Alex Blaze

Bill Maher Could Fight Bullying by Not Bullying

Filed By Alex Blaze | October 19, 2011 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Media
Tags: bill maher, it gets better, politically incorrect, real time

New rule: You can't make an It Gets Better video if you are a bully.

Here's Bill Maher complaining about being bullied:

The man in that video who thinks it's so terrible to be bullied as a kid, who complains about certain people not knowing how to "be good" (only young people, naturally, since people Bill Maher's age can never be mean) got a lot of attention for repeatedly throwing fat hatred at the Tea Party a couple years ago (and he's still doing it). His routine was not the normal, base-level "fat people are icky" stuff that we've become inured to, but bizarrely raw hatred that was obviously intended to be mean-spirited.

In my book, that's bullying.

There's also the fact that he's called Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann bimbos, dumb twats, and "cunt." That he makes misogynist remarks about them repeatedly makes it less about insulting them and more about bullying, since bullying is never a solitary event.

I could go on. Maher's comedy is often about insulting others. Since a lot of it isn't even funny, one can only come to the conclusion that he does it for the thrill he and the audience get from meanness, not the laughs.

Bill Maher taking a stand against bullying is about as ridiculous as Dick Cheney taking a stand against torture. He's the bully on the TV showing other people that it's okay to be a bully. We wonder why we have a culture that says that it's okay to hurt others to make yourself feel better, and part of that is because of people like Maher.

If anything, his video is enlightening because it shows how spiritual violence replicates itself. Maher was bullied, and now he needs to show that he's superior to others.

He takes pride in being "politically incorrect," which just happens to be his way of justifying being mean and hoping people will laugh. There's a certain kind of person who confuses meanness with intelligence, who thinks that there's something defiant and edgy about making fun of the same people who everyone else makes fun of. That's usually the kind of person who wants to be politically incorrect (which is different from not caring about political correctness and thinking that political correctness is sometimes used to preserve privilege, mind you).

And notice how Maher's video doesn't even mention queer youth, the ostensible point of the project. Yes, bullying affects a lot of people, but teens don't follow all the gender rules get it worse and that should remain the focus of these videos. If we can't even make ourselves the point of our own community's projects, how can we expect anyone else to pay attention?

LGBTQ teens get bullied more than their peers because young people think that boys who are feminine and girls who are masculine and same-sex love are bad things. They aren't born little gender police; these are rules they pick up from adults. And when adults bully people for their gender performance, young people learn that it's a good reason to pick on others.

So it's fair to point out that Maher likes the gay jokes. A lot. We often let straight comedians off the hook if they support marriage and have gay friends (they're allies so they can behave like jerks!) but like to make gay people the butt of their jokes, but we shouldn't.

For example, how does this joke differ from the average 8th grade bully calling a classmate a fag?

The Olympics are pretty gay. Have you seen the opening ceremonies? Makes Cirque de Soleil look like a John Wayne movie. It's become so feminized. We have to find out that the javelin thrower is fighting diabetes and he was brought up in an orphanage.

Of course, he would say that it's just a joke. Lighten up.

Which is the same reaction a bully gives to those on the receiving end if they complain.

He doesn't have to take up bullying as a cause if he wants to continue to be a professional bully. He's the kid who gets bullied and who grows up and sees that it gets better not because he's freer but because now he's big and can bully others - not exactly the kind of getting better we should be promoting.


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This would probably be an interesting opportunity to have him reflect on his message and his own behavior resulting in a teachable moment...

...or an opportunity to tell him to get the hell out because we don't need his kind in The Movement. You know, whichever.

I think you're spot on when you call Maher out and when you discuss the possibility of bullying being perpetuated through victimization, but it's quite interesting that essentially, you have someone, regardless of how contrary it is to their own behavior, discussing the pain they experienced as a child, and rhetorically reduce it to "complaining" or glibness about it being "so terrible."

I have no doubt that what Maher experience was painful. And yes, kids get bullied for a slew of other reasons than being non-diadic gender conforming, though you could argue that all of it, heteronormativity in all its reach--whiteness, heterosexuality, gender conformity, and body image idealization--including being short or tiny "for a boy" is part of that.

While the movement certainly should focus on LGBT youth (since all movements should have focus), the It Gets better campaign also gets criticism for seemingly acting as though LGBT youth are the only kids that need to be told that it gets better, the only kids whose crises need to be addressed. God save the fat gay, the nerdy lesbian, the bookish trans girl, the geeky trans boy, or the awkward bisexual boy.

Regardless, drawing these lines of "who's in and who's out" for a topic like bullying leaves a bad taste in my mouth. The irony here with Maher is real, but there are more constructive ways to handle it than ridiculing his own personal experiences, blasting him for not making his message explicitly about LGBT youth, and then suggesting that he be closed out of providing a message to youth in need. yeah, Maher is a bully, but I have a feeling that more than 50% of these celebrities were both bullied and bullies in their own right growing up and into adulthood. You really know how the many members of these baseball teams, as grown men, behave off camera on their own time?

I totally agree with his comment: "Kids are mean and feral. Human beings actually have to be taught to be good people." Now if more people realized just what they were teaching their kids...

(But, yes. He's a bully. And not a very good comedian either.)

My feeling is that while Bill Maher does have a caustic voice and message that could be called bullying, he generally limits it to those people who are hypocritical. I've never seen his critique of Michelle Bachmann or Sarah Palin a matter of their gender, rather a critique of the idea that this is what the republican party thinks female empowerment should look like.

That said he's far from saintly on the matter, and I'm not amused about his olympic comments. That sia

Om Kalthoum | October 20, 2011 9:00 PM
"I've never seen his critique of Michelle Bachmann or Sarah Palin a matter of their gender...."

Take it from a woman: When men angrily throw bimbo, twat and cunt in women's faces, yes, it is "a matter of their gender" (actually, a matter of their sex). Always. Regardless of what else may be involved.

Oooooo, smooth degendering there!

I have heard that Bill Maher defames Christians in his movie 'Religulous', so it is not surprising that he might speak in a potentially in an offensive manner about other groups. On the other hand, we should certainly strongly support anyone who opposes political correctness and censorship. I'm not sure any subject should be considered out of bounds in the world of comedy.