Tag Archives: high school

An (Awesome) Alabama Principal Channels MC Hammer For An (Awesome) PSA Announcement For Returning Students

The current state of the world sucks. Let’s all admit that.

The state of that world isn’t going to get substantially better anytime soon. Let’s concede that point, as well.

On top of that, kids and teenagers are set to go back to school in a few week, albeit in a very unusual capacity.

I remember going back to school. It was often one of the worst days of the year for me, even without a pandemic. However, even during these objectively awful times, there are still some glimmers of awesome from those who make the effort.

Case and point, I’d like to share this uplifting tidbit with you in hopes that it will make these times a bit less awful. It comes courtesy of Dr. Lee, an Alabama principal who is set to welcome his students back to class in a few weeks. However, a simple statement and some empty platitudes aren’t enough for him. He’s too cool for that.

So, despite the horrible situation with a global pandemic, he offers something that’s both informative and just plain awesome. He makes a parody video of MC Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This” for returning students. I wish I could put into words how incredible this is during these dark times. Instead, I’ll just post the link here and let the awesome speak for itself.

On behalf of your students, former high school students, and everyone else who is sick of the long string of terrible news, I thank you Dr. Lee. You’re making the world a better place by being so cool. The Hammer would be proud.

Leave a comment

Filed under Current Events, Uplifting Stories

My Graduation Speech For The Class Of 2020

G4

This week was a major milestone for a large cohort of young people. For once, it didn’t involve something overly depressing that made major headlines for all the wrong reasons. That, alone, is something to celebrate.

For many kids, both in high school and in college, this week marked the last week of classes. For the Class of 2020, this was the finish line for a journey that took some serious detours over the past several months. We all know why that is. Let’s not focus on that.

Regardless of the situation, graduation is a big deal. It’s a huge achievement for a young person. They made it through the arduous metamorphosis that is puberty and adolescence. They endured the frustrating rigor that is high school and/or college. Now, they’re ready to take a step forward with their lives.

Granted, they’re taking that step at the worst possible time. I can’t think of too many ways it could be harder for them, but that’s exactly why they deserve a little something extra. As such, I made a brief video. Think of it as my commencement speech to the Class of 2020. Many other celebrities are giving them. I’m not a celebrity and never will be, but I’d like to add my voice to that.

To the Class of 2020, this is for you. Enjoy!

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Jack's World, Uplifting Stories, YouTube

How “13 Reasons Why” Handled Male Sexual Assault in The Least Sensitive Way

The following is an article submitted by my good friend, DC-MarvelGirl 1997. We’d both been working on pieces about “13 Reasons Why” and she was generous enough to submit this. She tackles an issue that I was very hesitant to write about and for that, I thank you. She does great work on her website, which I encourage everyone to visit.


We live in a world filled with double standards. It’s by far one of the biggest diseases we have in society. I’m not putting this to the same standards of COVID 19, which is by far the deadliest pandemic we’ve ever faced in worldwide. Double standards are a different kind of disease, meaning they breed this false sense of contentment. And no, I’m not just referring to the Theon Greyjoy memes, which are truly sad and pathetic. I’ll admit it. When I look up those memes, I at first chuckle. But then I remember why they were made, and it is to point out that Theon no longer has his penis. Suddenly, those memes are no longer funny.

Theon

As much as I wish this article is about those Theon Greyjoy memes, it’s not. That’s what’s painful for me. This article is about the frankly piss-poor representations of male sexual assault in entertainment. And no, I am not referring to Burt Reynolds’ “Deliverance,” which was one of the first movies to put rape of a man into a scene. At least with that movie, it was done well. Even made for TV films like “The Rape of Richard Beck” did it better, because with “The Rape of Richard Beck,” now known as “Deadly Justice,” they blacked it out before the rape happened.

What I’m referring to is the rape scene from the season 2 finale of “13 Reasons Why.” It was the scene that made many people throw up watching it. For those of you who watched it, you know what I am talking about.

scene1

Now, I’ll admit it. I never watched “13 Reasons Why,” because it was banned from my household by my mother. And after hearing about how the show got progressively worse, I’m glad I didn’t watch any other episodes beyond the pilot. It’s a show that psychiatrists cautioned teenagers from watching, because it could be triggering to those thinking about suicide. Not only does it send the contrived message that you can use suicide to get revenge, but it handled male sexual assault in one of the worst ways possible. Because I’ve never watched the show for myself, I had to do a little bit of research on the “13 Reasons Why” wiki pages, and look up articles critiquing it. The male rape scene centers around the character of Tyler, who gets sodomized with a mop handle by a character named Montgomery. Not only was the scene unnecessarily graphic, triggering, and disturbing leaving many either crying, getting sick, or feeling disgusted, but the aftermath of it all is what I’m most critical of.

