Before anyone starts, I know that bullying is a problem and not a very funny problem but let me just throw a little thought out there.
Specifically here in the UK, Cyberbullying is not covered by any specific law, however Cyberbullying can and does fall under the ‘Protection of Harassment Act 1997’ which is what it says on the tin. This is the way that it should be. Bullying is bullying in whatever form it takes. It doesn’t matter if someone is being bullied in the school yard or online, it’s still wrong and there are laws protecting people against this sort of thing.
It really annoys me when someone in the film industry decides to make a movie about Cyberbullying and makes it look like its the internet’s fault that this person is being harassed online. Also anyone who attempts to criticise such a film gets branded as a bully and someone who supports bullying. I don’t support bullying. I fully believe in a society where everyone can exercise their right to free speech and express an opinion without being victimised. Disagreeing is not victimisation. I know with doing these reviews. Fortunately, anyone who has disagreed with me has expressed their opinion in a respectful manner and I’ve responded with the same amount of respect that they gave me. That’s the way it should be. Disagreeing is OK, just don’t be a dick about it.
‘Cyberbully (2011)’ is a prime example of this kind of terrible mistake and in no way represents what it’s actually like to be bullied. So what I’ve decided to do (because I want to help) is give some top tips as to what to do if you’re being cyber-bullied and do what I normally do I.e take ten gallons of piss out of something that I don’t like and hopefully be entertaining whilst doing so. With that in mind, let’s have a look at ‘Cyberbully (2011)’.
‘Cyberbully’ starts with a young, pretty, blonde girl, Taylor Hillridge (Emily Osment) chatting with her friend, Samantha (Kay Panabaker) before school. Taylor gets into some good natured name-calling and her mum, Kris (Kelly Rowan) calls her out on it. Instant foreshadowing of the dangers of the internet. This is how much information is thrown at the audience in the first 6 minutes of the film.
Taylor has two friends, Samantha and Cheyenne (Meaghan Rath); she has an overbearing mother and a younger brother, Taylor has a crush on Scott (Jon McLaren) whose on the basketball team, her dad left the family for a 25 year old, that day is her birthday, she gets a laptop for her birthday and her mother gives her the rules which are ‘no inappropriate sites’ and ‘no giving out personal information’. Oh, and there’s a new website that everyone’s obsessed with. Are you ready for some cringe? Cliquesters. As in Cliques. Clever.
Anyway, Taylor and her friends set up her profile which is basically full of lies based on how many boys will talk to her and she gets a friend request from Scott.
But remember, this is about bullying so there’s this girl at school, Lindsay (Nastassia Markiewicz) who basically looks and dresses similar to Taylor but is still the mean girl because it says in the script that she’s the mean girl. She posts an insulting comment on Taylor and Samantha’s picture but you know what? There’s no drama. They both laugh and move on. See how easy that was?
What is remarkable that I noticed in the first 12 minutes is how easily these ‘best friends’ turn on each other. Taylor is becoming obsessed with Scott and Samantha points out that what is happening between the two (nothing) isn’t love. Taylor slams Samantha for sexing some guy on their second date and Samantha throws her out of the car. Not literally.
15 minutes in and some drama starts. Someone figures out Taylor’s password to her Cliquesters page and starts writing naughty messages for all to see. Her mother sees this and immediately demands that her daughter comes off the site. Taylor responds to this request by throwing a strop just like a fucking 5-year old. To me, the mother is the only rational character because she understands that her child is too stupid to be using this kind of website.
Taylor goes on to break the first golden rule of what to do if you’re being cyber-bullied. DON’T RESPOND! Don’t do it, that’s what they want! If you don’t respond, they know they can’t provoke you and they’ll move on.
Taylor responds to Lindsay’s post and calls her a bitch. She also does something else that winds me up in films. She shortens ‘you’ and ‘are’ with ‘u’ and ‘r’. You’re a fucking grown-up. Use proper words. There’s not even a word capacity on that website. What are you doing that for?
Turns out, it was her younger brother, Eric (Robert Naylor) who posted the message and Taylor acts with all the maturity of a 17 year old by trying to attack him. Her mother says that she looked at her page and saw that she called Lindsay a bitch and is therefore confiscating her laptop for three days as a punishment. Sod that, confiscate it forever. Smash it with a stiletto and get a refund.
It doesn’t matter though because Taylor got a friend request from a hunky looking boy, James, who likes her poem and he’s really smart and funny. 2nd rule broken. Don’t talk to people that you don’t know, only the ones you know you can trust. That’s probably a good rule in general.
Another insight into how much of a good, likeable and sympathetic main character Taylor really is comes the next day at school. She has this cute friend who sits in front of her and he offers his sympathies for what people are saying about her online. You see, he’s going through the same thing except a million times worse. He’s being called every derogatory and homophobic name under the sun and Taylor’s response goes thus, “You really are gay, what they’re saying about me isn’t true.”
The look of disgust on that guy’s face perfectly mirrors my own.
Scott invites her to a dance, Yay. But James posted that he slept with her and she gave him an STD, Boo. Cheyenne believes that it’s a fake profile but Taylor isn’t going to tell her mum because ‘she just got her laptop back’. Some things are more important than laptops, Taylor. Get a job and buy your own.
