The past month has been mind-bogglingly painful for IDROS, as I am sure it has been for many of you. It’s basically been like Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start the Fire Part Deux…in thirty friggin’ days. Another horrific mass shooting, nuclear war somehow becoming more likely to invoke Nena-like apocalyptic nightmare scenarios for the first time in 25 years, natural disasters out the yin yang (is that still a saying?), celebrity deaths that leave us shaking our heads (IDROS was particularly saddened by Walter Becker’s passing), the only Vice President IDROS likes these days got diagnosed with Breast Cancer, various examples of racism and homophobia, terrorist attacks, This is Us got the axe (kidding), another oil spill, the best quarterback in the NFL broke his collarbone (and ruined IDROS’ chances of winning his fantasy football championship this season), Kaepernick still doesn’t have a job and the movement he has spawned has caused a caustic environment throughout the nation, our president’s lack of empathy (demonstrated in numerous ways this past month) continues to embarrass and frustrate many Americans…and on, and on, and on.
But the story currently gripping the nation, sending shockwaves through the entertainment industry and beyond, finally motivated IDROS to make time in his busy schedule to hunt and peck for a stretch in an effort to make sense of all of the hopeless and catastrophic BS that haunts us as we enter the fourth quarter of 2017.
You know…the story that ensures you will never look at a potted plant the same way….ever again.
IDROS is not surprised by the news, to say the least. And obviously that is part of the problem…pretty much nobody was. Screenwriter Scott Rosenberg penned a well-written post about his Golden Goose named Harvey and the role the silence of those around him played in the sick and twisted mogul’s twenty-plus-year (likely much more) run harassing hundreds of unsuspecting women (click here if you haven’t read it yet).
While entertaining, IDROS did not find the piece to be enlightening…in fact it served only to reinforce the feeling IDROS already had upon first hearing the news…of course everybody f-ing knew. And to think: Disney owned Miramax during the time Harvey really rose to prominence. Wholesome Disney…meet your sinister underbelly. We shall see if the brass over at Mickey Mouse’s Clubhouse knew about the rat they had lurking inside their Magic Kingdom.
Disney inadvertently helped create Harvey Weinstein when they purchased Miramax in 1993. Disney also created The Lion King, a mostly accurate portrait of earth’s animal kingdom and the symbiosis necessary to perpetuate the health of life on our planet. IDROS wants to discuss these themes as they relate to pretty much all of the awful news gripping our planet. Grab a drink and a snack and make yourself comfortable…this could take a while.
Bullying is a topic of concern among most parents in America, and likely the world. It has emerged and jumped to the forefront of national dialogue in recent years in the wake of various school shootings and an increase in suicides among America’s youth. But bullying is not new. We know this because Biff Tannen, pretty much the poster-boy for bullying, was brought to the big screen in 1985, more than three decades ago. But bullying has been around since the dawn of man…in fact since the dawn of LIFE.
Animals of all species have bullies, and always have. Darwin explained the phenomenon using his theory of “Survival of the Fittest.” Alpha males of various species assert themselves in a myriad of behaviors in order to gain access to the best feeding territories, clean water, safe terrain free from enemies, or at least more easy to defend, and most importantly, to suitable mates. Females, for their part, are generally open to this display of male dominance, and often to the point of allowing (or at least accepting that) their mate is also mating with several other females, because mating with an alpha male improves the odds that her offspring will be stronger, faster and more able to survive. Bullying is a trait necessary for survival in the Animal Kingdom.
Humans have evolved. But our base instincts are still derived from our pre-civilized time as animals.
Bullying is a major problem. In fact, IDROS will go so far as to say, as far as the future of society is concerned…bullying is THE problem. It is the singular greatest problem man has…and always has been.
All conflict is a direct result of bullying. All fights are a direct result of bullying. And all wars are a direct result of bullying. Think about that. Let it sink in. Any time a person or group of people attempt to assert themselves over another, for ANY reason…they are acting the bully.
Awful criminal activity is pretty much universally some form of bullying. From blackmail to rape, human trafficking to armed robbery, pedophilia to organized crime.
