A Disney Show Led To A Discussion About Bullying

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*SPOILER ALERT! If you watch the show with your kids and haven’t seen the “Trish gets bullied” episode, read no further!*

Sunday night, Mini watched the new episode of Austin & Ally. In the beginning of the episode, the gang (Austin, Ally, Trish and Dez) are in a discussion about the school play, Sleeping Beauty. Ally and Trish both auditioned for the lead, but Trish ended up getting it.

After a rehearsal, the group finds an online forum discussing the play. One user completely trashes Trish. The user calls her “ugly” and “sleeping not beautey” (note the spelling for later) then says she stinks.

As with everything on social media, the posts spread like wildfire. By the next morning, everyone is laughing at Trish as she walks to her locker, which is adorned with a broken mirror that has the words “Sleeping Not Beautey” scrawled across it. Trish insists it doesn’t bother her and even quips that lavender is her favorite scent when she finds an air freshener inside.

Dez, Austin and Ally praise Trish as she walks away, saying how well she is handling things. Ally comments that Trish is as tough as it gets. The next scene is Trish walking into the room where they practiced the play. She is still looking at her tablet and she starts to cry. *cut to a commercial*

Mini had been silently watching. As the commercial break started, she got up. “I can’t take this. I need a break!” By the time she walked over to the table I was sitting at, she was in tears. Both angry and upset that someone could be so mean, she cries, “Trish is funny and beautiful. I don’t understand why they would be so mean to her.”

We spent the rest of the commercial break discussing why some people are mean (they usually have issues with themselves or they are just jealous) and what Mini should do if she is being bullied. We talked about the boy she had a problem with in Kindergarten two years ago. He would just randomly hurt her. He’d grab her hair as they were sitting for circle time or shove her into the wall as they were leaving the gym. I felt like I was on the phone with the principal weekly and constantly sending notes into the teacher. The one thing Mini asked me then is the same thing she asked me now. She just doesn’t understand how someone could have so much hatred, either for themselves or someone else, that they would purposely set out to maliciously malign another (no those aren’t her exact words!).

I led her back to our couch and said we should watch the rest of the episode together and discuss further. She agreed and we watched the rest of the episode.

As it turns out, the bully happened to be none other than Trish’s understudy, Margo. When Trish confronted Margo, she admitted she was jealous she wasn’t the lead.

As Mini watched, she nodded along. “So she was jealous.”

After the episode was over, it was time to get Mini ready for bed. As she came to me to say good-night, she asked what she SHOULD do if she feels jealous of someone else. I asked her what she thinks she should do. She takes a minute then says she should just work hard for what she wants.

I put her in Margo’s shoes for a minute and asked her what Margo should have done. Mini thinks again and tells me she should have been happy to be in the play at all. I told her it’s okay to feel upset if you work for something and someone else gets it, but that doesn’t give you the right to take it out on them. If you are jealous, it is your problem, not the other person’s.

The rise of social media has made public bullying and “ganging up” on another person easier than ever. I am trying to instill morals and values into my child BEFORE she is old enough to utilize these sites. As I kissed Mini good-night, I marveled at her compassion. She herself has been bullied and in some ways identified with Trish. In a small way, it was good for my own self-esteem. My little Mini has a beautifully compassionate soul and that tells me I’m doing something right!

So thanks, Disney. Thanks, Austin & Ally.  To the writers who tackled this delicate issue, well done!

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