In the public service announcement (PSA) video “Stop bullying,” the subject matter is presented bluntly and shockingly. The forty-seven-second clip shows a high school girl receiving an aggressive text message from her peers, criticizing her appearance. Such statements are prevalent among young people who tend to place a high value on how people look and not on what they may think or fear. As the girl reads the message, her wrist turns bright red, and she collapses on the ground, with blood flowing out of the cut. The main message of the clip is the following “19,000 bullied students attempt to commit suicide each year,” with the message displayed over the graphic image of a bloody hand of the suicide victim (Andrea Ou, 2011).
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The central purpose of the subject matter communicated in the PSA is to show the real problem to highlight its relevance and engage viewers in a conversation about the impact of bullying (Pearson, Nelson, Titsworth, & Harter, 2016). The campaign advocates for stopping bullying at schools because it has an adverse influence on both the physical and mental well-being of young people. Data regarding the number of young people attempting suicide because of being victims of bullying encourages the audience to think about the real impact of their words as the PSA also mentioned that “words have consequences” (Andrea Ou, 2011).
The scene depicting a girl lying in a pool of blood is proof of the attempts of suicide among students. The advertisement is direct in its intentions and therefore aims to have as much impact as possible in a limited period of time.
Fear appeal is the fundamental tool that the creators of the PSA use to communicate their message to a broad audience. Fear appeals have three components, such as the message, the audience, and the behavior recommended for the audience to exhibit. In the PSA, the key message is that bullying causes suicide attempts among young people, and these attempts can lead to actual deaths, which is a severe public health issue. The audience of the PSA is the general public.
However, the message is especially relevant to be understood by young people, both by those who bully and those who are forced. While offenders can see the real impact of their harmful words on other people, individuals subjected to bullying are expected to understand that no comments should cause them to harm themselves. The recommended behavior associated with the PSA is the elimination of bullying in educational settings.
Fear appeal is evident in the PSA because its directors used graphic imagery to convey the message. While showing the reality, the use of such imagery can be seen as unethical because of the sensitive subject matter. Some people may get disturbed by watching a young girl bleeding to death, which is why a disclaimer could have been used. On the other side, suicide is actual and should not be sugar-coated for the sake of protecting some people from the stress of watching a PSA. Therefore, the subject matter of the public service campaign is highly controversial and leads to the emergence of an ethical dilemma regarding the use of fear appeal. Despite the controversy, the links between bullying and suicide should never be overlooked, and the public should understand the actual cost of verbally offending others.
Andrea Ou. (2011). PSA – Stop bullying [Video file]. Web.
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Pearson, J., Nelson, P., Titsworth, S., & Harter, L. (2016). Human communication (6th ed.), New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education.