What Does “Arthur” Have to Teach Us About Bullying?
(Don’t worry– this will be my last post about TV for the foreseeable future.)
For background, I hate Arthur. I hate everything about Arthur from its style* to its subject matter. The biggest crime of all is that it is so goddamned boooooooooring.
There was one episode that made me swear of the entire series forever. Season 14, episode 9 has a segment titled D.W., Queen of the Comeback. I urge you to watch the segment, but if you can’t (or don’t want to subject yourself to twelve and a half minutes of low res blarg with no transcript) here’s the quick and dirty: Arthur’s sister (DW) gets a haircut. The class bullies tease her for it. DW wants to come up with a snappy comeback, but instead decides to ignore the teasing. Her teacher sees what she does and rewards her maturity with a brownie. YAY LESSON LEARNED! BE THE “BIGGER PERSON” AND ALL WILL BE WELL ::confetti!::
Notice that something is missing? Oh yes, the bullies are never held accountable for their actions. The teacher doesn’t intervene while they’re making fun of DW, nor does anyone at any point in time suggest that DW talk to an adult about the shit she’s enduring. When she does bring her problem up with an adult, she is told to ignore the teasing.
Really? That’s where we’re going with this? In an age where kids are literally being bullied to death, we’re going to reinforce the lesson that silence is the key to stop bullies’ behavior? We’re going to put the onus on the victim to stop being a victim? I understand the impulse to a certain extent: we want to give kids power over their situations. All bullies want, the show writers seem to be arguing, is attention. Be that as it may (and I have a hard time swallowing that line of reasoning), this just allows the bullies to pick a different victim. Nothing is truly resolved.
The episode could have been so much better. DW could have gone to her teacher and found out that there’s an anti-bullying program at her school. The bullies could have been taught a lesson (from the adults) as to why their behavior is unacceptable. Hell, the writers could have deus ex machina-ed that shit and in a stroke of clarity, the bullies could realize that hurting people is not cool. These solutions are far from perfect, but just about anything is preferable to the “just be quiet and eventually the bullies will stop” approach.
So, in conclusion: Arthur sucks and no one should watch it. Ever.
*Where the fuck did Arthur’s nose go? Dude is an aardvark, after all.