I understand that “13 Reasons Why” wanted to show that men can be raped as well. But their delivery was terrible. Like I said, the scene was downright disgusting and stomach-churning. But they didn’t bother showing Tyler doing something effective to get the bullying to stop. It doesn’t help that the teachers in the show are portrayed as incompetent of seeing what’s right in front of them, giving this sense that you cannot even trust your teachers to keep you safe. But the show didn’t bother giving us scenes of Tyler handling the aftermath with maturity. They just cut to him wanting to shoot up a school dance, mirroring the Columbine massacre which is one of the most devastating tragedies in US history.

Let’s just say, I would have handled this rape scene and aftereffects a lot differently.

scene2

If I were to write out that rape scene between Tyler and Montgomery, I would have shown the graphic violence of Tyler being drowned in the toilet and having his head slammed against the mirror. Then, I would have an extreme close-up of Montgomery’s hand reaching for the mop handle as the camera shakily backs away to display him leaning over Tyler’s back. Then, the scene would fade to black, signifying what’s to come. After that, I would have it fade into Tyler sitting on the bathroom floor with his pants down. That to me is more than enough to let the viewer know what happened, without giving you every, horrible detail of what happens. Then, there would be other scenes I’d add in.

How about having Tyler go to a hospital to be examined by a doctor? All the signs could be there, showing he’d been raped, but the doctor neglects to acknowledge this and that’s one of the things that pushes him.

How about showing Tyler being interviewed by police, but an officer telling him he was asking for it? That would also give him a reason to want revenge.

The reason why I put those two suggestions above, is because male rape isn’t given the same consideration as female rape. When a female is raped, it becomes a world-wide news story. When a man is raped, it’s not treated the same way. I tried to research cases of male rape in the recent years, and you wouldn’t know if there was, because the news doesn’t talk about it. Look at cases such as Corey Feldman and Brent Jeffs. Brent Jeffs I’m just mentioning, because his story is downright heartbreaking. He was raped by his own uncle, Warren Jeffs, the head of the FLDS. Jeffs’ story is one that many do not consider at all. Of course, people have the knowledge that Warren Jeffs raped and molested boys and girls alike, but they often forget to acknowledge that boys in that “church” were raped. They’re blinded by how horrifically the women and girls in that “church” are treated, that they forget about the boys. That to me is the saddest thing.

scene3

If “13 Reasons Why” bothered displaying how the criminal justice system fails to acknowledge male rape victims, then that would have been a much more powerful impact than Tyler trying to shoot up a school.

Overall, “13 Reasons Why” failed in a major way to display consequences of male sexual assault. They neglected important details with the character of Tyler, and didn’t even bother showing Tyler going to the authorities until season 3. And the fact that Montgomery was just arrested on the spot for raping Tyler, when there’s no rape kit having been done? I don’t buy that for one second.

However, keep in mind, they did the same thing with Hannah Baker in season 1. She didn’t go to the police reporting teachers’ negligence. She didn’t go to a hospital to be examined by a doctor. She just blamed everyone for her suicide with tape recordings, claiming it to be all their fault when she didn’t bother going to higher authority for help. And the fact that they display her mother blaming everyone as well? To me, that’s even more pathetic. I understand that you are hurting because your daughter took her own life and that she was raped. But she also failed to get help beyond going to a guidance counselor, who clearly wasn’t doing his job.

Therefore, do yourself a huge favor, and do not watch “13 Reasons Why.”

DC-MarvelGirl 1997

Leave a comment

Filed under health, human nature, media issues, philosophy, psychology, rants, television

The (Many) Reasons Why “13 Reasons Why” Fails At Confronting Serious Issues

There’s a place for mindless, shallow, escapist entertainment in this world. I would argue that place is even greater now as we cope with a global pandemic. Sometimes, you just want to turn your brain off, watch your favorite superhero movie or Michael Bay explosion-fest, and enjoy yourself. There’s nothing wrong with that.

There’s also a place for entertainment that attempts to have a meaningful, serious conversation about a real-world issue. I’d also argue that kind of entertainment is more important now than it was last year. I know this kind of entertainment is risky, especially when it tackles taboo subject or social politics. Sometimes, that effort evokes distress, disgust, or outright hate. It’s still worth doing.

