life Reflections

The One With the High School Bully

ugly bettyCurrently in the gym (and on planes) I’m re-watching Ugly Betty (Amazon), and I’m up to Season 3. I watched it originally as it was shown, but that was over 6 years ago now. Still, I think it’s a great show. Often passes the Bechdel test.

Today was the episode where Betty is faced with her high school bully, helps her, and then (of course) gets trodden on.

It contained a display of White Male Privilege from her boss, where he says “it’s only a title”, this, from the man who has been squabbling over a title since the start of season 1.

But the most interesting bit – spoiler alert – made me think about triggers. The traumatising event from high-school is recreated, and Betty loses the ability to think rationally. She panics.

Thinking about it afterwards, I realised, this episode was about the way bullies take the ability to be rational from their victim. Betty is a nice person, but she is torn about helping the person who bullied her (and her father!) – understandably. She makes herself do it, but is always looking over her shoulder, bracing herself, waiting for them to mistreat her, again. Reminded of the traumatising experience, she panics.

I don’t watch horror movies, but I’m told that when watching them you think “Don’t go alone into the dark forest” or whatever stupid thing people happen to be doing. Watching this, I kept wondering, why not just say, “Hey, you made my high school experience miserable and I’m not comfortable helping you now.”

But I think, Betty wanted to think she could rise above that experience in high school, that it didn’t define her. And she has, and it doesn’t. But it does define her relationship with the bully. And that might not be ideal… but it’s definitely understandable.