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Geeks, Bullies and Other Casualties of Class Differentiation
The Big Fish Eat the Little Fish
Geeks would seem to be experiencing a kind of heyday over the last few years. They are being portrayed (in films) as geeks, but geeks who get their comeuppance against jocks, bullies and stuck-up cheerleaders. Unfortunately, this portrayal of geekdom is false, misleading and potentially even damaging. As an audience we are treated to a "what if" scenario in the movies where various geeks get some kind of gratification simply by being a geek. The pictures, though amusing, are entirely inaccurate, and perhaps trivialize a psychological phenomenon plaguing young teens -- primarily boys. In the movies geeks are shown to be amusing characters, perhaps smart in a certain subject, but otherwise totally naïve and unprepared emotionally for encroaching adulthood. They may be the underdogs at the beginning of a film but by the end they have been able to turn the tables. That's the movies for you.
12th Grade Darkness
When I look back at my own adolescence, I can remember encountering a number of individuals (geeks) somewhat similar to this; however, the vast majority were extremely intelligent and burdened with introversion and a deep sense of isolation.
Some teens in the 12th grade were emotionally lagging behind, and they kept to their own (since no sympathy could be obtained elsewhere). We didn't talk about sports or romantic misadventures. We talked about science fiction novels or films, physics, epistemology, and many, many other topics that kept the kaleidoscope of ideas bouncing over our heads like a volley ball.
By and large we had better developed intelligence than the jocks and ding-bat cheerleaders.
Primarily, the movies depict being in the geek class as a kind of quiet/misunderstood carnival (with various shades of darkness). This is totally false, and is only assembled to make a movie-going audience think that everything that happens at a high school level is just silly and fun, if at times awkward.
I'm not saying that the movies must always portray geekdom with absolute accuracy, with stark black and white tones. There is nothing inherently wrong with massaging the grouping and depicting it however film writers wish. I'm only saying that the depiction bears little resemblance to reality. In reality, being consigned to the geek class is not fun or cheerful or full of mirth. For those who grew up through the geek class, no further explanation is required. For those that didn't, I can only say it is a terrible feeling to be an outcast. This is an aspect of our society that has not been examined carefully or thoroughly. Often born out of this class come the numb-feeling mass murderers who simply seek revenge upon everyone who had made their life a living hell. Resorting to violence is no justification, but feeling badgered, beleaguered day after day could drive any teen into a desperate act. The despair, the sense of futility and the sense of anger are not things a society should ignore.
Today's teens can get a load of deadly ideas from movies, video games, and television. Does the media have some blame in this scenario? No doubt. Teens get ideas or kernels of ideas from the media, and they are intelligent enough to research their musings by accessing the Internet or good old-fashioned books. The greater percentage of teens just accept the bullying, the insults, the diminution of their being.
A few rare birds decide to strike back, and these are the baffling figures that so often fill our newspapers and TV news programs. The media may project the killer teens as ordinary boys, perhaps with a bent toward the dark side, but this is just scratching the surface. Every kid who has been tripped on the stairs or running the track or made to accept a punch in the face for no reason slips off the rails of being merely normal. With no surprise, they are enraged and want retaliation against the entire class that they see as undermining them. Few act upon their impulses, luckily, but the ones who develop detailed plans for slaughter are not inexplicable aberrations.
For those who do not seek immediate gratification by shooting or blowing up their classmates, the majority go on (with some scarring) to lead more or less "normal" lives. But, the injury has already been accomplished. The sense of "being different" has a life-long scarring effect. Even years of psychoanalysis may not rid an individual of an unjustified sense of inferiority.
Late at night when I cannot sleep I often think of the bullies in my school who made my life miserable. Simply remembering their faces and deeds can make my pulse quicken. I sometimes think: If I had known in advance that so and so was going to trip me up on the track, leaving deep abrasions along my shins, upper arms and palms, would I have prepared myself with a galvanized Spetsnaz machete and turned fate on its heels?
In the 1970s I could have brought into school an RPG, as there were no codes, no restrictions. In all honestly I cannot say what I would have done with some advance warning -- perhaps my own sense of anguish sent backward through time, lending me with much needed caution.
To schools today I feel it is mandatory that they practice a zero-tolerance policy about bullying. After all, it is the bullies and their courtier who create these separations in the student body, and they should be the ones who need extra focus, extra discipline. Without them we would not have teens who decide to cut themselves out of the entire loosing picture. The schools need an anonymous whistle-blower drop box to expose those students who are taking out their hostilities on other students. These remedies seem so obvious to me. I KNOW they would help tremendously in preventing the divisive schisms that tear students apart.