Lemme wipe away my tears so I can write this. Burger King recently launched an anti-bullying PSA, and it’s surprisingly well done. Yes, I did say Burger King. As in the fast food chain that usually puts out commercials featuring their nightmare-fueling mascot, who is blessedly absent from this campaign.
These are strange times indeed if I’m willing to hear out BK even though I haven’t set foot in one for years. Although the video is at its core an advertisement meant to pull at your heartstrings, the message is important. October is National Bullying Prevention Awareness month, and according online resource No Bully, 30 percent of students worldwide experience bullying every month.
This includes verbal, social, physical, and cyber bullying, which can all be severely detrimental to those being harassed. Unfortunately, despite the prevalence of bullying, intervention does not happen as frequently as it should. This can partly be attributed to the rise of cyber bullying via social media, which is harder to spot since everything takes place online, often anonymously.
However, even in instances of IRL bullying, many remain bystanders instead of intervening. In the Burger King video, a group of teens harass a peer who is sitting alone in the restaurant. The kids are all actors, but the others present are real customers. While several adults sit nearby, the actors verbally and physically harass one of the kids. The bullies ask, “do you even have any friends?” as they pour drinks on their target’s food.
As an additional part of this experiment, BK employees also “bullied” some of their burgers by smashing and punching the food, serving customers a destroyed meal. 95% of customers angrily reported issues with their burgers. “Had you seen me bullying this burger, would you have stood up and said something,” the cashier asked one agitated customer, who indignantly replied, “YEAH!”
In contrast, only 12 percent of the customers did something about the kid being bullied. Although the bullying was a simulation, this speaks to larger issues of non-action. Especially since those involved didn’t know the kids were actors. We are at a point where even a fast food chain feels the need to speak out against bullying.
Bullying doesn’t stop as we grow up, it just goes by different names.
Harassment, assault, and aggressive behavior are all key factors of the power imbalance that is bullying, no matter the age of the aggressor. Without intervention, these behaviors remain unchecked.
“To feel defenseless, that’s one of the worst things in the world,” noted one customer, who was in the minority that stepped in to stop the harassment. “I’ve been that kid, so if I see it, I’m going to do something about it. And I hope there’s more people out there like that.”