I watched Jodie Marsh’s new 2 part TV program Jodie Marsh: Bullied on Channel 5 in the UK last night. We saw the subject of bullying from the victim’s point of view – as you would expect. But towards the end of the first episode, Jodie also talks to a reformed bully and addresses why bullying happens in the first place.
Former glamor model Jodie meets several victims of bullying including Sawyer, who was punched so hard in the stomach, he became permanently paralyzed as a result. He says he doesn’t know why he was bullied. But he also said he would skip down the corridor, because he was so happy to go to school, and that he got called gay because he had more female friends than male friends. What teenage boys would not want to be friends with girls? Sounds like they were extremely jealous. And now Sawyer has to be in a wheelchair for life. It is no wonder he refused his bully’s eventual apology.
Jodie meets the parents of Jamie, a teenager who suffered bullying in silence until he could take it no longer and committed suicide. To add to the tragedy, after his death nothing legally could be done because Jamie wasn’t around to testify against his bullies.
Ms Marsh then takes a trip to White Pine Middle School, Ely, Nevada where Principle Aaron Hanson, since 2006, has managed to turn around the bad reputation of the school. There is now an initiative program in place to give bullies and would-be bullies a sense of purpose and responsibility. Thirty students in the top year are given “Defender” status. The Defenders are encouraged to look out for other students that might need help, and give them that help. This creates a more compassionate environment by making former bullies feel important without resorting to intimidating or attacking people. Aaron says that all children want to be cool, and “it’s cool to be kind in this school”.
He wants Jodie to meet former student, Jonathan Simmonds, who had been a bully in 6th and 7th Grade, but started to change his beahavior in 8th Grade. Jonathan says he wasn’t at all nice and he would walk down the corridor “and kids would spread”. He tells Jodie that his parents had got divorced and his sister and his neice both died and it was soon after these incidents happened that he became a bully. But he became reformed after becoming a Defender on the The Leadership program.
Jodie was bullied when she was young, and wants to do something to help others who are bullied. She wants to bring some of the American bullying initiative programs over to the UK to stamp out bullying, beause she has seen for herself that it can be done. After talking to Jonathan, Jodie says “We shouldn’t be punishing bullies; we should be helping them” and that she never thought she would think such a thing, because she hated her bullies from school.
I believe all bullies and most victims of bullying are on the Autistic Spectrum. Many bullies are, or have been themselves, bullied. The Bullied program last night stated that in the US, nearly 70% of the individuals who carried out school massacres were former victims of bullying, and that one day they had simply “snapped”. As a child I was mentally abused at home, and was a bully at school until the age of 13 (when my victim who I’d beaten in a fight a year earlier had now had a growth spurt, and flattened me – Good for him!)
One thing I know for sure is that bullies are all nervous people. They might think they’re tough and try to portray a hard, cool image, but they are only trying to hide their nerves. Sometimes in an attempt to act tough, they go too far and hurt someone. This “snapping” that happens in the case of the massacres, is a nervous breakdown. They want to kill themselves, but they are so bitter, they want to cause as much destruction as they can on their way out.
Jodie being Bullied on Celebrity Big Brother
I don’t know if Jodie remembers but I have never forgotten a particular incident on Celebrity Big Brother from 2006, where Jodie herself was bullied on TV by Michael Barrymore and Pete Burns. It was obvious to me then that all three of them displayed character traits of Autistic Spectrum Disorder. (Jodie I believed might have had ADHD, as she often knew what she was trying to say, but could not make herself understood, and would lose her train of thought). The incident wasn’t the only one where she was ganged up on, but it was one of the worst. In the end both guys managed to make her forget what her original point was, and she ended up not able to defend herself properly because they so cleverly directed the conversation.
The original topic of conversation was the order of housemates in a line-up task Big Brother gave them of Most to Least Famous People. (Number 1 being the most famous). Jodie had thought the two Americans in the house should be in Position 1 and 2, and gives a perfectly plausible explanation as to why she thought so. But other housemates had said Michael should be in the number 1 position. Jodie’s only fault in the whole matter was that she was a bit bossy when suggesting who should be 1 and 2 in the line-up. Watch below from 39:00 when Michael’s ego prevents him from believing Jodie’s explanation.
He has identified Jodie as being inconfident and a bit of a pushover, and what is more distrubing is that he forcibly prevents her from speaking. Although he doesn’t raise his voice until near the end, he cleverly speaks over her the whole time and invalidates everything that she says. He tries to appear on camera as though he is giving her friendly advice but most people (and defintely any psychologist) will see he is being deliberately intimidating.
Pete Burns seems quite harmless in the beginning, but don’t be fooled. He has also noticed earlier on in the show how poorly Jodie defends herself. Bullies are experts at this. He deftly watches how the confrontation is going between Jodie and Michael, and when Michael appears to be winning the argument, he makes his move. After all, these two guys only want to appear good to the public, so they are building allies the whole time.
And when Jodie gets genuinely upset, Pete says “Oh here we go” and accuses her of faking her tears. Then Michael joins in this new argument. I honestly believe both guys knew for certain that she was genuinely upset, but the way they are being perceived by the public is more important to them than showing compassion, and they spot the opportunity to make an ally in each other, so they gang up on her and accuse her of being fake. Notice how the original topic of conversation is very quickly forgotten once they find this common ground. The two of them keep following each other’s lead on different topics to create a majority vote. The fact that they accuse her of playing up to the cameras, reveals more of how they themselves are hard-wired, not Jodie .
Both guys had nominated Jodie earlier and Big Brother always give housemates alcohol after nominations, knowing full well things will kick off in the wee hours, once the liquid “truth-drug” takes effect. Pete and George Galloway had also argued with Jodie the previous night too. Some of these guys certainly felt threatened by Jodie being so opinionated and headstrong. After all, the most outspoken people tend not to like competition. And it’s easier to work together and pick on the weakest member than it is to compete against each other (the stronger opponents).
There is always a reason that people bully others, and it is usually to feel important, because they wouldn’t feel so otherwise. You expect many teenagers not to have discovered how to treat others well, but when people are Michael and Pete’s age, the lucky ones will have discovered that actually you can learn to be happy by being nice to others. But they are not two of the lucky ones, and for whatever reasons they continue to feel inherently insecure and unhappy. They’ll tell everyone they’re happy; they’ll even tell themselves they are happy. But its impossible to be genuinely happy and be a bully at the same time.
Jodie might not realize it, but I think she continues to be bullied. I am not getting involved in the endless Twitter feuds she has with people like Katie Price (who I believe also has ASD), but I do think that what she has to say would carry more weight if she rose above these petty squabbles. But when Being argumentative and Speaking out whenever you witness injustices are part of ASD, it can be hard to stay quiet.
I’m hoping Jodie is successful in stamping out bullying in UK schools. I’ll certainly be watching Part 2 of Bullied next week.