Movies

Published: Thursday October 24, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Thursday October 24, 2013 MYT 12:38:23 PM

Bamboozled by bullies

Suffering in silence: Artie and other Glee club members get ostracised and slushied every other episode, but no matter what, they always have each other’s backs.

Suffering in silence: Artie and other Glee club members get ostracised and slushied every other episode, but no matter what, they always have each other’s backs.

Bullies are everywhere, even on celluloid and the telly.

WE were appalled when we read what our colleagues at R.AGE reported on the issue of bullying recently. Eighty percent of young Malaysians have been bullied. We thought the figure was wrong ... 80% is way too high. Or is it?

When the entertainment team sat down to talk about this, we realised that this statistic couldn’t be further from the truth. If art usually imitates life, then a look at the content of (high-profile) movies and TV shows nowadays should be an indication that cases of bullying are on the rise.

Now, more so than ever, pop culture is bearing its beam down on bullies. Switch on the TV or walk into a cinema, and chances are, you will a see story about bullying.

Teens are usually the victims, but bullies aren’t necessarily always their peers. In Bates Motel, it is the mother; in The Hunger Games, it is the government; in earlier episodes of Glee, it was their teacher Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) who was the tormentor.

Physical altercations aside, victims these days have to endure emotional as well as cyber attacks!

Star2 takes a look at the various existing shows which tackle the bullying issue. While they may seem a tad dramatic (well, it is Hollywood, after all), these stories could mirror what’s happening in our society.

Ender’s Game

Plot: In Ender’s Game (opening Nov 7) Young Ender Wiggins (Asa Butterfied) is given the option to join a military school in space where he will be trained for a planned attack on an alien invader that tried to take over Earth. 

One of the reasons why he is determined to join the military is because he can’t stand his nasty older brother and schoolmate who always taunts him. 

At the military school, however, Ender learns that he has not escaped bullies – they are still there, be it the other boys who goad him at every opportunity or the supervisors who push, and push him to be the person they think he is.

Defence mechanism: Being very, very, smart, Ender figures out that to ensure he is not bullied anymore, he has to play the bullies’ game and ultimately, fight back. So he calculates his moves and strikes.

What he should’ve been done: Obviously, the adults in the army think that striking back is a lesson Ender must learn. In any war, there is the option of discussion and negotiation, leaving bloodshed out of the picture. It would’ve been good if adults intervened and sat the boys together and just talked.

Bates Motel

Norman Bates should confide in Emma instead of suffering in silence.
Norman Bates should confide in Emma instead of suffering in silence.

Plot: Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore), on the surface, looks like a normal teenager. But he has a deep dark secret. 

No, we are not talking about his constant blackouts in which he may or may not have killed his father and a teacher. We are referring to his mother, Norma (Vera Farmiga), who uses guilt and emotional blackmail to bully Norman into submission. 

Then, there’s his stepbrother Dylan (Max Theriot) who rough-houses Norman because he’s a mummy’s boy. Physical and emotional bullying? No wonder he ends up a psycho killer.

Defence mechanism: Norman keeps to himself, becomes a loner and then starts hallucinating, hearing “voices” which instruct him to kill.

What he should have done: Consult a medical professional. Obviously, those “voices” aren’t real. But since his mother prohibited Norman from seeking help, the next best thing was to confide in his classmate Emma (Olivia Cooke), who might have been able to help him out by telling her father the situation. 

Maybe then welfare services may have reached the Bates Motel to check things out.

Pretty Little Liars

Plot: When their friend Alison disappears (and later presumed dead), Hanna (Ashley Benson), Aria (Lucy Hale), Spencer (Troian Bellisario), and Emily (Shay Mitchell) are devastated and scared. 

Their lives are turned upside down when an unknown villain, who goes by the moniker “A”, starts threatening to expose their secret if they don’t do as he/she says. 

“A” contacts the girls via SMS, e-mail and notes. The threats eventually turn, not only violent, (running one of the girls off the road) but “A” soon targets their family members and loved ones.

(From left) Emily, Hanna, Aria and Spencer have to do community service after being arrested with a murder weapon ... no thanks to ‘A’.

Defence mechanism: The girls take things into their own hands, trying to find out just who is “A”. Unfortunately, “A” is always two steps ahead of the girls. This results in the girls digging themselves a deeper grave ... just what “A” wants.

What they should have done: Do you know that if you are being blackmailed, threatened or bullied online, you can report it to authorities such as the MCMC (Malaysian Communications And Multimedia Commission)?

Even if the girls didn’t want the authorities involved, they should’ve come clean with their parents about this problem right from the start, instead of getting entangled in this messy web. In this case, honesty is the best policy.

Carrie

Plot: Based on the book by Stephen King, Carrie (opening in Malaysia on Nov 7) tells the story of a lonely teenager (Chloe Moretz) who is subjected to humiliation by her schoolmates. She then comes home only to face a religious-zealot of a mother who gives her no emotional support whatsoever as she goes through teenage angst. 

Things take a turn for the weird when Carrie discovers she has developed telekinetic powers – a fact she hides from both her mother and her peers, as she doesn’t want the label “freak” to be confirmed.

Defence mechanism: With so much unfairness happening to her, no one can blame Carrie for unleashing her power on her cruel schoolmates on prom night; a night that ends with dire consequence.

