Kids can be cruel. Deeply, powerfully cruel, in ways that adults often fail to understand simply by dint of not appreciating the pack mentality that so often pushes young people towards such monstrous behavior. It’s like watching little kids play soccer, running from place to place only to form a circle around the soccer ball, kicking in tandem from all sides—only the ball they’re kicking is human innocence.
Such is the far too common story of Keaton Jones, a Tennessee boy who reported the details of his bullying on a smartphone and then had that testimonial uploaded to social media, where his tearful explanation quickly went viral. Before you watch it, please know this is going somewhere positive: The video has been viewed more than 20 million times, and Jones has received tens of thousands of supportive responses from people around the world, a mass “it gets better” that hopefully helps, even if only a little, to lessen the pain of his predicament at treatment at the hands of his fellow students. Now, with that in mind, here’s Keaton’s video, which you should only watch if you’re okay with having tears well up at work, or wherever you are at the moment. It’s the kind of heartbreakingly honest expression of sadness by which it’s almost impossible to not be moved. You’ve been warned.
If you’re anything like us, your thoughts went immediately to wishing there was some way you could make this kid’s life even an iota better—and possibly wishing a minor case of diarrhea on his tormentors, or better yet, a visit from their future selves, warning them of the sky-high cost of their therapy sessions a decade from now when the full weight of what they’ve done registers. Happily, there are other people out there who felt the same way; people far wealthier and more famous than any of us will ever be, and in between the visits to the king of Hollywood to receive their weekly pallets of gold flying cars and unicorn blood (we’re just guessing here, but that sounds about right), they want to use their position to make Keaton’s life a little better.
Keaton didn’t just receive strong words of support from these celebrities and various celebrity-adjacent folks. He got some very cool invitations, things that will hopefully make him the envy of his school. We’ll start with Chris Evans, as most stories about famous people being great these days so often do. The Captain America actor offered up a spot next to him at next year’s world premiere of one of the most anticipated films of the decade:
Not to be outdone, equally earnest and all-around nice guy (and fellow Avenger) Mark Ruffalo said no, hold on, Keaton should be his guest at the premiere, not Chris Evans’. So already, Keaton’s got a pair of Avengers fighting over him, which has to feel pretty good, not that we would know from experience via years of daydreaming and journal entries, and possibly the odd confession to coworkers over Slack. But there’s more to come, as a few famous brawlers—namely, UFC president Dana White and WWE wrestler Chris Jericho—have chimed in to offer an invite to their headquarters and offer to visit the kids picking on him, respectively:
Real world still a little too raw and real? Fear not, because as Mashable notes, Keaton also has an offer to enter the world of animated beauty, with Pixar writer-director Lee Unkrich extending an invitation to come hang out at his studio’s headquarters:
Of course, maybe we all don’t realize Keaton is much more into electro house music. If that’s the case, then he’s still good to go, because uber-producer and DJ Zedd is ready to give the kid a free flight and stay for any of his shows:
Or maybe sports is more his thing? If so, ESPN host Jemele Hill has got him covered.
There are plenty of additional first-person testimonials, as well. Justin Bieber posted to Instagram with a short video expressing support for Jones, along with words of support from Katy Perry, Terry Crews, Mark Hamill, and numerous others. It’s just a very gratifying, heartwarming story that stands apart from the tsunami of garbage that’s been dumped on our heads all year long. And yes, before some grouch takes to the comments to point out all the other kids being bullied every day whose accounts of suffering don’t go viral, we’re all well aware that Keaton is just one representative of a vast and ongoing problem. But it’s nice to see at least one instance where a poor kid’s abusive treatment gets identified and called out—a symbolic push back against all those other unknown bullies, who will hopefully see this story and take a long look at themselves, and maybe realize they don’t want to be the villain in the story of the next Keaton Jones.
Also, we just re-watched the video and got choked up all over again, so if Keaton’s ever in Chicago, he’s welcome to come to The A.V. Club offices and help himself to whatever is lying around. We know screeners of Schitt’s Creek may not be to his taste, but at the very least The Takeout editor Kevin Pang will make sure he gets the best burger in town.
UPDATE: Well, that was fast. While none of the below negates Keaton’s plea, this is a viral video on the internet in 2017, and that only means one thing: racism, monetization, and milkshake ducks. Hopefully the pendulum doesn’t swing back toward demonizing the bullied child himself, who we should be able to feel sympathy toward, despite his mom’s apparent reprehensibleness.