However, that kind of media can be counterproductive when it gets an issue wrong, flawed, or ass-backwards. When the conversation it attempts to have is misguided or contrived, then its effects can be outright damaging.

This is how I feel about “13 Reasons Why.” It’s one of Netflix’s most serious shows in that it attempts to confront serious, painful issues. From teen suicide to bullying to sexual assault to mental illness, this show attempts to portray these issues in a way that helps us talk about them. I respect that goal. I think the show’s creators, actors, and producers had good intentions.

I also think they failed in too many critical ways.

I don’t just say that as someone taking the time to critically analyze a show. As someone who was a miserable teenager, I really wanted this show to start this conversation. I wanted it to send a good, meaningful message through its morbid themes. After the first season, I was very disappointed and a little depressed.

The premise of the show has the right ingredients. It revolves around the suicide of Hannah Baker, a teenage girl who took her own life and left pre-recorded tapes behind for her fellow students, namely Clay Jensen, to follow. The story attempts to explore what led Hannah to this grim decision that left her family, friends, and community devastated. Unfortunately, in doing so, it starts the wrong conversation.

That’s not just my opinion. Organizations like the National Association of School Psychologists and the United States Society of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology have criticized the show for how it depicts suicide. It has also been linked to an uptick in suicides and suicidal ideation among teenagers. Now, that might just be an unlinked correlation, but it’s still a distressing sign.

Then, there’s the plot of the show itself. This is where I felt the show really lost sight of its mission because, as a show, there’s a need for drama. Unfortunately, incorporating that drama undermines the conversation and, in some cases, turns it against itself.

Beyond the graphic depictions of Hannah’s suicide, which was received so negatively that was subsequently cut out, the whole show is built around a world of teenage caricatures that don’t exist in the real world. It portrays a world that relies heavily on stereotypes, gives little depth to characters no named Hannah or Clay, and makes every issue seem overly simplistic.

That’s good for dramatic moments and concise plots, but not for having real conversations about complicated issues. The people in Hannah’s life, from her parents to her friends, barely function as background characters. The authority figures, namely those in the school or in the police, are even worse. They’re essentially portrayed as never caring in the slightest, only seeing teenagers like Hannah as a nuisance.

For a show that wants to have a real conversation about teen issues, this is a terrible message. Teenagers already have an incomplete view of the world. Many of them already think nobody cares about them. The sequence of events in “13 Reasons Why” only confirms that. How is that supposed to help any teenager who might be contemplating suicide?

That’s still not the worst part, in my opinion. If “13 Reasons Why” has one glaring flaw, it’s how Hannah’s suicide essentially affirmed her motivations. To some extent, Hannah got exactly what she wanted when she killed herself and made those tapes. She punished the people she held responsible. Her story became the story that everyone talked about.

This isn’t just a terrible message with a depressing premise. It effectively misses the entire goddamn point in the conversation about suicide and teenage issues. In effect, Hannah doesn’t commit suicide because she’s clinically depressed or mentally ill. She does it as a very graphic “Fuck you!” to a world that didn’t listen to her.

It doesn’t just hurt her family. It doesn’t just cause more pain to her friends, some of which genuinely tried to help her. It gives the impression that suicide will make someone relevant. It’ll make everyone who didn’t care suddenly care. It ignores the pain caused by someone’s suicide and focuses on how it punishes those who wronged her.

Hannah was wronged. There’s no doubt about that. She was outright raped. She was a legitimate victim. If the show had decided to focus only on sexual assault and avoid suicide altogether, it might have sparked a more meaningful conversation.

However, the show grossly simplifies her issues, as though one egregious act is all it takes to send her overboard. People, even teenagers, tend to be more complex than that. On top of that, Hannah is shown to make bad choices and take little responsibility for her actions. We, the audience, are supposed to sympathize with her, but she makes that more difficult than it should be.

I wanted to like “13 Reasons Why.” I really did. I wanted it to further an issue that I think should be addressed. I was genuinely disappointed with how it panned out. The fact the show got multiple seasons only made it worse, rendering every serious issue as little more than a catalyst for drama. I don’t recommend this show to anyone if they want to confront issues like suicide and depression.

Ironically, if not tragically, Netflix already has a show that addresses these issues in a much more meaningful way. It even manages to do this with cartoon characters that depict humanoid horses. Yes, I’m referring to “Bojack Horseman.”

I understand it’s a cartoon. I also understand it’s a comedy that’s meant to make you laugh at times. However, the fact it still manages to depict the real struggles of depression and mental illness in a relevant only makes “13 Reasons Why” more tragic in the grand scheme of things.