What she should’ve done: If stories on X-Men and Heroes are anything to go by, then the thing for Carrie to do is to find people like herself, so she doesn’t feel like the odd one out. Besides strength in numbers, having friends who understand makes a whole lot of difference.

Percy Jackson series

Plot: Doctors have pegged Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman) as dyslexic. This condition has made him the target for bullies in his class. In actuality, Percy’s brain is wired such so that he can read Greek letters, not Roman; this is because he is the son of a Greek god. 

Upon learning his origin, he goes to a camp filled with other teens like him. Only problem is, some of these children of god are very competitive and have no qualms of hurting others to be ahead of class.

Defence mechanism: He acts impulsively. Although in his heart Percy wants to better the bad situation, he sometimes makes it worse by sticking his nose in things he shouldn’t be involved in.

What he should’ve done: Percy is one character who does the right thing. He asks for help from his father, who in turns sends him his half-brother who is a caring guy and someone Percy can depend on. Also, Percy has good friends who stand by him no matter what, which is always great. 

In the end, even the bully becomes his friend.

Percy Jackson (centre) sneaks around with his friends so he can go off on an adventure he has been forbidden to go.
Percy Jackson (centre) sneaks around with his friends so he can go off on an adventure he has been forbidden to go.

Glee

Plot: Cold, biting, sticky and most of all, humiliating, the slushie is the most iconic symbol of bullying seen on the hallways of McKinley High in Glee

The hit musical comedy-drama centres on the life and struggles of members of the school’s Glee Club, a show choir group comprising an array of oddballs and outcasts. 

Getting a slushie facial – being splashed on the face by the flavoured frozen drink – is a reminder of just how uncool and unpopular one is.

Characters who have been regularly slushied include popular football jock Finn Hudson (Cory Monteith) for joining the Glee Club, fashion forward Kurt Hummel (Chris Colfer) for his sexuality and of course, ambitious, Barbara Streisand-loving Rachel Berry (Lea Michele) for being the face of New Directions.

Defence Mechanism: Who can forget the episode where the Gleeks, clad in t-shirts that spelled out their insecurities, sang and danced together to Lady Gaga’s Born This Way

For the most part, that’s what they do. They sing about their pain – it is Glee Club after all – and talk to each other within the safe, judgement-free confines of their choir room.

What they should have done: While music heals in ways words cannot, it’s important for these troubled teens to talk to someone about their plight, preferably someone older (er no, not coach Sue Sylvester). 

The kids should take guidance counsellor Ms Pillsbury (Jayma Mays) more seriously. If you can see past her OCD and her occasional lapse of judgment, those brochures she recommend can be really hilarious, we mean, helpful.

The Hunger Games series

Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) band together to outsmart their evil authorities in The Hunger Games film series.
Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) band together to outsmart their evil authorities in The Hunger Games film series.

Plot: The government can be the biggest bully at times. Adolescents, with their barely developed body parts, are forced to fight each other to the death in this post-apocalyptic film series. 

In the first instalment, 12 children from around the nation of Panem are selected to take part in the annual Hunger Games, a televised event that sees them pouncing on each other until one remaining survivor is left. 

In the upcoming Catching Fire, previous winners of the competition must fight it out once again in a special edition of the event.

Defence Mechanism: Protagonist Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) has no choice but to go along and play the treacherous game but her spunk and tenacity eventually inspires many around her to start a rebellion against the government.

What they should have done: Children, no matter how spirited or courageous, are just children. Parents need to defend their young and stand up against the oppression on their behalf. 

As in real life, it’s up to parents to protect their child’s interests, be it an unjust school ruling or a rickety classroom chair. These bullies need to pick on someone their own size.

The Perks Of Being A Wallflower

Plot: The film is a coming-of-age tale focusing on the life of quintessential wallflower, Charlie (Logan Lerman). On his first day of high school, he doesn’t speak much, eats lunch alone and gets picked on by his peers. 

The 15-year-old boy, it seems, has just finished a stint at a mental hospital and is still reeling from the pain of losing his best friend who committed suicide. Charlie then befriends seniors Patrick (Ezra Miller) and his step sister Sam (Emma Watson) and the three forge a close friendship. 

We later learn that Patrick, too, is being bullied for his sexuaity.

THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWERPh: John Bramley© 2011 Summit Entertainment, LLC.  All rights reserved.
The Perks Of Being A Wallflower shows us ... the perks of having good friends to count on in troubled times. 

Defence mechanism: Charlie made the first move to approach Patrick and Sam. This shows just how desperate he is to find a place where he is accepted and understood by like-minded (especially fellow bully victim, Patrick) friends.

What they should have done: Charlie is doing a great job spreading his vines and reaching out to other wallflowers. Given the fact that Charlie has sought help from a mental institution, what he needs right now is not another counselor (and definitely not another shrink) but a new best friend. 

Meanwhile, Patrick, too, can rely on Charlie and Sam to help him regain his self-esteem and deal with the bullies. It’s easy to get rid of a patch of wallflowers but how about a wall full of them?

Tags / Keywords: Entertainment, Entertainment, Glee, Pretty Little Liars, Bates Motel, The Hunger Games, Bully

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