[Op-ed] Roasting: Why It Should Be Treated Like Bullying

By Jason Schwartz ’17


Roasting is a disconcerting trend that harms its victims and empowers the bully.  The consequences of a roast on a victim are appalling: isolation from friends, depression, and even suicide.  As a result, this makes roasting a level up from banter.  A versatile concept, roasting has taken on multiple forms online and in person. Thus, more and more kids are left in the throes of a bully.  Also, roasting is an opportunity for bullies to increase their bravado and gain popularity among their peers.  Roasting cannot be tolerated anymore as it does more harm than good to its victims.


The birth of roasting was seemingly innocent and acceptable.  The first ever roast was at the Friar’s Club in 1949 with Maurice Chevalier, a former French vaudeville actor and singer, as the first roastee.  At this time, roasting had a completely different meaning; the idea was to celebrate the “man or woman of the hour” by delivering light-hearted jokes about them.  The roastee would often take the jokes in stride and the audience would laugh with him.  Simply put, old roasts were classy.  But in today’s day and age, roasting has evolved into the complete opposite of class: plain-and-simple bullying.  


Recently in the UK, a group of teenage girls cyber bullied boys and vice versa by roasting each other.  Experts warned that they turned on each other in “very nasty” ways.  The meaner the comment, the better the roast.  The groups do this to show their “swagger.” The groups continued to do this to each other until a victim “completely cracks.”   This episode led to suicides in both parties.


In response to this atrocity, Charlotte Robinson, a online safety consultant of Digital Awareness UK, insights that roasting is “very severe and people will ride on the back of what’s trending in world news.  [Bullies] will use killings or any bad news by way of inspiration to create a nasty meme about someone.”

Reddit, a social media outlet and internet forum, has propagated a roasting trend in which people take a picture of themselves while holding a piece of paper that says “roast me.”  Although these people are seemingly giving consent for others to roast them, responders have said truly humiliating and unforgivable comments based on a person’s appearance and background.  I believe that this idea of a reddit page that encourages roasting is atrocious.  How are these people not expecting the worst of insults?  Even if one comment on someone is tolerable, there will surely be a ton more that are much more severe.  This content is found in the subreddit r/RoastMe page.


The video-sharing application Vine has become a hotbed for viral roasting videos. Viners, or individuals who produce vine content, have highlighted the “art of roasting” in multiple viral seven-second videos.  Such videos feature The Roast Hand.  This gesture is “universally understood as a declaration of war in roasting circles.”  Also, foolish vines such as “WHAT ARE THOSE” and “”You look like a m**********king uhhhhhhhhh” have become the framework of conversation between friends.  Although these vines may be hilarious at first, repeated exposure to these vine roasts in action can get frustrating even if it is done with close friends. If this persists, a victim of these vines will soon infer that he or she is actually a victim of bullying.  As Ms. Robertson of Digital Awareness UK puts it so accurately, “roasting is done under the guise of good humor, which is why it is so dangerous because it is often done among friends.”

hqdefaultRoasting has ruined many kids’ lives and many close friendships.  The concept transformed from a classy act of celebrating an individual to an act of bullying.  Social media has facilitated access to roasting material that a bully–anyone from a stranger to a presumptuous close friend–can use in real life.  Because roasting is so widespread in our society, can we contain it?  The world would be a much better place without it.


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