Beyond the big announcements, cool footage and cosplay fun, Comic-Con has also proven itself a forum for bringing about change beginning within fan communities. There’s a nice reminder of that today as the Pop Culture Anti-Bullying Coalition, founded by actress Chase Masterson (“Star Trek: Deep Space 9,” “Doctor Who: Big Finish”) and author Carrie Goldman (Harper Collins’ “Bullied: What Every Parent, Teacher, and Kid Needs to Know About Ending the Cycle of Fear”), announced that their organization brought the United Nations Association to this year’s convention, marking the first-ever pop culture panel event for the global organization.
“We all love superheroes — so why not be one?” asks Masterson. “We’re working to inspire, enlist and excite pop culture fandom to join us in strategies to end bullying. Partnering with the United Nations Association is both a natural and powerful choice, and we are honored to have them onboard.”
United Nations Association San Diego Chapter President Bettina Hausmann stated, “The painful effects of the preventable ‘disease’ of bullying are wide spread, knowing no country borders, and deeply felt, often lasting for a lifetime. Rededicating ourselves and our efforts toward eliminating this poison in our homes, schools, workplaces, and communities is the social justice issue of the 21st century.”
“In our digitalized, media-driven society, pop culture has a constant influence on the way that both children and adults interpret the world,” adds Goldman. “When kids see celebrities take action against bullying, it resonates strongly and sends the message that cruelty is not acceptable.”
The Coalition’s panel, “End Bullying! Responding to Cruelty in Our Culture” was moderated by Goldman. Panelists included Bettina Hausmann (President, United Nations Association, San Diego), Brad Bell (Executive Producer and Star, “Husbands”), author Anthony Breznican (St. Martin’s Press “Brutal Youth”; Senior Writer, Entertainment Weekly), Ashley Eckstein (Her Universe; “Star Wars: The Clone Wars”), Jane Espenson (Executive Producer, “Husbands”), Dr. Andrea Letamendi (“The Arkham Sessions”), Alice Cahn (VP Social Responsibility, Cartoon Network), Tina Malka (Associate Regional Director, Anti-Defamation League, San Diego) and Masterson.
Panelists discussed strategies to overcome bullying and create witnesses and allies out of bystanders; topics included geek bullying, LGBT bullying, cyber-bullying, and analyzing how media and entertainment affect our attitudes toward bullying and aggression.
“Cartoon Network’s ‘Stop Bullying: Speak Up’ campaign is proud to support the actors, writers, and artists who use their talent to create characters and worlds that embrace diversity and acceptance,” says Cahn. “Entertainment media has an important role to play in speaking up for youth.”
“Educators and administrators are reaching out to the ADL to help them navigate the growing problem of bullying. This provides the ADL with an important opportunity to not only address these concerns, but to deepen people’s understanding about the connections among bullying, bias-motivated behavior and hate activities,” says Malka.
“I wrote a book about the tragedy of bullying in a fictional school where such harassment went overlooked and unchecked. Unfortunately, that happens in real life more often than we want to believe,” adds Breznican. “At the ‘End Bullying!’ panel Sunday, we met real people in the audience who have been scarred by that kind of torment. They only ever needed a friend, and hopefully this panel was a place where they found many. Their heartbreak definitely broke mine, but we discovered that our pieces fit together to make something that beats much stronger.”
President Hausmann concluded, “It is a human right to live lives free of hate, violence, and ignorance — the three legs of the bullying stool. The United Nations as a global body enacted in local contexts supports efforts not only regarding anti-bullying, but pro-openness, pro-understanding, and pro-empathy. It takes dedicated individuals like Chase Masterson and Carrie Goldman, who tirelessly volunteer to promote this important cause, to unite us to stand up against bullying and discrimination. We, the UNA-USA San Diego are proud to support their invaluable works with and through the Pop Culture Anti-Bullying Coalition.”
More information about the Anti-Bullying Coalition is available at the organization’s official site.