#2. Fight Back -- You'll Always Win!
Here it is. Every movie, every TV show, every bullshit fight story at a drunken party ends with this one. Finally, the good guy has enough and snaps. The bully gets put in his place, and that's the end of it. Because "once a bully knows you're not going to take their shit, they'll leave you alone." Right?
How they handled it:
We all remember the famous punch from Back to the Future.
That punch literally changed history in that universe. It not only got him the girl, but the bully ended up falling into a downward spiral that turned him into McFly's bitch. When we got back to the present, we found a poorly dressed Biff washing McFly's car and stuttering in fear in his presence.
Watch just about any movie with a bully in it, and you'll find the same ending. The good guy beats up the bad guy, and the situation is resolved. Forever.
But in reality:
Biff is twice the size and has the confidence and fighting experience to go with it. As soon as he woke up, he would consider it a lucky shot, and immediately dismantle the awkward geek who landed it.
The truth is almost every bully I've ever encountered in the real world had acquired his fighting skills, defending himself against a full grown, two hundred pound, drunken man at home behind closed doors. He's had a lot of practice at fighting, and that puts him at a distinct advantage that most of you don't have. Not only does experience count for a lot, but they're used to taking punches. They're not afraid of the pain.
They're like hockey players, except without all that hockey.
I've fought bullies. I was even lucky enough to win some of them. But there has never been a case where the fight marked the end of the problem. They always came back for more because as it turns out, all I did was bruise their ego. And the only way they knew how to repair that was to start throwing punches until they did win.
Look, I'm not telling you to never fight because if you're being pounded on, you need to defend yourself. I'm just saying to avoid it when possible. You don't know what these people go through when they're not at school. You don't know if they have a knife in their front pocket or a gun in their jacket. And weapons aside, you don't know how far they'll go once they start.
#1. Fight Back -- There are no Consequences
There's a very dangerous message that's been passed down through every storytelling medium you can think of since the inception of the fight scene. And that is, "As long as the good guy is vindicated, then justice has been served. Nothing to see here, people -- move along." Road House has my favorite example of this.
How they handled it:
The bully here is trying to escape on a dirt bike after doing some evil. Dalton can finally take no more, and the fight is on. He knocks him off of the motorcycle, and what happens next is one of the most classic fight scenes found in American cinema.
And Dalton is totally in the right here. The bad guys burned down his house and killed his friend. They were murderous house-burners, and they had to pay. So for three minutes, they beat the piss out of each other, and just when it looks like the good guy is going to lose (or be shot), he tears the guy's fucking throat out. He then goes to the main boss's house, kills him, and when the police arrive everyone pretends they had no idea what happened. The good guys win.
"Oh, well if nobody saw anything, I guess our hands are tied."
But in reality:
He'd do motherfucking prison time. He didn't fight and kill the guy to protect his life in the heat of the moment. The bully was actually running away, and Dalton purposely ran after him with the intent of doing bodily harm. Did the bad guy deserve it? Absolutely. Would the courts care? Not on your fucking life. All they'd see is a guy who didn't bother calling the police, and instead took the law into his own hands.
And even on a schoolyard bully level, there's the problem: schools aren't courts. When you're caught fighting, they don't consider evidence and attempt to sort out who was right and who was wrong. They have a set in stone rule: no fighting. And if you break that, right or wrong, your ass is suspended -- no trial, no investigation. For the bully, that means nothing. The guys I knew would consider it a vacation because they weren't planning on going to college or even finishing high school in the first place. They were there until they weren't, and as sad as that is, that was the story of their lives.
The upside is that most of the ones I knew back then now live rent-free.
But for you, it means quite a bit. If you get trapped in that cycle of fight, rest, fight again, it's going to suck you into a hole that's very hard to climb out of. You'll be missing school from suspensions (or worse, being in the hospital or jail), and your grades will suffer for it. You'll fall into the horrifying emotional state of fear and rage every day that you walk through those doors, and that is devastating. Christ, I know that first-hand. I spent the majority of my childhood in that depression inducing sewer.
But even if you find yourself knee deep in the shit through all of school, at least keep this in mind: it eventually goes away. Adulthood means not having to be anywhere remotely near those scumbags.
For more on why Hollywood is a bad source of information, see John's 8 Scenes That Prove Hollywood Doesn't Get Technology. For additional practical advice, see 5 Ways You Know It's Time to Get Married.