John Barrowman, star of Arrow and Torchwood, shared his powerful story of overcoming bullying, as part of the Pop Culture Hero Coalition’s panel at this week’s San Diego Comic-Con.
With a mix of profound vulnerability and, at times, poignant humor, (see CBS News video), Barrowman recounted his growing up experiences: “I was called fag, queer, and everything else.” He recalled being severely bullied, beat up, stuffed and locked into his locker by a kid at school.
Barrowman finally reached a point where he found his allies. “I got all my friends around me, and I confronted this kid. And I said, ‘You can hit me, you can push me, you can bully me, you can do everything you want. You can punch me in my face. But you know what? I will get back up. I will always stand back up.’”
Getting back up indeed, Olivier Award-Nominated Barrowman was highly instrumental in the laws of Britain being passed for Marriage Equality. His work with British government led to him being named a Member of the Order of the British Empire, an honor bestowed by Queen Elizabeth II.
Barrowman told his story as part of a panel designed to help targets of bullying find their own inner superhero.
After the panel, one attendee (@isahoktopus) turned her notes into an awesome drawing that she tweeted to the members of the panel.
CBS Network News joined a packed room of fans and entertainment industry luminaries as Barrowman and NOH8 Campaign Founders Adam Bouska & Jeff Parshley joined the United Nations Association President Bettina Hausmann, Impractical Joker’s Joe Gatto, and Entertainment Weekly Senior Writer Anthony Breznican.
Created by actress Chase Masterson (Star Trek, The Flash) with bullying expert Carrie Goldman (Harper Collins’ Bullied) and heroism expert Matt Langdon (Founder, The Hero Construction Company), the unprecedented coalition is the first organization to make a stand against bullying, racism, LGBT- bullying, cyber-bullying, misogyny and other forms of hate at comic-cons.
The panel, END BULLYING! RESPONDING TO CRUELTY IN OUR CULTURE was the Coalition’s eighth convention appearance since it was founded in 2013.
“When pop culture icons make a stand based on their own hard experiences, it sends a powerful message to people who have been bullied or oppressed,” Masterson stated. “We’ve been where you are, or somewhere close. You can get through this. You can heal. And you can be there for other people. That victory spreads like wildfire. And that’s heroism, IRL.”
“The NOH8 Campaign’s involvement in the Coalition’s work at cons around the nation is extremely important to us,” said Bouska and Parshley, whose work was instrumental in the law for Marriage Equality. “We feel the topic of bullying is something that all con goers can relate to. If we can show them that there are many people out there just like them, we can start to empower each person to stand up for who they are and in turn, stand up for others.”
Goldman added, “The best part of the Coalition is that it provides a forum for us to reach the most vulnerable people attending Comic-Con and remind them that they are not alone, that they have greatness in them, just like the characters they so admire.”
“The feedback we received after the panel was overwhelmingly positive,” said Langdon. “It was great hearing how important the message was to people.” Langdon traveled all the way from Australia to participate on the panel.
Breznican, who is the author of the highly acclaimed novel Brutal Youth, states, “There’s no other panel at Comic-Con I’d rather be a part of! (Well, except Star Wars. I would love to be IN Star Wars.) But other than that, I’m beyond proud to be a part of the Pop Culture Hero Coalition and the good work and positivity they create in a world that’s not so far, far away.”
“The blend of imagined and real superheroes is at the heart of Comic-Con, and it will take heroes in all forms from all parts of the world to address bullying, intolerance, and hate,” said UN Association President Hausmann. “Being a hero doesn’t require a fantastic costume or hidden lair; rather it takes passion, courage, and a single minded belief that we all share an inherent right for dignity, equality, and freedom. The Pop Culture Hero Coalition takes exactly that stance and is committed to everyone being able to pursue healthier, happier lives, which enrich us individually and collectively.”
“I’m very happy with the turnout to the Pop Culture Hero Coalition panel,” enthused Gatto. “There were meaningful words of encouragement and understanding spoken from a diverse and caring panel of professionals, all with unique takes on the issue of bullying. And these faces in the crowd stared back as if to say ‘thank you for understanding.’ It felt great to do some good.”
“Heroism IRL is something we can all do, every day,” stated Masterson. “We love superheroes. Why not be one?”
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Check out Carrie Goldman’s award-winning book Bullied: What Every Parent, Teacher, and Kid Needs to Know About Ending the Cycle of Fear (Harper Collins, 2012). www.carriegoldmanauthor.com and Carrie’s new children’s book with co-author Juliet Bond, Jazzy’s Quest: Adopted and Amazing!