Now her friends are being bullied purely by association and Cheyenne tells Taylor to stop following her. Taylor goes to Cheyenne’s house with her hood pulled up over her head as if she’s in hiding. Cheyenne tells her that she shouldn’t have flirted with some guy that she didn’t know when Cheyenne was the very person who told her to put kinky things on her profile so she would get attention from strangers. I think maybe the person who wrote this should go back and write a second draft. Although, Cheyenne does make a good point being that if Taylor hadn’t have called Lindsay a bitch then maybe she wouldn’t be going after Taylor.
Taylor’s mum gets word of what’s been happening from Cheyenne’s father and does some investigating. She sees all of the comments and orders Taylor to shut it down. Of course, Taylor is in hysterics and here comes golden rule number 3 if number 1 doesn’t work, BLOCK THEM! Every single social media site has anti-bullying policies. You can flag a comment or a video and report them for online abuse.
Unless you haven’t figured it out yet, Samantha is James and she’s doing this because of reasons and comes to Taylor’s defence by saying that Lindsay is a liar.
Taylor’s mother goes to the school to talk to the principal about all the cyberbullying but the principal says he can’t do shit because he can’t control what the students do at home on their own computers which is bullshit. Principals/headmasters have a responsibility over the well-fare of their students and if the participants are students at that school and it’s affecting their learning at that school then they can do something about it. Bullying is bullying. End of. So not only is this film crap but it’s also lying aswell.
Also, Scott’s not taking her to the dance anymore. He gives Taylor this obvious lie that his mum wants him to take this other girl because she’s friends with her mother. Yeh, whatever.
What happens next is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen. Taylor is told about a video about her on Cliquesters called ‘Taylor Hillridge Works Her Corner’ which shows Lindsay wearing a Taylor mask (I have no idea where she got that from) and she’s got a load of pillows stuffed up her skirt pretending to pregnant. She’s asking guys with bags on their heads for sex and calls Taylor a dirty whore. I have so many problems with this plot development. I don’t know how Lindsay thought she wouldn’t get in trouble for this. Wearing a mask isn’t enough because SHE UPLOADED IT FROM HER OWN ACCOUNT! Lindsay’s either jealous of Taylor or she’s got way too much time on her hands to think up this stupid video, make a Taylor mask and go out to film it. What a fucking dope.
Anyway, this is enough to push Taylor over the edge. She uploads a video to her account saying that she’s going to kill herself. She says something really interesting in the video. She says that she doesn’t know why everyone hates her. Neither do I. There’s no logical reason why anyone should hate her. It seems that everyone in this movie is all the same. They’re all spoiled, attractive teenagers who live in expensive houses. If Taylor was considered to be an underclass then kids pick on each other for that but these characters are all the same. I’m amazed that this little thought never crossed her mind, how old is she? 17? You’ve got one or two years of high school left and then you never have to think about these people again. It’s over. Done. Taylor can go to university and become a productive member of society whilst the bullies will fade away in obscurity.
Samantha sees the video and rings Taylor’s mother. Taylor’s mother rushes home with an ambulance in tow and Samantha finds Taylor in the bathroom struggling to open a bottle of pills screaming “I can’t get the cap off!”. I won’t even go into why she didn’t lock the bathroom door but what I will say is this is why manufacturers put child-proof locks on bottles, so children can’t get at them.
Taylor’s mother takes her to the hospital and enters her into a bullying support group. The group talk about all of the things that I’ve talked about for if you’re being bullied, things like blocking and reporting people for online abuse whilst Taylor’s mother becomes a one woman crusade to start getting laws put in place for online bullying. She keeps getting shot down by senators and the police who say that they can’t do anything about harassment online because there are no laws against that. HARASSMENT IS A CRIME!
Samantha fesses up that she’s James and starts getting abused online herself. Taylor and her mother go to the papers with her story and she gets Samantha to come in and tell the reporter about why she pretended to be someone else. Apparently Samantha’s reasoning was that she wanted to protect Taylor. Erm, what? She goes on to blame the internet because bullying ‘online’ doesn’t feel real. It’s all the internet’s fault, folks. We need to shut down this hideous weapon of destruction and not blame the stupid children at the keyboard.
Because Samantha is being bullied now, Taylor offers her the support group that’s been helping her with the trauma of what Samantha maybe didn’t start but certainly joined in on. Good Job.
It’s all one big happy ending when all the people who have been bullied by Lindsay all gang up on her at school and hooray, it’s safe to go back online now. End of film.
Uh… look, my main issue with this film is the script that basically makes all teenagers look stupid but don’t listen to me. The whole film is up on YouTube so you can make up your own mind about whether or not this film is a help or a hindrance to the cause. Cyberbullying was not a totally alien concept before 2011 and I just feel like the plot devices and the characters were so idiotic that it was hard to take seriously. If you want to watch a film that is representative of the impact bullying has on a family and a community, watch ‘A Girl Like Her’. It has better characters, a better script and it’s available on Netflix and Amazon Video.
I’ll finish with this. If you are being bullied, don’t take a film like this as a ‘how to guide’ on what to do. Just remember the three golden rules and seek help but above all, never give up. There are people, policies and laws out there for a reason, to help and protect you. That’s all I’m going to say on the matter.