Happy New year and the first post I’m going to start off the new year, is portrayal of bullying in movies. Very uplifting topic, I know. But listen. My work in progress novel revolves around the central theme of bullying and everything that comes with that. Bullying can lead to many victims with depression, anxiety, PTSD and many other mental illness. I’ve had my fair share of bullying experiences that has left me scarred for life (but I’ll talk about that in another blog post, maybe). Today, I wanted to analyse how bullying is represented in films, because I have a few thoughts on it. I chose a few films to talk about. I mainly chose films where bullying is the central theme to the plot.
Cyberbully (Emily osment)
I started off with this film, because I think this would have been many people’s first film, discussing the effects of bullying. A friend of mine told me a story of when her class watched this film one day and everyone laughed at the scene where emily Osment tried to commit suicide. That horrified me when I heard that story. It showed how much people dont take the dangerous effects of bullying seriously. I remember reading comment threads on this film, and people arguing that what osments character was experiencing, was not real bullying. If she was not hit or physically harmed, she was not bullied. 2011/2012 logic there. I still break out into tears when Emily’s character attempts to kill herself. From the moment that Sia’s song “Breathe me” starts to play, I lose it.
The basic premise of the film revolves around Emily Osment’s character setting up an account on a site called Clicksters. Trouble ensues when osments character gets hacked and a nasty comment is posted on her feed. Actions of bullying, such as horrible comments, videos, starts. My thoughts on the film is, that it represents the effects of cyberbullying really well. It shows how easy it can be to be abused online. Moreover, it showcases the after effects of bullying brilliantly, with Osment’s character still wanting to check her social media after her suicide attempt. We live in an internet obsessed culture. Osments character becomes obsessed with the attention she gets online, even if its abuse. I also loved that the main cyberbully that went after osment, was her own friend. Albeit everyone bullied osment, it was her friend that started the hate campaign against her. The film shows that anyone could be your bully and how easy it is to give hate online, since you are not face-to-face with your victim.
However, this movie hasn’t aged well, as its use of social media feels outdated. The protagonist, a teenager doesn’t know how to block people online, and she never shuts down her account when the abuse gets bad. Many people have called osments character stupid and that she deserved the hate she got. My defense for this film is, that it sets up osments character to be less than knowledeable on the topic of social media. Her mother kept an eye on her use of the internet and wouldnt allow her to have internet on her phone. The key is knowledge and her mother didnt give her the freedom to learn how to protect herself online. So that explains osments lack of understanding, when it came to battling cyber bullies. The film did what it was supposed to do, which spread awareness of bullying online, even though its protagonist wasnt always the best model for that discussion.
Cyberbully (Maisie Williams)
This film stars Maisie Williams and it tells the story of a girl being invaded by a foreign force through a hacker who threatens to ruin her life. The film is more a thriller than what the previous cyberbully film did. However, it centres around the concept of cyberbullying. This unknown hacker claims his purpose is to help victims of cyberbullying. Through Williams, we see the hackers toxic means of how they seek justice.
The film forces you to question the dark truth behind cyberbullying. Williams claims we live in a world where bullying is normal and that everyone does it. We live in a world where we can say what we want behind fake usernames. And as the hacker says, do you think that’s okay? The film puts you on edge and makes you look into the damaging effects you can have on a person’s mental health.
However, this films looks at bullying through the topic of hacking. The hacker threatens to post her nudes, if she doesn’t admit to her wrongs. That places the hacker as a villain. It skews the central message, I think. The hacker makes Williams see what she really is, however, as a viewer, I want to see Williams get out of this situation. With the tone of a thriller on the movie, it fails to push the theme of bullying to the forefront, and remains a cat-and-mouse type of game between Williams and the hacker. Even though the theme revolves around bullying, I see it a more enjoyable thrill ride of a film, then an educational one.
