On Friday, February 10th, 2012, fourteen-year-old Hunter Mack sat down in the cafeteria of Walpole Elementary School in southwest New Hampshire and shot himself in the face. He was rushed to the hospital in serious condition.
On the other side of the country, a fifteen-year-old student at Crescenta Valley High School took a running start and jumped to his death off a three-story building, in to a plaza area among his unsuspecting classmates during lunch.
The same day, articles reported a rash of teenage suicides in Russia, and how everything from domestic abuse to bullying lay behind the trend. Two friends even jumped hand-in-hand from the top of a 14-story building.
These are tragic events, and the damage and loss to such young lives--to those who have barely begun to know what the world is and what it has to offer them--is horrific. The sudden and violent ways in which they attempted to, and succeeded in, taking their lives are a dark reflection of the difficulties that teens face, and how sometimes they are driven by desperation to find “a way out."
Okay! So… does anyone want to laugh about Rebecca Black some more?
Oh, yes, it’s hilarious, isn’t it? A thirteen-year-old kid writes, sings and produces what quickly became regarded as the worst song in history, and therefore everyone who sees the video and hears the song feels entitled to, well, essentially defecate on her. Social networking sites like Twitter quickly became a mine field of not only rude comments but also psychologically damaging attacks. In an interview, thirteen-year-old Rebecca Black revealed that she was called a whore. Users told her to cut herself and die. They said that she should develop an eating disorder so that she would look pretty. And so on. No doubt, she was subjected to worse than that; there's no telling how many inappropriate comments came her way that she refuses to give voice to.
Here’s the thing that seems to get overlooked...
People told a child that she should kill herself. Or if they didn't tell her to kill herself, they did feel justified in pointing out how inferior they found her, or how she should harm herself as a method of "improvement." Either way, total strangers took it upon themselves to bash a thirteen-year-old kid.
Think about that for a moment. Those remarks were not just a case of other teenagers bullying her online; adults joined in the fray, too. On a worldwide basis. And yet, a year later, we still laugh at her pain. Would we still be laughing if such remarks had actually driven her to suicide?
Instead of wallowing in despair, Rebecca has shown incredible resilience and determination to succeed. Yet such efforts seem to be overshadowed by the public's reaction to "Friday," and the unrelenting cruel streak that is "hip" in today's technological society.
MSNBC posted an article about Black’s “Friday” on Digital Life, along with what I suppose is someone’s idea of humor--an open-skull look at Black’s head, divided in to several categories--allegedly, 63% of her exposed brain asks, “Which seat can I take?” while 25% rambles, “Fun, fun, think about fun!” Three percent points out “Yesterday was Thursday,” another 3% notices that “Tomorrow is Saturday” and another 3% tells her, “Sunday comes afterwards."
This is funny?
Perhaps in the desire to bully, people have overlooked the fact that REBECCA BLACK IS A CHILD. She’s a MINOR. She is a teenager faced with not only the regular pressures of growing up that have driven “regular” students to horrendous acts like murder and suicide, but she is constantly being subjected to ridicule and abuse of those from around the world via social networking sites. Even media outlets like MSNBC that claim to be “legitimate” news sources seem to think a funny graphic--what is essentially a picture of a child's head with her brain laid open--is harmless.
Yet what is everyone doing to her? They are continuing to bully her a full year after the release of “Friday.” She hasn't suffered enough, apparently.
As the Digital Life article from Today pointed out, “Black soon found herself in the sites of sights of 4chan’s notorious /b/ board, where members have posted contact information for Black’s school as well as her family’s contact and social networking information and a list of possible home addresses.”
So this, too, is acceptable? To not only make a thirteen-year-old girl the butt of a joke, to make her cry and feel guilty for trying to do something with her life, but then to drag it out for an indefinite amount of time and reveal everything about her personal life that you can get your hands on?
British comedian Charlie Brooker (who appears on Channel 4’s news program “10 O’Clock Live” with fellow comedians David Mitchell, Jimmy Carr and Lauren Laverne, as well as in his own show, “Charlie Brooker’s Screenwipe” on BBC Four) referred to the mad backlash against Rebecca Black as “the single biggest act of bullying in world history.” He pointed out to viewers how mean-spirited the worldwide attacks against a child had become… yet even as he did so, the adult-filled studio audience still laughed at her pain. Brooker even had to stop mid-sentence at one point and point out to them, “It’s not funny!”
Sure, Brooker himself took a few shots in Black’s direction and referred to her as having “quite an annoying voice,” like “a wasp trapped inside a polystyrene cup.” To his credit, however, he also stood up for her--and he did so a lot earlier than many other media sources dared to do, as news and entertainment sites preferred to feed off the negative backlash.
In a show of "if you can dish it out, then you’d better be able to take it," Brooker took the time in his “10 O’Clock Live” segment to address “the members of the Rebecca Black Hate Mob directly" by saying, "Dear Imbeciles: Thanks to your hard work, Rebecca Black--who you dismissed as a hopeless wannabe--is now a bona fide megastar. Look, here she is on a brilliant edition of “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” just like you’ll never be. See, she’s FAMOUS! Perhaps you’d like a picture of that image to hang on your wall? So you can look at it every morning before going to work in the megachain burger outfit you’ll be trapped in forever, selling Happy Meals with Rebecca Black’s face on them! And as you pass these to customers who accurately look at you like you’re nothing, you’ll hear Rebecca Black’s song looping on the in-store muzak system while you slave away behind the counter five days a week, from Monday through to Friday, Friday, YOU’VE go to get down on Friday because that’s the day you mop the f---ing floor.”
By the way, what did YOU do with your life at the age of thirteen?