Can Cyberbully Pass the Test?
A Chris Pozzi Critique
As IMDB says, Cyberbully is about “Teen girl Taylor Hillridge [who] gets a laptop for her birthday and signs up on a social networking site. She starts to feel alone as her friends ostracize her and she falls victim to cyberbullying”. While the main theme of this movie is about cyberbullying, this movie does a great job of pulling in many different types of people. To recognize that there are many different types of people, I scored the representation test for this movie. This test is a media literacy tool meant to spark learning and conversation around representation in film, and to encourage more overall diversity on screen and behind-the-scenes in Hollywood. Cyberbully is a great representation of what it means to represent different types of people. While it does not necessarily have the best representation, it still has a good amount of diversity in it. When I scored it, I gave it a 9 on the scale. This is a B, so it could have had a bit more representation of other types of people.
Specifically, they did a good job of keeping women involved in this film. To start with, the protagonist is a woman, Taylor. The entire storyline focuses around her and the way she impacts her school, whether it is positive or negative. In addition to this, there is also one woman or color who has a speaking role and does not get reduced to her stereotype. This woman is Cheyenne, one of Taylor’ best friends. She has a big speaking role, but ditches Taylor when times are tough. This is shown specifically when Taylor gets to school one day after a big lie is told about her online, and Cheyenne says to her face that she cannot be her friend. Unfortunately, she is one of the only persons of color in the entire film, and when she is shown struggling with her protagonist friend it is not the best light put upon her. Specifically, this is shown when Taylor gets to school after one of the bad rumors gets started, and Cheyenne automatically tells her to stay away from her because she does not want to be associated with Taylor. It is just seen badly that the only person of color in the spotlight is the one to abandon her friend. Lastly, the film does pass the Bechdel Test, which means the film features two or more named characters who are women, who talk to each other about something other than a man. This film has a total group of three girls that all talk about everything. While a boy is definitely a big topic of discussion, it is not nearly the only thing they talk about during the film. Other topics of discussion are the mean girls at school, their parents, what clothes to wear that day, and many more.
While women are featured in this film, men are also put in the light, and not necessarily in the best light. While the film does avoid glorifying violent men, which is definitely a good thing, it does not include men in non-stereotypical roles. The guy that Taylor likes, Scott, acts like a great person to her, but as soon as everything gets difficult for her, he bails and acts terribly toward her. At the end of the film, he apologizes for the way he acted, but that does not dismiss the way that he acted towards her when she needed his assistance. This shows guys in a bad light, and definitely stereotypes them to do this to girls. In addition, Cyberbully does a good job of avoiding perpetuating an extreme and unhealthy body ideal for men. They show many different types of body types in men. Specifically, however, the film puts a big emphasis on how much Taylor likes Scott, who has the ideal body type and look. This is shown in the way that the girls fawn over him in the cafeteria when he decides to talk to Taylor Men are in general seen in a pretty decent light in this film, however overall it can make some guys question if they are good enough.
Lastly, the film does a good job of representing different races and LGBT in a positive way. The film was able to avoid celebrating offensive racial, ethnic, and cultural stereotypes. In addition, the film does include one or more LGBT characters who are not reduced to stereotypes. Yes, the film does show the one gay kid in the movie as one of the main kids that gets picked on for being who he is. However, there is more emphasis put on the fact that at the end of the movie, people stand up for him, and cyberbullying in general. Taylor is able to stand up for this kid, and everybody that is getting picked on by the bullies in her high school. Sadly, the protagonist of this film is not gay, but does treat the one gay character positively. In addition, this film got an extra point because its writer is a woman.
This representation test is an interesting way to gauge whether or not the film is a part of a contribution to change. This film obviously has a message of positivity toward raising awareness towards bullying with its heart wrenching scenes of Taylor trying to commit suicide. However, according to this representation test, the film just did an okay job. It did not earn enough to be a perfect “A” type of movie. Personally, I thought that it was a good way of showing the different types of people that should be featured. It was definitely accurate to give this film the score it got, and I bet it also does well for other movies as well. I believe that the scoring system is pretty fair, but I would not say that it is balanced. I feel like there was way too much emphasis put on women, when a good portion that the women were scored on could be applied to men. I know that the world has an emphasis on sexism towards women, so that it why it seems fair, but it is not nearly as balanced as it should be. I would definitely encourage the people that developed the representation test to take a look at adding some more questions that represent men more. It did do some good because it gave some recognition to people that are usually not heard. Specifically, Cyberbully addressed many types of concerns and raises a ton of awareness around cyberbullying and the ways it can really drive a person to the brink of literal death.
I would rank this movie four out of five pickles because it includes a good amount of
representation from the representation test, but it could add a bit more in order to move up its score
from a B to an A.