Letter to the Editor: Don’t diminish Spielberg’s experiences

January 18, 2023 — by Bill Teeple
Class of 1990 alumnus Bill Teeple responds to an article about ‘The Fabelmans’ and the discrimination that Class of 1965 alumnus Steven Spielberg faced at the school.

Editor’s Note: Bill Teeple wrote the following Letter to the Editor in response to ‘The Fabelmans’ puts spotlight on antisemitic abuse directed at school’s most famous alumnus by Shreya Rallabandi and Shaan Sridhar. Teeple is a Class of 1990 alumnus who resides in San Jose.

I wanted to offer my opinion from another era. While I graduated some 25 years after Steven Spielberg, the bullying and mentality shaped by a misogynistic alpha male society was still very prevalent, and I was subjected to this my freshman through junior year. Unfortunately, I was tormented by a person one grade ahead of me — that is why my senior year I was mostly unscathed. But being 6′ 2″ and 150 lbs doesn’t help as I was tall and very skinny. Not an academic, not a jock, I was more of an outcast, breaking into the computer science scene early on and reading fantasy and science fiction novels. Definitely a geek out of the ‘80s.

While the attitudes that occupy Saratoga High might be “better” than they were, I believe those attitudes have simply shifted to other areas of discriminatory practice. Audrie Pott is a prime example that the alpha male culture still exists, but just may be under the radar currently.

The article minimizes Spielberg’s experience of the event by referring to it as “his memory” which was contradicted by interviews with his friends.  I don’t discount that to Spielberg, this was “hell on earth.” School should be a safe haven, but I found myself preoccupied with navigating the hallways, avoiding my attacker more than worrying about my grades. Being bullied is a lot like being battered for women. It is a silent crime that occurs outside of the visible spectrum of society for the most part. A passing punch in the shoulder in the hallway, or an extra push and punch in a P.E. class. 

It isn’t the “Karate Kid” media-driven exacerbation you would expect to find sensationalized. And believe me, as a young boy trying to grow up and become a man, you don’t advertise the fact that you are getting assaulted by a classmate to others. 

Be careful in your wording as the victim is often mischaracterized and a bit of the middle of the article implies that the bullying only existed in his mind.

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