These are serious issues that deserve serious conversations. If you can’t start that conversation better than a cartoon horse man, then you’re doing something very wrong.

Leave a comment

Filed under health, human nature, media issues, philosophy, psychology, rants, television

The Moment I Knew Puberty Began For Me

In life, there are certain moments when you know you’ve reached a certain milestone. Sometimes, it’s obvious. From the first time you drive a car to the first time you kiss someone who isn’t your mother, they stand out in your memory. It’s not always pleasant. Some moments are more awkward than others, but they mark a major change in your life.

Going through puberty is one of those things that generates more awkward moments than most. I challenge anyone to recount their transformation from kid to adult without at least one part being awkward. I’ve shared a few stories from my youth, some being a lot more awkward than others. I can laugh about them now, but they marked critical points in my life that have only become more relevant as I’ve gotten older.

For most of us, there’s no one single point when we know we’ve entered puberty. You don’t just wake up one day and know that you’re a teenager now. All those crazy mental and physical changes don’t happen all at once. If they did, few of us would survive the process with our sanity intact.

That said, there are some moments that, in hindsight, mark a particular point in your life when you realize that this transformation has become. You’ve crossed the point of no return. You’re becoming a teenager now. Eventually, you’ll become an adult. It can be daunting, but it’s a part of life.

In that spirit, I’d like to share a particular moment that still stands out to me after all these years. It’s a moment in which I realized that I wasn’t a kid anymore. Puberty has begun and there’s no going back. At that moment, it was just a strange realization that I discounted. However, over time, it became a turning point.

It happened while I was in the fifth grade. It was late spring. We had just come back from Spring Break. The weather had finally gotten nice enough to enjoy recess without heavy jackets. At the time, I didn’t think much of it. I was just glad I could stop dressing in layers.

On this particular day, though, it was very humid. Coming back from recess, everyone was a lot sweatier than usual. Being kids, we didn’t care. We were just glad to get outside and away from book reports. I don’t remember much else about what happened that day, but I can vividly recall what happened the moment we returned to class.

As soon as we sat down at our tests and my teacher got to the front of the room, she made an impromptu announcement that will forever echo in my memory.

“You all, stink.”

I swear I’m not paraphrasing. That’s exactly what my teacher told us. She was an credibly blunt, straightforward woman. She didn’t mince words and this was one instance in which they couldn’t be sugarcoated.

She took a good five minutes of class time to give an impromptu lecture on how much we smell. She wasn’t polite about it. She just said in every possible way that we really smell and we need to start using deodorant. Past teachers have told us we smelled before, but never like this. It was the first time in which I became mindful of body odor.

I was really taken aback by this, as were plenty of classmates. Keep in mind, we’re all just 5th graders. We still see ourselves as kids and not teenagers. Some were more mature than others, but we were still kids at heart. I certainly felt that way. After this, however, that changed.

When I left class that day, it started to sink in. I was going through puberty. At that point, I knew what it was. I’d taken a health class. My parents also told me about it, too. I just didn’t think it would happen for another couple years. When I looked in the mirror, I still saw a kid. Now, I took note of some very real changes.

Body odor was just one. At the same time, I started noticing acne and body hair. It was very subtle. It didn’t happen all at once, but after that day, I became much more aware of it. By the time I got to middle school, I couldn’t deny it anymore. I was a teenager at that point. That fateful day in the 5th grade was just the first time I realized it.

I’ve come to appreciate that moment more and more over the years. I still had many difficulties, as most kids do when they become teenagers. Some were more manageable than others. I probably could’ve handled it better, in hindsight. However, it’s still remarkable to think that it all began with that one fateful day.

Do you have a day like that? Is there one particular moment in which you realized puberty had begun for you? If so, please share it in the comments.

2 Comments

Filed under health, Jack Fisher's Insights, men's issues

Funny/Disturbing Stories From (Bad) Sex Ed Classes

Sex is important. Most people would agree, no matter how prudish or repressed they might be.

Talking about it is important too and this is where most people disagree. There’s no getting around it. Talking about sex with anyone, be they teachers, parents, friends, or relatives, is uncomfortable and overwhelming. Most parents avoid talking to their kids about sex and most kids are just as eager to avoid those conversations.

The internet is not always helpful, either. That’s not to say there aren’t good resources for sex education. If you’re looking for something comprehensive, informative, and accurate, I highly recommend the resources from Advocates For Youth. Do not rely on “resources” like PornHub for sex education.

