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The Culture of Mean

Representing Bullies and Victims in Popular Culture

by Emily D. Ryalls (Author)
Textbook XII, 184 Pages
Series: Mediated Youth, Volume 30

Summary

The Culture of Mean is the first book-length feminist critical exploration of representations of youth bullying in media. Bringing into conversation scholarship on feminism, media, new communication technologies, surveillance, gender, race, sexuality, and class, Emily D. Ryalls critically examines the explosion of discourse about youth bullying that has occurred in the United States during the last two decades. Countering the monolithic and extreme cultural reaction to narratives about bullying, Ryalls argues that, while it seems common sense to view bullying as always wrong and dangerous, not all aggression is bullying and it is problematic to assume so, because it becomes very difficult to differentiate between healthy conflict and unhealthy (potentially violent) torment. Moreover, since the label "bullying" often does not differentiate between teasing, conflict, sexual harassment, and violence, increasingly the most common way to deal with young people accused of bullying is to criminalize their actions. Through an analysis of books, film, television, and journalistic accounts of bullying, The Culture of Mean shows how constructions of bullying in popular culture create an overly simplistic binary of good and bad people. This process individualizes the problem of bullying and disallows a more complex understanding of the structural issues at work by suggesting that putting an end to bullying simply requires incarcerating those evil teens who are prone to bullying behaviors. This critical perspective of bullying will be of interest to scholars and students interested in the fields of girls’ studies, cultural studies, communication, education, sociology, and media studies, as well as parents of school-aged children.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction: Mean Girls, Cyberbullying, and Bullycide: An Introduction to Bullying Culture
  • Chapter 1: Empowering Ophelia: Postfeminist Empowerment in the Mean Girl Discourse
  • Chapter 2: Bullies in the News: The Tyler Clementi and Phoebe Prince Suicides
  • Chapter 3: “I Can Be a Bitch When I Wanna Be”: Queering “Mean Boys” Through Social Aggression
  • Chapter 4: The Hierarchy of Victimhood in Bully
  • Chapter 5: “Beware of Young Girls”: Millennial Mean Girls in Scream Queens
  • Chapter 6: Prepping the Queen Bee: Mean Girls and Bad Wannabes on Gossip Girl
  • Conclusion: Trumping the Myths of Bullying
  • Index
  • Series index

Emily D. Ryalls

The Culture of Mean

Representing Bullies and Victims
in Popular Culture

About the author

Emily D. Ryalls received her Ph.D. from the University of South Florida. She is an assistant professor in the Communication Studies Department at California Polytechnic State University.

About the book

The Culture of Mean is the first book-length feminist critical exploration of representations of youth bullying in media. Bringing into conversation scholarship on feminism, media, new communication technologies, surveillance, gender, race, sexuality, and class, Emily D. Ryalls critically examines the explosion of discourse about youth bullying that has occurred in the United States during the last two decades. Countering the monolithic and extreme cultural reaction to narratives about bullying, Ryalls argues that, while it seems common sense to view bullying as always wrong and dangerous, not all aggression is bullying and it is problematic to assume so, because it becomes very difficult to differentiate between healthy conflict and unhealthy (potentially violent) torment. Moreover, since the label “bullying” often does not differentiate between teasing, conflict, sexual harassment, and violence, increasingly the most common way to deal with young people accused of bullying is to criminalize their actions. Through an analysis of books, film, television, and journalistic accounts of bullying, The Culture of Mean shows how constructions of bullying in popular culture create an overly simplistic binary of good and bad people. This process individualizes the problem of bullying and disallows a more complex understanding of the structural issues at work by suggesting that putting an end to bullying simply requires incarcerating those evil teens who are prone to bullying behaviors. This critical perspective of bullying will be of interest to scholars and students interested in the fields of girls’ studies, cultural studies, communication, education, sociology, and media studies, as well as parents of school-aged children.

