I didn’t experience bullying much as a kid. For whatever reason it just wasn’t a prominent issue where I grew up. The only real incident of “being bullied” I can think of was when, in 4th or 5th grade, our school music teacher put together this end of the year program and I got picked to dance “The Hussle” with a girl from one of the other classes. Apparently she had a “boyfriend” who didn’t like this very much and so he sent one of his friends to tell me that he was going to kick my ass if I danced with her.First off, I didn’t have choice. It’s not like I could go up to the teacher and say, “Oh about that dancing thing… I’m just not gonna do it. So, yeah.” Secondly, dude how legitimately threatening could you be if you’re sending someone else to make your threats for you? The answer is: About as threatening as a 4th grader from a middle-class family who lives in the F–KING SUBURBS. But really, it didn’t matter anyway because as soon as my nerd friends heard that he threatened me they went batshit crazy and started running at him and yelling what Power Ranger they were. I’m not even exaggerating here. That actually happened. I want you to imagine, like, eight 4th graders running at you with their IZOD collard shirts and penny loafers on, screaming “IT’S MORPHIN’ TIME!” as their battle-cry and flailing their arms like windmills. Terrified? Yeah man. That’s some scary shit right there. But guess what… that kid never threatened me again.
Full disclosure… I actually did some bullying. I wasn’t a bully on like a Bif Tannen or Nelson Muntz kind of level or anything, but there was this kid Michael in our church that some of us guys would pick on. We were just dicks man. Some kids would like push him down stairs and punch him. I mostly just played stupid tricks on him like untying his shoelaces and lame stuff like that. The thing about Michael was… (you’re gonna turn on me here)… he was a special needs kid. I KNOW! I KNOW! I’M ASHAMED OF ME TOO! But it happened and I’m just trying to be real with you guys. The story that I always heard (and it may not be true) was that his mother couldn’t handle things so she abandoned him and his sister when they were little and so they lived with their grandma. I had a little bit of a crush on his sister so I tried not to pick him too much. I wanted to fit in with the other kids, but I still wanted her to like me. It’s a fine line people; A fine, dangerous line. Was it right that I joined in a picked on Mike? Absolutely not. But the thing about it was, the adults were completely unaware this was going on. I have no idea how they didn’t notice, but not adult ever scolded us for picking on him. We got away with it because no one was saying anything. Even the times another kid would go too far and kick Mike really hard or throw dirt at him, and I thought to myself, “This is wrong. It must be.”, I still never told anyone. To this day I deeply regret treating him bad.
There’s a strange relationship that bullying and nerdery has. I mean, If it wasn’t for bullies, people who said something couldn’t be done and rejected any concept outside of what they knew to be “normal”, then we wouldn’t have nerds, people who are so immeasurably passionate about something that they devote their life to it and grow to understand it so well that it becomes a part of them. The most brilliant minds the world has ever know, scientists, inventors, writers, artists… they achieved success because a bully told them that they weren’t good enough, or that they didn’t matter, or that were stupid. At that point, they made a decision that they were going to shut out the negativity and focus all of their attention on what it was they loved, and the commitment to their “nerdiness” has helped shape the world as we know it today.
Nerds and Bullies have evolved into a completely different relationship over the past 15 – 20 years. Somewhere along the way, being a nerd stopped being a survival response to the jungle of society and culture and started being a choice. “I love this because I want to, and not because I have no other option.” That’s my story man. I just love comic books. I loved as a kid, and I love ’em as an adult. I never loved them because they were my escape away from a terrible home-life or because they took me to a world where bullies got pummeled by dudes in capes and masks. I just loved them because I thought they were cool. It’s far less common nowadays to define someone who reads comics as nerdy because it’s perfectly normal for a 40-something dude with a wife and kids and a full-time job to have a pull box at a local shop, even if he only reads like 3 or 4 books. Samuel L. Jackson has a pull box for christ-sake! If that “bad ass motherf–ker” does it… it’s not nerdy.
Today, Bullies have to find new things to pick on. Like, for instance, a little boy who likes My Little Pony.
That little dude right there is Michael Morones. (Yes, it does freak the shit out of me that he has the same name as the kid I picked on.) Michael attempted to commit suicide because of relentless bullying he suffered over being a fan of My Little Pony. He was picked on for being a fan and told the show was “gay”. I’ll admit, we’ve taken shots at Bronies, myself included, but, to my recollection, we’ve never crossed the line into bullying. My personal opinion, and not necessarily the collective opinion of the 4LN crew, is that I am a Nerd, not a Bully, and I do my best to not berate something out of cruelty and hate. The concept of a Brony is pretty bizarre idea for lots of people. It forces you to examine you’re definition of masculinity is some respects. I tried watching the show but it just wasn’t for me. I just didn’t get into it. Maybe as my baby daughter gets older, if she likes it then I’ll end up watching more of it, but right now, it’s just not a thing that’s happening in my world.
But this is an 11 YEARD OLD boy we’re talking about! Not a grown man! Who gives a shit if he like a cartoon about talking horses?! Guess what… My Twitter handle is @BetaRaySteve, which is a reference to Beta Ray Bill from Thor comics. Beta Ray Bill strongly resembles a horse, or “pony” if you will, and he wields a hammer similar to Thor’s Mjolnir, called Stormbreaker.
Maybe that makes me a Brony. If being a grown man and liking a talking horse makes me “gay” then call me Max Blum. And if being a talking horse makes Bill gay, then you’re looking at one bad ass, gay, talking horse that I sure as hell wouldn’t mess with if I were you.
I get there are occasionally a lot of deep, physiological explanations for why kids bully, but just like me when I was a kid, sometimes kids are just assholes. No rhyme or reason. Just entitled little punks who are clever enough to get away with being cruel because they felt like it. Is there probably a way to blame video games or cartoons for this behavior? Maybe, but ultimately, as a kid, I knew the difference between those things and real life, and so do my kids. Well… they mostly know the difference.
— Stephen Andrew (@BetaRaySteve) January 19, 2014
When did a nerd’s passion, their haven from the mediocrity of the “status quo”, become a f–king target? When did it become OK to tear into what someone loves and hatefully dismantle it like a Lego house? I suppose somewhere around the same time when nerdiness stopped being a means for survival and started being a trait. We’re nerds. That’s who we are, at the very core of our being. So that’s what you attack. It’s not our glasses, or our lame clothes, or the way we comb our hair… Bullies want to get to the marrow of who you are and infect you with their viral hatred. So maybe it’s time we stopped taking it and started banding together and yelling to the top of our lungs, “IT’S MORPHIN’ TIME!”
Michael doesn’t deserve what happened to him. He’s currently on a breathing tube and has possible severe brain damage. All because some kids said some words. But what a heavy weight those words carried. If you’d like to help out his family in any way, you can go to this GoFundMe page and donate to them.
What we love, what makes us happy, (as long as it isn’t something that harms other people) should never be something that we’re made to feel inferior about. And when we see it happening to someone else, we have to do something. I strongly encourage you to talk to the kids in your life about bullying. Let them know that if they, or someone else, are being hurt, and belittled, that’s wrong and they need to tell someone so the bullying can be addressed. Tell ’em it’s what Captain America would do…