To the parents out there who keep avoiding the conversation, please take note of that. If you don’t talk to your kids about sex, then chances are they’ll learn it from porn and you do not want that. Learning about sex through porn is like learning to drive a car by playing Grand Theft Auto.

Ideally, kids still receive a decent level of sex education from school. I was lucky in that the schools I went to had a fairly comprehensive sex education program. It wasn’t perfect. They did not talk about things like orgasms, intimate communication, female arousal, or how feminine hygiene products work. It was still better than most, which made the kids in my area lucky.

Others didn’t have that kind of luck. Some people receive sex education that’s both inaccurate, bias, and downright damaging. Some comes from repressive religious institutions. Some come from repressive ideologies that barely see women as anything more than baby factories. It can be disturbing. It can also be hilarious. It can even be both.

If you need proof, please check out this funny collection of anecdotes I found, courtesy of the YouTube channel, Planet Reddit. I hope you find it funny and informative. I also hope it hammers home the importance of accurate, comprehensive sex education.

If you make it through the entire video, please spare a thought for the kids who endured those classes. Let’s just hope they didn’t fill the many gaps in their knowledge through porn.

1 Comment

Filed under health, human nature, sex in society, sexuality

Recalling (And Thanking) My Favorite Teacher In High School

See the source image

I’ve made no secret of how much I hated high school. I’ve also made no secret of how miserable I was as a teenagers. I know most teenagers are inherently moody. It’s as unavoidable as acne, body hair, and homework. I was just a lot moodier than most teens and for piss poor reasons.

However, my teenage years and high school experience weren’t all purified misery. There were indeed a few notable bright spots. Since this is the time of year when high school students are preparing for their last round of tests or planning for college, I thought it would be a good time to share one of those bright spots.

It’s not a single event, moment, or achievement. It’s a person. Specifically, he was my favorite teacher out of every teacher I had up to that point in school.

Out of respect for my teacher’s privacy, I won’t use his real name. I’ll just call him Mr. Lee. If I were to list all the things that made Mr. Lee such a great teacher, it would take me all week and that’s if I skipped meals. There are some teachers who just read from books and assign homework. There are also teachers who genuinely care and genuinely love to teach. Mr. Lee was the latter.

I had him for two classes. First, I had him for a computer science class. Then, I had him for AP Calculus. In both classes, his skill and passion for teaching shined. That’s not easy to do when you’re teaching something like calculus to a bunch of hormonal teenagers, but the man made it look easy. He even seemed to have fun while doing it.

It probably helped that Mr. Lee was incredibly smart. By that, I don’t just mean he was qualified to teach those subject. Mr. Lee graduated from Harvard with honors. He had a masters degree in computer engineering. He could’ve easily gotten a job at a big tech company and earned six figures by the time he was 30. Instead, he decided to teach immature teenagers how to write computer code and do calculus.

That, alone, speaks to the kind of character this man had. He was the kind of teacher who had an answer for every question and he never needed to check a book, phone, or computer. When you asked him something, he wouldn’t just give you an answer. He’d give you a damn good reason as to why it’s the right answer.

Despite how smart he was, Mr. Lee still carried himself with uncanny humility. He never acted like he was better than everyone else for being so smart. He was actually very approachable. You could talk to the man about anything. I once had a 10 minute conversation with him about how to make the perfect pizza. I still smile whenever I recall him explaining how carefully he spread the cheese on every pie.

Mr. Lee didn’t just demand your respect. He earned it. More importantly, and this is what set him apart, he made you want to earn his respect. Nobody slouched in his class. Nobody disrespected him or tried to nap through a lesson. That was the one class you really couldn’t sleep through because Mr. Lee made every lesson so engaging.

Again, this man taught AP Calculus. That’s not an easy subject to make engaging.

He still found a way. He always found a way to make a concept easy to understand. It’s because of him that I passed every exam, including the notoriously difficult AP Calculus exam that every student dreaded. I don’t think I’ve ever been more confident taking a test that didn’t involve an essay question.

I owe that success to Mr. Lee. Without him, I would’ve been even more miserable in high school. His classes, as difficult as they were, made me feel like I was learning something valuable. I still appreciate that value to this day.

You don’t always know which teacher will impact you the most over the course of your life, but when they do, it’s worth cherishing. I doubt Mr. Lee will ever read this or remember me, but during a less-than-pleasant time in my life, he was a breath of fresh air. For that, I sincerely thank him.

