If reporting on gay teens killing themselves over bullying can lead to a snowball effect, where other depressed gay teens begin to see suicide as a way out and take their own lives, can the same be said for showing how bullies torment their victims? On Fox’s Glee, the jerk jocks are known for slushie-ing those weirdo student singers. In all four years of my high school experience, I never saw blue or purple flavored ice drinks get tossed at vulnerable classmates. But in Toronto, a merry band of high schoolers appear to have found their inspiration in Glee, throwing around the word “faggot” along with their ice-cold drinks at people in the city’s Gay Village.
The suspects: High schoolers from Jarvis Collegiate, who are “travelling in swarms at lunch hour and after school,” the Toronto Sun reports. The artillery: slushies, snowballs, ice, and mean words. The victims: gays, but also middle-aged women, crossing guards, and florists. The response: Police are, supposedly, beefing up security in and around Gay Village.
Gay bashing is no stranger to the Village. Even today, folks still drive through some summer nights, tossing drunken insults. Eggs were once the gay-bashing missile of choice. The fear is slushing will escalate to something more solid. Already, chunks of ice have been added to the arsenal. The latest slushing happened at noon last Monday. Local florist Paul Winsor, 49, was walking through the Village, headed to the gym.
“How about him?” said a kid in a passing pack of about 15, before letting fly. Winsor took a full Coke slushie dead in the back of his red Canada goose coat. “I got pretty upset. And I was less than polite. They hurled insults back. I was so angry I can’t say for sure what they said.” The f-word? And not the one that rhymes with duck. “I can’t say. And I can’t be certain they picked me out because I’m gay, but I met my friend Mark right after, and he was specifically targeted. “They threw ice at him and called him ‘faggot’,” he said. “I think they’re just randomly picking out people in the neighbourhood. “As a community, we tend to be a little complacent, but I decided not to take it.”
So Winsor followed the culprits two blocks back to the high school, taking another slushie hit along the way and dodging a hunk of road ice, and alerted a teacher. “I’d like to sit those kids down and ask them why I shouldn’t press charges, and why they think what they’re doing is OK,” he said. Next day, sure enough, he met a similar pack. This time he had his camera, and they fled. “But now I’m looking around. I really don’t want to run into that again.”
So surely something is being done to punish the high school students who have been identified by their victims? “Students who engage in gay bashing or homophobic behaviour will have consequences,” says Jarvis principal Elizabeth Addo. “It’s not in the spirit of the school or the spirit of inclusivity.” Addo did not say, however, how or if the students were disciplined.
On television, the slushers face no real punishment for attacking the slushies — who all seem to just take it. Or find their revenge in song. On one episode of her show, Oprah had Lea Michele teach the proper “slushie throwing technique” to would-be assailants. It was meant to be Funny Haha.
And not that what some pricks in Toronto are doing should impact how Glee‘s writers incorporate slushies in the episodes to come, or what Oprah does in the daytime, for the same reason teens using drugs doesn’t mean we erase that facet of life from everything on The CW. But it is curious to see the very TV show that’s provided so much inspiration and affirmation for tormented gay kids is also a learning manual for bullies.