, mostly anxiety and depression. The effects are apparently similar to the effects of child abuse. Since I had both as a child I’m not really surprised. This video sounds all kinds of not helpful.

    • AP

      It is child abuse. Just because it’s perpetrated by other children doesn’t exempt it from child abuse.

      We need to stop calling it by a cutsey name- bullying- and start calling it what it is: harassment, abuse, assault, vandalism, and rape.

    • Kelly

      Agreed. If someone did the things to me as an adult that were done to me at school by other children, that person would be arrested. I remember being a child and wanting to call the police after being assaulted and left bloody and told that I couldn’t because it was just “kids being kids” and that as a child I had no rights. It didn’t make any sense to me then and it doesn’t make any sense to me now.

    • brebay

      I couldn’t agree more, especially when it gets physical. Assault and battery is assault and battery. I’m not talking about 5-year-olds here, but if a 16-year old attacked an old lady on the sidewalk, he’s by tried as an adult in most places. If he attacks another 16-year-old in a school hallway, the result should be no different.

  • Rachel Sea

    Because you know what we need more of in schools where a large population can access firearms? Encouragement to revenge against your tormentors.

    • brebay

      Yeah, I think a couple of kids in Colorado tried this…great advice, VH1!

  • Katrina

    This video frustrates me because it’s so unrealistic. Not only the fat nerds are bullied, it’s anyone who dares to do and be different from the norm. I’m a fifteen year old hearing impaired girl who is also short and underweight, and I’m bullied at school and at home. I’m not a nerdy girl, although I don’t mind nerds- I’m musically inclined and I write songs. For a video that is both empowering and realistic, the following video is a lot better. The song is by my favorite artist, who with an earlier song (“Wanted”) stopped me from committing suicide in eighth grade because of my situation. This song helps me get through every day. If you have children who are bullied (God bless you, I read this site frequently and you all sound like amazing people. You give me hope) have them watch this.

    • Joye77

      Stay wonderful and stay strong!:)

    • Katrina

      Thank you so much! That made my day. Stay amazing!

  • Elli

    Thank you, Eve. Thank you so much. I don’t remember who shared it on my feed with “so amazing” / “I’m so touched” comment. I should have blocked them off my feed. I was honestly too distraught by the images to comment back. It is also not OK, BTW, to bully someone who would never get to be your boss, e.g. someone who has mental or sensory disability. It has nothing to do with whatever will come out of these people in the future. This, of course, assuming that what was done to them hadn’t scarred them for life.

    Media likes this image of the geek who’d become your boss/mega start-up billionaire type. But in fact, bullying lowers your self esteem, which will also affect your chances of becoming someone’s boss one day. And from other news: There is apparently lots of bullying, especially the sexist type, against women in high-tech. Because if you were a nerd, it’s OK when you bully, right?

  • brebay

    This is the same logic used by the kind of christians who try to convert people because “Well, if you’re wrong, you’ll end up burning in hell, so …” NOT the right reason to worship some entity and NOT the right reason not to bully. How about because it’s an asshole thing to do and you should just stop?