Bullying has been back in the headlines recently after two tough judges on X Factor New Zealand went ballistic at on one of the show’s young male contestants. Joe Irvine’s performance was good enough to earn some applause from the enthusiastic audience. But it was the long and unflinching tirade levelled at Irvine that shocked and disgusted the audience in the theatre and no doubt at home. Natilia Kills loaded up first by saying “As an artist who respects creative integrity and intellectual property, I am disgusted at how much you have copied my husband,” While judge Willy Moon was quick to add, “It’s just a little bit creepy, and I feel like you’re going to stitch someone’s skin to your face and then kill everyone in the audience.” His comment was particularly bizarre and repulsive. But when you balance their attack with the sweet and supportive comments by the other two judges and the obvious support from the audience, the comments don’t seem so powerful. That’s part of the key to nullify the bullying, is the more support you have the easier it is to handle, because the power is taken away from the bully.
Moon and Kills came across as angry and arrogant and were never going to fit with a New Zealand audience. In fact why we have to import our judges (remembering Moon is a Kiwi living New York) at all remains a mystery. Surely we have enough talent in this country to find artists who live here and are able to judge.
While these judges went too far, I think these shows are blatantly treating people like naughty dogs one minute and then treating them like your favourite pet the next. It’s designed to keep you the contestant and you the viewing public hooked. But in this case they should have been reprimanded, fined part of their fee and asked to make an apology. Otherwise they go back to England where this stuff is commonplace and do it all over again having learnt nothing. The judges should have stayed on and judged some more perhaps they would have become more humble in their approach if they’d have to put up with the outcry first hand. Instead they skulked off back to the US. So I think Mediaworks was a bit gutless for getting rid of them and actually missed out on a ratings winner.
What makes this incident stand out is that most bullying is carried on, on a much smaller scale. Bullying of this nature is quite unrepresented and effects thousands of people. TV is still arguably the most influential form of media in this country. And these shows use the potential talent like fodder for our entertainment and they don’t care much what happens to them, they come (have the fifteen minutes of fame) and then are largely forgotten about. Does anyone really care about Joe Irvine, beyond his family and friends, I doubt it. But he does now stand as a poster boy for the victim. He’s young, male, talented and gutsy. He didn’t lose his cool and held his composure in the face of a pretty full on attack. I say good on him. He should be employed as an anti bullying ambassador.
Joe Irvine is lucky in this regard. He won’t ever have to see Willy Moon or Natalia Kills again. He doesn’t have to go to school with them or meet them in the workplace on a daily basis. He is free from the bullying. I feel sorry for the thousands of adults and children who are being bullied in their homes, schools and workplaces as we speak. There can often seem to be no way out, it can seem like you’re a prisoner, after all you have to front up to these place on your own.
We have seen nationally and internationally the dire consequences of bullying. Even the bullies suffer—they have fragile egos, often experience depression and believe others have hostile intentions towards them. And for the victims being bullied is shear hell and can lead to social paralysis, acute anxiety and even suicide. It’s a problem that needs to be tackled in every sphere of life, because bullying is not simply confined to the schoolyard. It occurs in our homes and offices and in our various industries, as well as on our sports fields and playgrounds. It’s pervasive, but can be conquered given the will. One of the aspects of bullying most troubling is the fact that there are many people who still defend it as a practice. Take Celebrity Chef Gordon Ramsay for example. Here’s a man whose stock and trade are violent tirades and aggressive putdowns and generally using his power over a people to control them through fear of ridicule. But there are some who defend his behaviour saying it’s a way to get the best out of people, to make them strive for excellence. It seems there is still much work to be done to breed a gentler, more self effacing and kinder human race, it is achievable, but it’s a long and arduous road that needs care and attention and strong guiding light. It falls to the whole community to see this happens. Our parents and politicians, our sports stars and industry leaders must show the way. And the media is a key figure in this. Its harassment of people and its abuse on the dignity of the human being must stop, before we can make any headway.
– James King