Leave a comment

Filed under Jack Fisher's Insights, Uplifting Stories

Hard Life Lessons You Can Only Learn Later In Life

Life is full of hard lessons that can only be learned through hardship. Anyone who isn’t rich, beautiful, or well-connected understands that. You’re going to go through periods in life when it feels like fate, luck, and divine forces are conspiring against you. That’s not a good feeling. I understand that. It’s also a feeling that’s worth embracing.

I say that as someone who stagnated and stumbled through much of his teen years and early 20s. In terms of social skills and overall outlook, I was behind the curve longer than most. I’ve shared my various struggles from high school. I’ve also shared personal stories of major low points in my life. I don’t doubt that others have endured far worse, but the over-arching themes are the same.

When you’re young and inexperienced, you see the world a certain way. When you’re older and more experienced overall, you see it another. Time, perspective, and basic human psychology has that effect on most people as they live their lives. An unfortunate byproduct of that is there are some lessons that you can’t learn until you’re older.

That’s a sentiment I’m sure many teenagers hear on a regular basis. Some will roll their eyes and I don’t blame them. I probably did the same when I was that age. It’s also a message that most adults have a difficult time conveying because they have the benefit of hindsight. Make no mistake. Some lessons are only visible through hindsight.

For those who struggled as teenagers, like me, I imagine that’s not news to them. I also imagine there are many other lessons that weren’t obvious until many years later in life. My own parents have shared some of those lessons with me. I’ve tried to share those lessons with younger friends and relatives. It’s hard to get across. In some cases, it’s impossible.

Those lessons are still worth putting out there, if only to act as reminders through the filter of hindsight. Here are just some of the lessons that I’ve learned personally or seen in others. If you have others to share, please do so in the comments.

Lesson #1: The world doesn’t owe you anything and whining about it won’t change that.

Lesson #2: You can’t know how right or wrong someone is for you until you’ve spent more than a few years with that person.

Lesson #3: You never know for sure what you want to do with your life before and during puberty.

Lesson #4: A single failure won’t ruin your life if you learn from it.

Lesson #5: Every opportunity is a gamble, but you can control the odds to some extent through determination, work ethic, and talent.

Lesson #6: There are people in the world who are far smarter and capable than you’ll ever be, no matter how hard you work or believe in yourself.

Lesson #7: Convincing people to change their minds about anything is one of the hardest things you’ll ever do.

Lesson #8: It’s okay to be disappointed or upset, but at some point, you have to try to get over it.

Lesson #9: Like or not, having the right attitude can be the difference between happiness and misery.

Lesson #10: It’s just as easy to fall out of love as it is to fall in love.

Lesson #11: Habits, both good and bad, are difficult to break, but can be managed to some extent.

Lesson #12: People may be driven by basic needs, but are more complicated than you realize.

Lesson #13: It’s never too late to change your path or reinvent yourself, but the longer you wait, the harder it will be.

Lessons #14: Many of the things you think are important now won’t be important years from now.

Leave a comment

Filed under human nature, Jack Fisher's Insights, psychology

How I Learned A Powerful Life Lesson From “Goldeneye” (The Video Game)

goldeneyecover

I grew up during a strange time. I know every adult could make that claim with the benefit of hindsight, but I think I have some substance to back it up. It was a time when the internet barely existed, Saturday morning cartoons were still a thing, video games were still mostly toys, and MTV was the ultimate evil in the eyes of parents, priests, and teachers.

There were a lot of transitions that were just starting to happen. As a kid, I didn’t understand them. I barely even noticed them until years later. I still feel their influence and have learned many lessons as a result. Some lessons were more critical than others. I still remember the day I got my first email address and I made the password so easy that my little brother guessed it. That was a small, but critical lesson I had to learn.

Another one took place a few years before that and it involved a video game that is still near and dear to the hearts of many. That game is “Goldeneye” on the Nintendo 64. For some, just mentioning that game should bring back fond memories of countless hours spent in the basement, yelling at anyone who dared to pick Oddjob in multiplayer. Those were good times.

During that same time, I went to school in an era where things like the self-esteem movement and DARE were still a thing. It seems so archaic now, given how well-documented the failures of both initiatives have become in recent year, but it was a serious issue when I was a kid.

I remember seeing all sorts of platitudes and motivational messages on TV, in movies, and at school-sponsored events. They all conveyed the same sentiment.

You’re all special.

You’re all equally good at everything.

You can achieve anything if you’re determined and work hard enough.

It all sounds so nice, but there’s just one huge problem and it’s one my awesome, wonderful parents went out of their way to teach me. It’s not entirely true.