Furthermore, there are more subtle forms of bullying. Bribery (which unbelievably is legal in the form of LOBBYING), harassment (sexual and otherwise) and racism. While all of these types of bullying can be overt, often they manifest in less public ways…especially in the anonymous age of the internet. But acts such as racism are learned…and so just being racist assholes in the confines of your home, around your children, without directly committing any racist acts to anyone else, can have deleterious effects.
Not only are humans wired genetically to be bullies, but we pass on bullying behavior socially and educationally as well. Children and adults alike witness aggressive or ignorant behavior at home, at school, with their friends and even in the workplace, and become infinitely more likely to act similarly.
Maybe more impactful than all of that is the cyclical nature of experience. People who are bullied, especially as children, are more likely to become bullies themselves. Children whom are molested and/or abused are exponentially more likely to become predators themselves.
Bullying is a true circle of life. Scar was a bully in The Lion King. And when he rose to (read: murderously seized) power, the kingdom became a desert wasteland. Sound eerily like any scenario that seems more and more imminent every day in the actual world?
Power is the drug that fuels pretty much all bullies. And all forms of bullying are an assertion of power over a bully’s prey.
Americans elected a friggin’ bully to be the leader of the free world. If that isn’t a complete nod to the fact that bullying is in our DNA, and that Americans have all been bullied themselves and so are now subconsciously (and unfortunately, in many cases, consciously) becoming bullies themselves by placing the king of all bullies on the proverbial Iron Throne! And our Confederacy of Dunces isn’t the only nation to have a bully in its highest office. Russia, North Korea, Syria, China, and the Philippines among others fit the bill. But our bully-in-chief has displayed a rare aptitude for bullying, demonstrating his prowess in a multitude of ways over the years: Racism, verbal abuse, threats, and of course, sexual harassment/abuse.
Sexual harassment and abuse is rampant around the globe. Vile rapes and sexual mutilations occur with ridiculous frequency…and those are the ones we find out about through the media. 50% of our society is disrespected on a daily basis…and always has been. Even some of the male population gets sexually harassed and abused. And women can be perpetrators as well.
The god-damned Fearless Girl statue on Wall Street…wait for it……was commissioned by a hedge fund that was recently outed for unequal pay practices. Hypocrisy emanates from every scandal that is uncovered. We are all guilty.
The Harvey Weinstein scandal is important. It helps pinpoint the focal point of all that is wrong with modern society. If we can identify a problem, we can then work to address and overcome it. But it won’t be easy.
When IDROS was in middle school, a bully was tormenting some peers in the hallway. The bully was pretty much twice the size of the then awkward 11-year-old IDROS. Rather than confront the bully and tell him to stop, IDROS chose to laugh at his classmates. IDROS didn’t even go and report the bullying after the fact, in private…not even anonymously. The guilt still lingers. It is compounded by the fact that IDROS felt good whilst chuckling at his peer’s misfortune. Good because IDROS wasn’t in the crosshairs himself, but also good because IDROS definitely felt better about himself at that moment because for whatever reason, this gargantuan troglodyte decided that IDROS did not deserve his wrath…which in your author’s sophomoric mind…must have meant that the asshole liked IDROS more than the unfortunate souls he was targeting. It meant IDROS was higher on the social hierarchy, in the view of our school bully, than those other “losers”…some of whom, incidentally, were my friends. The bully caught two of my scrawny classmates by their shirt collars as they tried to run away from him. I could hear one of their shirt necks rip and stretch. “You think they’re fags?” the bully asked me. “How would I know?” I answered. He then forced the two boys together face to face, draped their arms over each other’s shoulders and forced them into a hug. “What about now?” he asked, laughing. I laughed nervously. But I laughed. I said nothing. I did nothing.
I’m not saying it was putting a bag of dog-shit on my best friend’s porch, lighting it on fire and ringing the bell type behavior. But the bully wasn’t one of the cool kids, either. I think about that day sometimes. I try to make sense of it. I see the fear in the eyes of my two friends. I hear my nervous laughter. And I think about what I should have done…could have done differently. I also think about scenarios like in the aforementioned Can’t Buy Me Love, about whether if the bully was not merely a giant jock strap, but someone who was cool and revered at my school…what would I have done? What would I have been willing to do to impress them? IDROS was bullied and teased at a young age. And so this instance of not being bullied when I definitely could have been was a game changer. Rather than risk becoming a rat, a tattle tale, and thus give new reasons to Mr. Asshole to turn his charms on me, I did nothing. I said nothing. I laughed. And I even enjoyed it on some incomprehensible level.
