It’s one thing to be bullied in a smaller setting, like in your school or community. It’s another thing entirely to be ridiculed on live television for the world to see.
That’s exactly what happened on the X Factor New Zealand earlier this week, in a disgusting example of how celebrities can abuse their position as a wielder of judgment on a reality singing show.
My vitriol on this topic may lead many to believe that I was personally bullied. But that’s not the case. I was not a target for bullies in high school. And I don’t even mean to say that with any type of pride.
I was social enough in high school that I knew most of the “popular” people, and yet I was also withdrawn to an extent that I was friendly with the people who would have been considered “unpopular.” I was somewhere in the middle, and therefore, simply wasn’t interesting enough to be bullied.
That being said, there was one week, when, because of random circumstance, I got on a bully’s radar. I became his “flavor of the week,” so to speak. And while I wouldn’t quite call it traumatic, I do recall how afraid I was to go to school each day that week. I was scared to turn every corner, worrying he’d be there. It’s a feeling I can’t imagine bullying victims having to experience every day.
It’s not so much the fear of getting beaten up physically. It’s the psychological torment of bullying that does the most damage to the human psyche. It’s being humiliated in public, in front of your peers, and having them laugh along that hurts the most.
Social media has evolved bullying, in both good ways and bad ways. For one, it’s created more transparency. It’s also an outlet. If you’re being picked on, then you can voice your grief online, and give people the opportunity to show you their support.
On the other hand, it’s created cyber-bullying, where you can be mocked online, in a public format for everyone to see, and in a way it’s the same as being bullied in a crowded classroom. The worst part is there’s no escaping it. Before social media, victims of bullying at least had the safety and comfort of going home after school. Now, that security no longer exists, and continues the bullying after school hours.
It’s such a frustrating thing because it’s so avoidable. Bullies don’t realize the power of their words, and just how much they are hurting people. And that’s a shame.
But for a moment, forget being bullied in a classroom, or online, and imagine getting harassed on live television. On March 15, a 25-year-old contestant on X Factor New Zealand named Joseph Irvine performed a song recorded by one of the judges, Willy Moon, and even tried mimicking his look. The results were not appreciated by another judge, Natalia Kills, who happens to be Moon’s wife.
Here’s a condensed version of what she said to Irvine: “I am disgusted at how much you have copied my husband. Do you not have any value or respect for originality? You’re a laughing stock. It’s cheesy. It’s disgusting. I personally found it absolutely artistically atrocious. I am embarrassed to be sitting here in your presence.”
Her husband chimed in, comparing Irvine to fictional serial killer Norman Bates: “I feel like you’re going stick somebody’s skin to your face and then kill everybody in the audience.”
But Kills still wasn’t done. “It’s absolutely disgusting. You make me sick,” she said. “I can’t stand it. I’m ashamed to be here.”
The public immediately responded. A petition on change.org of more than 77,000 signatures called for the immediate firing of Kills. They got their wish. Kills and Moon were both fired a day later. And that’s a good thing because it sends a universal message to kids everywhere that bullying is not OK, and that if you are bullied, the rest of the world has your back.
And in a show of awesomeness, New Zealand’s own Lorde sent Irvine cupcakes.
Kills and Moon — which might as well be the asshole version of Hall and Oates — verbally attacked Irvine with zero regard for his personal well being, and basically treated him like he was dirt. It’s a classic case of bullying, and they deserve every bit of ridicule they get.
When Peter Jackson and the actors of the Lord of the Rings arrived in New Zealand to film the epic trilogy 15 years ago, this is not the type of behavior they thought would come after them.
My solution? Let’s toss Natalia Kills and Willy Moon into the fiery pits of Mount Doom.