Yes, we’re all unique, which is not the same as being special.

Yes, we all have equal worth, but we’re not equally skilled.

Yes, you can achieve a lot with hard work, but you can’t achieve anything.

These all seem like rational, reasonable lessons to teach a kid. I’m certainly glad my parents made an effort to give me that perspective because it was hard to ignore the whole “you can achieve anything!” mantra that kept playing out every day. I admit I got caught up in it at certain times. I also got upset when I felt like I didn’t achieve something that I felt I’d worked hard enough for.

At some point, I had to learn that all this idealized encouragement was flawed. My parents did their part, but it took a particularly memorable experience to really hammer that point home. This is where “Goldeneye” comes in.

There was one summer in which this game basically dominated our entire day. I would wake up, meet up with my friends, and we’d start playing the game for hours at a time, much to the chagrin of our parents. These were good times. That, I cannot overstate. However, there was one issue that often came up over the course of that summer.

One of my friends, who I’ll call Shawn, was just too damn good at the game.

By that, I don’t just mean he won more multiplayer matches than most. I mean he always beat me. It didn’t matter which character I used. It didn’t matter which maps we played in. Aside from a few lucky shots, he pretty much kicked my ass every time I played him. Some of my other friends did challenge him, but he was still the best. That much, we all knew.

I thought he was good because he played more often than me. I thought I could eventually get to his level if I practiced enough. For a good two weeks in July, I essentially trained myself with match after match in “Goldeneye.” I tried to memorize every map. I tried to get a good feel for every character and weapon. I tried to hone my aim so that I made every shot count.

While I did improve, especially compared to some of my friends, it didn’t change the outcome. Shawn still beat me almost every time. It wasn’t that he played or practiced more. Shawn just had a natural talent for gaming. His reflexes were a lot quicker than most. He had a visual acuity that most couldn’t match. He could also concentrate in a way that was downright Zen-like.

To his credit, Shawn was humble about his skill. He didn’t brag or rub it in my face, although he certainly could have. He didn’t have to in order to get the point across. In certain activities, be they sports, video games, or underwater basket weaving, there are just people who are inherently more talented. It doesn’t matter how hard you work or how much you train. You just aren’t going to reach their level.

I eventually came to accept that. It was the first time it really sank in. Hard work and dedication won’t help you achieve everything. It can help, but there are going to be people who just have more talent and you can’t always work around that. It was a hard truth that I’d tried to avoid up to that point, but after that summer, I came to accept it.

Coincidentally, this is around the same time when I stopped taking those self-esteem messages at school seriously. As I got older, my perspective became a bit more realistic. In the long run, that probably served me better than just blindly believing I could do anything if I worked hard enough. I genuinely worry how much I would’ve crushed my spirit if I had to learn that lesson the hard way later in life.

Again, I got lucky. On top of having two great parents who kept me anchored, I had a friend who was just naturally talented at kicking my ass in “Goldeneye.” While all those losses were annoying, they taught me a valuable lesson and one that still helps me to this day.

To Shawn, who I hope reads this one day, I sincerely thank you for that.

Also, I apologize for all those times I threw my controller at you.

Leave a comment

Filed under Jack Fisher's Insights, psychology, video games

Torn Between Childhood And Adulthood: The Journey Of Bobby Hill

mjphkd8z03611

The greatness of a TV show is often measured in how endearing the characters are. Whether it has dramatic themes like “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad” or over-the-top comedy like “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia,” TV shows thrive and fail by the strength of their characters.

A show like “King of the Hill” is a good example of this and not just because it has plenty of great characters. The personalities and stories of characters like Hank Hill, Boomhauer, and Luanne are all endearing in their own unique way. I’ve even gone out of my way to praise Hank Hill on multiple occasions for his work ethic and his unique approach to masculinity.

However, “King of the Hill” is unique in the sheer range of characters it offers, with respect to likability. Characters like Bill Dautrieve and Khan Souphanousinphone have definite flaws, but do plenty to warrant respect. Peggy Hill is a textbook narcissist, but still does plenty to balance it out. Dale Gribble is a paranoid idiot, but he’s still a loyal friend and just fun to be around.

There are also a few characters who are just assholes most of the time. While the show goes out of its way to balance everyone to some extent, there’s only so much you can do with characters like Cotton Hill and Buck Strickland. I could say a lot about those two, in terms of how they impact the themes of the show, but I’d like to focus on a character who has confounded me over the years.

Confounded, yet entertained.

