I just finished shooting an “It Gets Better” spot aimed at inspiring Jamaican teens whom are dealing with bullying. I was asked to not only do the spot, but to also produce it as well, and in doing so it brought back memories of growing up the youngest in a family of four boys and the bullying that went along with it. Being the youngest was not easy, and as I got older, I fell prey to the bullying of my older brothers. I remember one particular incident while on vacation in New York where I had an accident and went to the bathroom on myself; I must have been about 10. My brothers gave me the nickname “Shitty Batty Rupert. For years, that name was used to bully and taunt me. It left emotional scars made it easy for me to be victimized by others. It is one thing to be bullied in school or other places, but it is even harder to deal with when you have to deal with it at home and from people who are supposed to love and protect you.
Those early experiences helped to shape my relationships with my siblings today and how I deal with people in general.
Tyler Perry in his role as Madea in his movie and play “I Can Do Bad All By Myself” gave advise to a young character telling her, “It is not what they call you, but what you answer to that is important.” I thought about that as I was contemplating what I should say in my spot. It is easy to just tell someone that it will get better, but when they are dealing with it, what you say does not really have an affect or even matters. For many of us who have gone through bullying growing up, we look back on it and say we never thought about killing our selves and there must be something wring with these children today. The thing about growing up when we did and what children today have to deal with is that our world was literally a few blocks. For many of us our world existed in a few blocks and our days were not measured by the rotation of the sun, but by what time the streetlights went on. Our world was a lot different then than their world today.
Today our teens have the whole wide world open to them through the media, Internet and the vast number of social networking sites at their fingertips. Their world is filled with music videos and magazine images of what is acceptable and what is not. For many of them to be associated with the unacceptable can be a very lonely place even for some adults let alone teens. In their world we make celebrities out of women (girls) who think so little of themselves that they would let themselves be filmed having sex with a celebrity, and anything less is uncivilized. They learn that what you have on is more important than who they are. Dr. Kings dream should have been for a world were our teens are not judged by their clothes or accessories, but by the content of their character.
We no longer live by example, but by what we see on television, and for many parents, that is what is raising our children. Some of our children know more about what’s happening with the celebrities they see on television than they do about their own parents. We live in an age where our President is referred to as Mr. Obama instead of Mr. President as if he is the butcher at the super market. We have taught our children that they live in a world that has no value or respect, so how can we expect them to respect others and not bully those who they perceive as weak. I think the campaign should not just be about telling teens it gets better…it should be about telling parents and others to make sure they do better. Do a better job raising your children to be respectful and value life, not just their own but all life.
Do I think that will happen, well stranger things have happened, but I believe that one person can make a difference. I believe that I owe it to that one person who may see my video and get the message. Perhaps it will inspire someone else to start believing that our children are truly the messages we send to a time we will not see, and to think about what that message will be.
It gets better should be more than just videos…lets make it a way of life.