And so I come back to Scott Rosenberg’s post. A rising tide lifts all boats…even if said tide happens to be a tsunami. At a certain point though, those boats gets smashed on the rocky shore just like everything else. He knows it. You can feel his shame, his guilt emanate from the screen you are reading. He is trying to get that monkey off his back, as he clamors for others who rose on Weinstein’s coattails to do the same. It’s got to be cathartic. But is it enough?
Look, if anyone has ever watched Beautiful Girls, a vastly underrated film that put Rosenberg on the map back in 1996, there is a scene toward the end where Mo (who was likely a bully in high school), played by Noah Emmerich, is pounding on the rich cuckold Steve’s door. When the door opens, Steve’s friends are pinned into a snowbank, and the target of Mo’s fury begins to cower and beg for mercy, Mo sees his genuine fear and also, through the open door, his young daughter. He sees the lives that hang in the balance from his and his friend’s (Matt Dillon’s) actions. He feels guilt and shame…and he feels EMPATHY, and the audience experiences it with him. Both the writing and acting are stellar.
And if Rosenberg understood this well enough to create that moment, I am going to accept his apology. Heaven knows IDROS hasn’t been perfect. We are all human. We are all bullies. We are all bullied.
But things do need to change.
Hollywood has championed a recent trend to feature television shows and movies that center around flawed anti-heroes…most of whom are BULLIES (think Tony Soprano, Frank Underwood, etc.) Even women are portrayed as bullies…Cersei Lannister, Selina Meyer, Norma Bates, etc. We, as the audience, are demanding this, and consuming it at alarming speeds thanks to on demand streaming services. Americans are living vicariously through our favorite bullies, allowing them to satisfy our subconscious desire…our INNATE desire…to be the bully ourselves.
Who among us, when Dr. Melfi was raped, didn’t secretly or openly yearn for Tony to find that piece of shit rapist and do unspeakable things to him. The writers were actually smart in not satisfying our craving, because truth be told, their closure would never have measured up to the horrors each of us likely unleashed in our own imaginations. We want this. We enjoy this.
So much so that we (and by we, I in no way want any credit for it) as Americans actually elected a head of state that reflects this inner bully.
But still, things need to change.
And it will be an uphill battle to make positive change regarding any aspect of bullying if the leader of the free world is as big a bully as the world has ever seen. I don’t care what side of the political fence you tend to occupy…the man who our countrymen elected to sit in the Oval Office is so lacking in empathy it is terrifying. So perhaps we should start there. I mean if Big Harv was fired from his own company, unceremoniously removed from its board and banished from all things Hollywood, I believe Agent Orange has earned a similar fate. Who’s starting the “Your Fired” campaign on Change.org?
Second, we need to adopt the same credo for all bullying that we do for terrorism (which is, itself, a form of bullying). See Something, Say Something. Especially for those of us who witness acts of aggression but aren’t victims ourselves. Victims often remain silent because they were traumatized, and don’t want to be traumatized a second time by reporting their awful experiences…especially given there is a chance their account will fall on deaf, or unsupportive ears. It is up to the rest of us to create an environment where bullies cannot operate, where the silence of victims and witnesses alike actually aids and abets the perpetrators.
And finally, we need to LISTEN. We need to value and respect the women (and men and children) who are victimized. We need to really hear them, and comfort them and offer to help. Sometimes we need to make hard choices, and help even when we are told not to do or say anything. IDROS is not a trained therapist, so would recommend consulting one before going rogue. But we all need to listen.
We’re all in this together…and overcoming our genetic predisposition for bullying, our psychological and physical damage from bullying as well as our awful behaviors that were taught to us by our parents, friends, peers, colleagues, siblings, teachers and other “role models” from the time we were born will be hard.
But in the incredible words of JFK, “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”
Slow clap finale as the screen fades to black.