Of all the colorful characters that make “King of the Hill” one of my favorite shows of all time, Bobby Hill is the one I’m most conflicted about. I’ve always had mixed feelings about him. I can watch one episode where I have no sympathy for him, but in the very next, he’ll come off as one of the most respectable characters in Arlen.

Some of that might have to do with me, as a viewer. When I started watching this show, I was younger and had a lot more in common with Bobby. We were both overwhelmed by the prospect of growing up. We often felt beleaguered by school, adults, and puberty. I related to him a lot more than I did with the adults in the show.

Then, as I re-watched those same episodes as an adult, I saw Bobby in a different light. I had a hard time sympathizing with his struggles in certain episodes. At times, he came off as some immature kid trying desperately to avoid responsibility and hard work. In one episode, he became a full-fledged panhandler.

At the same time, Bobby had moments where he genuinely shined. While I would argue that the series finale was his finest hour and the culmination of his growth, he also had other moments in which he stepped up to do something awesome. He was, in my opinion, the most confounding characters in the entire show.

Now, after having watched and re-watched every episode of “King of the Hill,” while also having the benefit of my own personal growth, I feel like I can appreciate Bobby’s character in a new way. In terms of the bigger picture, Bobby Hill represents an important theme in the show. Specifically, his story revolves around someone torn between adulthood and childhood.

While “King of the Hill” has many themes, Bobby’s were often tied to his youth and that youth was often the catalyst for his misadventures. When the show begins, he’s 11-year-old. By the time it ends, he’s 13-years-old. These are some formative years in a boy’s life and the show takes full advantage of that.

In the first several seasons, Bobby definitely carries himself as a kid. His behavior is distinctly childlike, from using his dad’s golf clubs to hit dog shit to taking part in a camping trip in which he accidentally kills an endangered animal. Then, over the course of the show, his stories evolve. He starts getting interested in girls and sees the effects of puberty on his best friend. At times, he’s more than a little overwhelmed.

In some cases, he wants to be an adult. He even enjoys the maturity and status that comes with it. In others, he actively avoids it, clinging to his childhood and the carefree innocence that it entails. Granted, there are times when he just wants to be lazy. At one point, he states outright that he prefers taking baths because he doesn’t like standing for so long.

However, there are plenty of other instances in which he sees the rigors of adulthood and doesn’t find it the least bit appealing. It doesn’t help that he’s had some very unpleasant experiences with the adult world, which includes one in which he ran out onto a racetrack because of an asshole boss. After an experience like that, who wouldn’t long for the more sheltered life of childhood?

To some extent, it’s not entirely Bobby’s fault that the adult world is so overwhelming. His laziness doesn’t help, but there are times when Hank’s uptight parenting skills actively contribute to the problem. The only reason he had that aforementioned job at a racetrack was because Hank tried to teach him a lesson about hard work and it taught him the wrong lesson, entirely.

On top of that, Peggy often babies him in ways that reinforce how much easier and carefree it is to be a child. Whether it’s cutting his hair or giving him one of Hank’s old trophies, she often makes childhood feel a lot easier and safer, albeit indirectly. Bobby gets so many mixed messages throughout the show that it’s easy to see why he’s often so conflicted.

Like most themes in “King of the Hill,” the nature of the conflicts fluctuate. There is a sense of progression for certain characters, but there’s also a general consistency over the course of the show. Joseph and Luanne are very different by the final season when compared to the first season, but Bobby’s journey is left somewhat ambiguous.

By the end of the show, he finds a skill and a passion that he wants to pursue. In the same way Hank has a passion for propane and propane accessories, Bobby discovers a passion for grading the quality of steaks. It’s a passion that requires both hard work and a level of maturity the likes of which he hasn’t pursued before. It also makes for a powerful moment when he and his dad finally get to share in a mutual interest.

At the same time, he still carries himself like a kid. Even within that final episode, he gets overwhelmed by the pressure placed on him by other adults. While he managed to overcome the pressure, there’s still a sense that he’s not entirely ready for the adult world. At the very least, he’s not quite as reluctant to pursue it.

Bobby Hill’s journey, struggling between childhood and adulthood, is just one among many compelling plots in “King of the Hill.” His journey has many setbacks and absurdities, but it still feels real and relatable. For an animated show that includes eccentric characters in fictitious settings, it’s quite an achievement.

Hank Hill often says his boy ain’t right. On some levels, that might be true. In the grand scheme of things, however, the show demonstrated that Bobby Hill was as right as he needed to be when struggling between childhood and adulthood.

Leave a comment

Filed under King of the Hill, psychology, television