“The Culture of Mean offers a sea change, asking us to reconsider everything we think we know about bullying. Through careful analysis of both public policy and media myths about bullying—that relational bullying is carried out only by girls and that it is more damaging than physically violent bullying, that bullying and suicide are inextricable, that youth inevitably use new communication technologies to cyberbully—Emily D. Ryalls makes clear that our current cultural response to bullying not only is ineffectual but also perpetuates troubling sexism, racism, classism, and homophobia. A cutting-edge and unwavering media analysis useful for media scholars, policy makers, parents, and the countless of us who have both been bullies and bullied.”—Sarah Projansky, University of Utah

This eBook can be cited

This edition of the eBook can be cited. To enable this we have marked the start and end of a page. In cases where a word straddles a page break, the marker is placed inside the word at exactly the same position as in the physical book. This means that occasionally a word might be bifurcated by this marker.

Acknowledgments

During my doctoral program at the University of South Florida, a professor questioned how we found ourselves in a class doing media criticism. “No one dreams of being a film critic,” he opined, but he was wrong. I did. My earliest passion was popular culture. On Saturday mornings, when my peers were watching cartoons, I was glued to the TV watching Siskel & Ebert. I am grateful to them for showing me at a young age that nerding out over popular culture could potentially be a career choice. I try to always remind myself how fortunate I am to live a life in which I love and critique popular culture and get to share that passion with my students who consistently turn me on to new shows and movies that I would certainly miss if left to my own devices.

While my family undoubtedly thought it strange that I spent my days off from school walking to the local video store, they have shown me unconditional love. I thank my father who I am slowly but surely turning in to, and Aunt Lorraine who I always hoped I would become. I thank my brother for never hesitating to make fun of me and, in doing so, reminding me to not take myself too seriously. I thank my godmother for continuing to beg me to not become too liberal (it’s too late, Aunt Donna), and Aunt Debbie for being always willing to see a movie with me, without asking questions, even though she knows that odds are she won’t “get” it or it will make her uncomfortable.←ix | x→ Although often exasperated by my political leanings, my family never misses a chance to tell me how proud they are of me for which I am forever grateful.

I spent a few years between my MA and PhD programs adrift, but when I got to Clemson University as a Lecturer, I met Sharon Mazzarella who helped me find my place in academia. Sharon has been my teacher, colleague, and mentor. She has shown unending support for my academic prowess (way before I trusted I was even competent). Perhaps, most importantly, Sharon mirrored for me that studying girls and girls’ media was an important terrain of critical research. Publishing this book in her Youth and Media series brings me full circle.

The students and professors I met during my time in the Communication PhD program at the University of South Florida are my friends to this day; many are cited in or served as editors for this work. I remember fondly writing with Rachel and Steve on his lanai, recognizing even then how rare those moments would be as I forged my career. Jillian was one of the first faces I met at USF; it seems apropos the next leg of my career has me following her to California. Alisha was one of the last friends I made at USF. Her extreme chattiness and willingness to share a cheese plate and a bottle of champagne are a large part of what got me through the dissertation process. I thank David Payne for stretching my brain in the classes I took with him. I thank Elizabeth Bell whose ability to balance excellent teaching, prolific research, and outstanding leadership is something I one day hope to emulate. Thanks also to Lori, Eric, Tony, Amanda, Robin, Antoine, and Linda, who all offered wisdom or a hug when it was most needed.

I wrote parts of this book as an Assistant Professor at Mississippi State University. During that time, Danny, JoAnn, Taffi, Kimberly, and Chuck Bass kept me sane. I am so thankful to The Bachelor Crew for continuing to show me love and support even after its members moved on to bigger and better things, and I offer a huge thanks to Taffi who became my travel buddy and allowed me to escape to warm beaches when things got too crazy. Watching Kimberly fight for the Gender Studies program on a conservative campus taught me so much about the kind of academic and person I want to be. More importantly, if not for her, I would not have adopted Chuck Bass who has changed my life in the loveliest ways (he wears bowties, y’all).

Details

Pages
XII, 184
ISBN (PDF)
9781433146206
ISBN (ePUB)
9781433146213
ISBN (MOBI)
9781433146220
ISBN (Hardcover)
9781433146190
ISBN (Softcover)
9781433146183
Language
English
Publication date
2018 (January)
Published
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2018. XII, 184 pp.

Biographical notes

Emily D. Ryalls (Author)

Emily D. Ryalls received her Ph.D. from the University of South Florida. She is an assistant professor in the Communication Studies Department at California Polytechnic State University.

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