A Girl Like Her
A Girl Like her tells the story of a girl, who is in the hospital from a suicide attempt and finding out she was bullied severely. The concept of the film interested me, when it showed that the victim wore a camera on her, when the bullying was at its worst. This brings into discussion the he-said, she-said diabolical when it comes to bullying. When you tell a parent or an authority figure, it’s very much a situation where it cant be proved. The bully will believe they weren’t in the wrong and that the victim cant take a joke. The authorities cant do anything, when they havent seen the abuse themselves. So I was interested when they had the protagonist wear a camera, so to document the abuse. I loved the premise.
However, I started to hate the film towards the end. The sense of helplessness from the main protagonist was heartbreaking. When you watched the footage that was collected, you cant help but despise the main bully. I remember watching this film with my mother, and she was disgusted by what she saw. The extreme abuse that the bully enacted on the victim, makes it hard to empathize with her. But that’s what the film attempts to do. They show the bully’s family life and how hard it is to maintain her popular status. I felt this idea of empathy for the bully, being shoved down my throat and it didnt take. I felt no sympathy for her. I think it was great that she admitted to her wrongs, especially after all that crap she spewed throughout the film. “She just couldn’t take a joke” “I didnt make her kill herself” I just couldn’t empathize with someone like that and the film really tried to get me to feel sorry for her.
A silent voice
If you want to make a film that gets you to empathize with the bully, this is it. A silent voice tells the story of Ishida, a boy who bullied a deaf girl in primary school. Now, you are going to ask, how can you sympathize with someone who abused an innocent girl with a disability? Hear me out. A silent voice’s main theme revolves bullying, understanding, friendship and forgiveness. We follow the footsteps of Ishida, who started off as a carefree, ignorant child and into adolescence, where he is anxious, depressed and hates himself. He hates the bad stuff he did in the past and we start off the film with his suicide attempt. His main goal in the film is to make the deaf girl, Nishmiya happy. All he wants was to make her happy, and not to see her cry again. The film represents his redemption as he attempts to fix the wrongs he committed.
Moreover, the film doesn’t just focus on the wrongs he did. It showed a cast of characters who all had roles to play in the bullying of Nishimiya and how they had dealt with it in their adolescence. Even Nishimiya had her own issues from the past, where she blamed all the bad stuff on herself. She fixed this victim mentality upon herself, which failed to let her move on. She ended hating herself, just as much as Ishida hated himself. It’s a beautiful story captured in wonderful animation and heartbreaking music. I’m not going to go into too much detail, because this movie deserves a blog post all on it’s own. But it would be the best example of a film portraying the effects of bullying on children and teenagers.
I picked these films for their main concepts. I also picked them to show the varying portrayals of bullying in media. Majority of films showcase a pretty popular girl bullying the shy, good girl. Majority of bullying cases show that bullying occurs between friends. People closest to you are more likely to hurt you, than a random popular girl. A Girl like Her had the consequential popular girl bully the good girl, and even used the difficulties of maintaining popularity as a reason to bully. That’s not the central cause of bullying. You had in Emiy Osments’ Cyberbully, her best friend being the main bully of the story. This is more realistic than Maisie Williams Cyberbully. A Silent Voice transcends any of the other attempts, as it treats the story with care on the dangers of bullying on mental health, self love and suicidal thoughts. It doesn’t try to force a message down your throat or attempts to educate you. It tells the story of real people, with their real issues and problems. You see the good and the bad. It’s up to you how you feel about the outcome.
I hope you enjoyed this blog post. I hope to have my next post up in a few days. I wanted to talk about this, because it’s near and dear to my heart. I’ve always disliked how bullying is portrayed in films. Bullying and its effects are more nuanced than what any movie can portray. A Silent Voice is the closest I have seen to the best portrayal of bullying and its effects on screen. If you havent seen any of these films yet, check them out. Have a look at them and see what you think of them. This post is purely based on my own opinions on how films have portrayed this real problem on the screen. Hope you enjoyed. See you in the next post.