Comixminx has devised the WFTometer, the idea of which “was to give a framework for looking at how bonkers (or not) a story’s plot was, by comparing the story to an assumed ‘average reader’s situation’. This gives a structured way of comparing stories, including the possibility of finding patterns of oddity in seemingly different stories which are perhaps odd in similar ways”.
In this WFTometer post I take three well-remembered stories from Jinty that all deal with bullying. They are Tears of a Clown, Waves of Fear and The Slave of Form 3B. The purpose of selecting the bullying theme is to see how the seriousness and effects of the bullying situations in the stories fare on the WFTometer. In the first, “Tears of a Clown”, Kathy Clowne is subject to teasing, cruel tricks and bullying because of her name and she is clumsy, slow to learn and considered hopeless at everything. The effects of the bullying wear her further down, causing her schoolwork to deteriorate even more. Neither her parents nor school authorities step in to investigate the problem or help Kathy. They also consider Kathy hopeless at everything, fit only to be laughed at, and also a troublemaker because her lashing out at the bullies is misconstrued as violence. Worst of all, the ringleader (or sometimes fate) keeps sabotaging her attempts to prove her talent for running – until Kathy is pushed too far and uses her talent to run away. The psychological effects of the bullying, lack of friends, the outstanding talent for running, and the unusual dog who becomes Kathy’s pet scores “Tears of a Clown” a 20 on the WFTometer. Physical security remains standard as the bullying is not physically abusive or a physical risk, nor does Kathy face any physical danger during her time on the run.
The second story, “Waves of Fear”, scores a 37. The scoring is much higher, mainly because the emotional and mental security of the heroine, Clare Harvey is rated “extreme” for two reasons. First, she is actually mentally ill, which is something extremely unusual for the heroine to be. Second, her illness (extreme claustrophobia) has been misconstrued as cowardice (and then violent behaviour as it deteriorates further) because it caused her to panic and flee while her friend was drowning in a cave. As a result, Clare not only suffers ostracism and abuse at school and in the community but also from her own parents. They treat her extremely harshly, abuse her emotionally, and neither they nor the headmistress take any action against the bullying Clare is experiencing at school, although they are fully aware of it and it almost got Clare killed when it went too far at one point. Instead, the parents drag Clare straight back to the bullying environment, regardless of how terrified she is of it. The scoring is high on physical danger as well, because Clare’s life is not only put in danger twice but she is driven to the brink of suicide when she also runs away because of the bullying, emotional abuse and her worsening mental state. The last story, “The Slave of Form 3B”, is considered the most over-the-top bullying story in Jinty because of the form the bullying takes. Instead of the more usual teasing, blackmail, or emotional and physical abuse the bully, Stacey, uses mind control techniques (hypnotism and telepathy) on her victim, Tania, in order to cheat, steal and sabotage her way to the Girl of the Year Award while cunningly planting suggestions to cut Tania off from avenues of help. Stacey’s manipulation escalates to near death for Tania because of Stacey’s ruthless disregard for her victim, even when Tania gets seriously injured because of Stacey, yet Stacey will not seek help because she just wants to protect herself. Instead, Stacey tries to hide the injured Tania and then cover up with more hypnotism, despite Tania’s worsening condition. It scores a 37 on the WFTometer, tying it with “Waves of Fear”. It might score higher if more information was given about Tania’s background (family structure, parents, pets etc), but we have to go by what we are given in the story.