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Netflix's "The Glory": Why It's Good, and How It Falls Short

The popular Netflix series can lead to deeper conversations about bullying.

Key points

  • "The Glory," a hit Netflix drama series, tells the story of a woman who enacts vengeance on those who bullied her during childhood.
  • From a psychological perspective, "The Glory" accurately portrays some aspects of bullying, such as the long-lasting emotional scars.
  • "The Glory" misses the mark on a few things related to bullying; for example, it doesn't much feature mental health interventions.
Source: Netflix

This post incorporates details that might be perceived as spoilers.

I have a soft spot for global entertainment that spurs meaningful dialogue about mental health and social issues. That is why, despite the intensity (e.g., gore) of the content, I found myself watching Squid Game all the way through; the subsequent conversations with my students about the perils of capitalism, societal versus individual responsibility, and other related themes were valuable.

Another recent show that I consumed in a few days was the hit Korean drama, The Glory. The premise of this Netflix series is simple enough: It tells the story of someone who experienced school bullying as a child, who as an adult, devises and carries out an elaborate revenge plot against the perpetrators. Some elements of the series, especially those around the bullying that took place, are said to be based on real-life events that took place in South Korea.

Like Squid Game, The Glory has had a global impact, reaching the top of Netflix’s viewing ranking for non-English TV shows soon after its release (Koh, 2023). Beyond the numbers, the show has sparked public conversations and even subsequent apologies from public figures for their past bullying behaviors (e.g., Pawat Chittsawangdee, a Thai actor; see Kim, 2023).

So, raising awareness, initiating meaningful conversations, and taking appropriate action can be thought of as good things that can come out of a series like The Glory.

Part of the conversation about the show should also include a critical examination of some of the ways that the series “gets it right” and other ways that it "misses the mark."

Wearing the “hat” of a psychologist, here are a few things that I noted while watching the series:

What It Gets Right

  • Bullying inflicts indelible scars. The series does not let the viewers forget about the horrific physical bullying that the protagonist endured as a child; the bodily scars are repeatedly shown on screen. But for the protagonist, just as painful are the long-lasting emotional scars. Studies have shown that bullied children experience emotional distress that can carry on into adulthood (McDougall & Vaillancourt, 2015).
  • Sometimes, adults are a part of the problem. Some of the most infuriating scenes in the series involve teachers who fail to intervene. One teacher in particular turns a blind eye to the bullying despite knowing about it, and even directs abusive behavior toward the protagonist. Troublingly, prior literature has shown that teachers are not exempt from bullying behaviors, such as verbal abuse of students (Brendgen et al., 2006).
  • Power or status differentials are important in understanding why bullying might occur. The Glory clearly shows that a key contributing factor to the bullying that occurs is the discrepancy in status—in this case, socioeconomic status—between the perpetrators and the victim. This portrayal is consistent with current theorizing and evidence related to why some children might engage in bullying behavior (Rodkin et al., 2015).

How It Misses the Mark

  • What about online bullying? Most of the bullying incidents portrayed in the show are in person. But bullying also takes place online. Being bullied online and in person—“mixed incidents”—can be especially harmful to victims (Mitchell et al., 2016).
  • The multifaceted impact on the victim is not adequately captured. The outcomes of bullying are wide-ranging. In addition to the emotional toll already pointed out earlier, some other examples of correlates include substance use (Pichel et al., 2022) and academic challenges (Ladd et al., 2017). The show zooms in on the emotional angst of the protagonist, but it did not highlight the other possible impacts as much.
  • Mental health interventions are minimally engaged. There were missed opportunities for at least planting the seed for the relevance of professional counseling, as both preventative and intervention efforts. Prior research demonstrates that intervention efforts could be effective in reducing bullying (Vreeman & Carroll, 2007). Moreover, training students to intervene as bystanders of bullying has been linked to the reduction of depressive symptoms (Midgett & Doumas, 2019). Some programs target teachers as a preventative effort (e.g., Newman-Carlson et al., 2004)—more on teachers below.
  • A healthy example of a teacher’s response to bullying is lacking. Perhaps that is the point: The entire series is about how utterly alone the protagonist was in coping with the bullying. But I would have liked to have seen at least one teacher who demonstrated proactive responses to the protagonist. For those who are interested in how teachers can respond, see APA’s training module for teachers (Graham, 2015).
  • Revenge is not the only option. By having the main character engage in aggressive and violent behaviors directed toward the bullies—and masterfully manipulating the viewers’ emotions to side with the protagonist—The Glory might perpetuate the stereotype that all victims of bullying become overly aggressive and even violent due to their experiences. In fact, some of the more common mental health outcomes are intrapersonal in nature, such as an impact on mood and self-esteem (Juvonen & Graham, 2014).


Brendgen, M., Wanner, B., & Vitaro, F. (2006). Verbal abuse by the teacher and child adjustment from kindergarten through grade 6. Pediatrics, 117(5), 1585-1598.

Graham, S. (2015, March 9). Bullying: A module for teachers. American Psychological Association.

Juvonen, J., & Graham, S. (2014). Bullying in schools: The power of bullies and the plight of victims. Annual Review of Psychology, 65, 159-185.

Kim, D. (2023, January 19). Revenge K-drama leads to overseas movement to expose school violence. The Korean Herald.

Koh, R. (2023, February 20). 6 must-watch Korean dramas that have topped Netflix's global charts.

Ladd, G. W., Ettekal, I., & Kochenderfer-Ladd, B. (2017). Peer victimization trajectories from kindergarten through high school: Differential pathways for children’s school engagement and achievement? Journal of Educational Psychology, 109(6), 826–841.

McDougall, P., & Vaillancourt, T. (2015). Long-term adult outcomes of peer victimization in childhood and adolescence: Pathways to adjustment and maladjustment. American Psychologist, 70(4), 300–310.

Midgett, A., & Doumas, D. M. (2019). Witnessing bullying at school: The association between being a bystander and anxiety and depressive symptoms. School Mental Health, 11, 454-463.

Mitchell, K. J., Jones, L. M., Turner, H. A., Shattuck, A., & Wolak, J. (2016). The role of technology in peer harassment: Does it amplify harm for youth? Psychology of Violence, 6(2), 193–204.

Newman‐Carlson, D., & Horne, A. M. (2004). Bully busters: A psychoeducational intervention for reducing bullying behavior in middle school students. Journal of Counseling & Development, 82(3), 259-267.

Pichel, R., Feijóo, S., Isorna, M., Varela, J., & Rial, A. (2022). Analysis of the relationship between school bullying, cyberbullying, and substance use. Children and Youth Services Review, 134, 106369.

Rodkin, P. C., Espelage, D. L., & Hanish, L. D. (2015). A relational framework for understanding bullying: Developmental antecedents and outcomes. American Psychologist, 70(4), 311–321.

Vreeman, R. C., & Carroll, A. E. (2007). A systematic review of school-based interventions to prevent bullying. Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, 161(1), 78-88.

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