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CaveGirl

Anti-Bullying Themes in Films

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If you have a film that blatantly tries to shove a message down your throat, often it is ignored. But the best messages come with one's own apprehension and comprehension of something profound and on that note, one of the films that I think has a definite anti-bullying message without hitting it with a sledge hammer on the audience, is "Bang the Drum Slowly".

Spoilers Ahead!

Now this film also contains for me, perhaps one of the most underrated and uncharacteristic performances of Robert DeNiro ever. Being a baseball movie, the storyline consists of DeNiro playing a slightly dimwitted catcher named Bruce Pearson, who due to his simplistic nature seems to often be the butt of jokes by teammates. His best friend friend on the team is Henry Wiggen, as played by Michael Moriarity, whose kindness to Pearson defies all odds. After finding out that he has terminal Hodgkins Disease, Bruce enlists Henry to keep his secret, though the rest of the team continually ribs him and his play is poor enough to almost be replaced by another player. Henry, uses his clout at being resigned to make sure Bruce does not lose his team position, but sees the deleterious effect and toll the constant bullying has taken on his friend. There is the moment when the song "The Streets of Laredo" is strummed and sung, counterpunching the soon to be demise of Bruce, who seems oblivious to the symbolism of the words about a dying cowboy, until finally after being pushed continually, Henry admits to the truth about Bruce's imminent death to a teammate, which soon becomes common knowledge though not to Bruce. This seems to bring a sense of unity to a team which had never been united and amazingly without the constant cracks and criticisms of his play, Bruce starts to fulfill his own abilities which up till then had been thwarted seemingly by having little or no support from teammates. The film ends with Bruce dying but the team finding their goals met, with Wiggen making the statement, "From here on in, I rag nobody."

My facile telling of this seems maudlin and corny on paper, but on film this story is moving and touching and DeNiro is amazingly vulnerable and believable in the role. I think a message about how bullying can tear a person down, is broached well in this film without becoming a Lifetime Movie cliche. Name another movie which may have a hidden anti-bullying message also that you find invigorating.

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2 hours ago, CaveGirl said:

Name another movie which may have a hidden anti-bullying message also that you find invigorating.

The original Revenge of the Nerds (1984) has a surprising sweetness that you wouldn't expect from the low-rent title-grabbing "sequels", and a cleverness and sympathy for its characters you didn't generally get from most frathouse comedies from the late 70's to the early 80's.

This being the 80's, back when teen-movie protagonists were "picked on" just for not being rich or cool, the movie manages to be "anti-bullying" without being narcissistically self-absorbed, gay-tribalistic paranoid, or clicking persecution-fetish guns to its head:  In that it takes the unusual step for the genre of showing the other bad "cool" frathouses on campus--the rich-popular party house and the beer-blast jock house--as utter brainless DOLTS...Who manage to be perfect victims for our heroes' titular (and surprisingly un-mean-spirited) revenge, in that our heroes win out in the end by doing what made them campus outcasts in the first place:  Being smart.   :)

(And yes, Pixar's "Monsters University" pretty much cribbed the entire script from cover to cover.)

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REVENGE OF THE NERDS, simple comedy that it might have been, has had its share of controversy in later years.

(SPOILER ALERT) There's a scene where Lewis (Robert Carradine) tricks the girl of one of the bullies to make out with him by hiding in costume, similar to the boyfriend's. When she finds out, she seems irritated....for one moment, then she's cool with it.

However, some of today's modern moviegoers choose to look at this scene as 'rape' since Lewis led the girl to believe she was making out with the boyfriend and not him. I don't go along with this view, but nevertheless quite a bit of viewers did and do.

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Even as recently as Napoleon Dynamite, Napoleon getting bullied in the halls of his high school by the jock students while the rest of the student body and faculty walk by completely oblivious or uncaring, is played entirely for comic effect. I think awareness of the seriousness of the issue has finally reached the point that you will never again see bullying used as a throwaway comic scene in an American film.

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One of my favorite films is the Oscar winning "From Here To Eternity" (1953) and I believe it has an anti bullying theme. Spoiler ahead if you haven't seen it.

 

 

Private Prewitt (Montgomery Clift) is a proud soldier who sticks to his ideals. He was also a boxer for his company and quit when he blinded a friend while sparring and vowed to never box again. He now is in a new company where the C.O. Captain Holmes (Phillip Ober) wants him on his boxing team, so Holmes has his non commissioned officers apply to "the treatment" to Prewitt. This includes both verbal and physical abuse heaped on him, but he won't budge. He finally fights back against one of his tormentors but still refuses to get in a boxing ring. Prewitt ends up being killed (accidentally) because of his refusal to give in. Holmes is forced out of the army for his cruelty to Prewitt, an ending not in the original book, but was demanded by the army since they did not want to be considered sympathetic to this bullying character. 

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19 hours ago, EricJ said:

The original Revenge of the Nerds (1984) has a surprising sweetness that you wouldn't expect from the low-rent title-grabbing "sequels", and a cleverness and sympathy for its characters you didn't generally get from most frathouse comedies from the late 70's to the early 80's.

This being the 80's, back when teen-movie protagonists were "picked on" just for not being rich or cool, the movie manages to be "anti-bullying" without being narcissistically self-absorbed, gay-tribalistic paranoid, or clicking persecution-fetish guns to its head:  In that it takes the unusual step for the genre of showing the other bad "cool" frathouses on campus--the rich-popular party house and the beer-blast jock house--as utter brainless DOLTS...Who manage to be perfect victims for our heroes' titular (and surprisingly un-mean-spirited) revenge, in that our heroes win out in the end by doing what made them campus outcasts in the first place:  Being smart.   :)

(And yes, Pixar's "Monsters University" pretty much cribbed the entire script from cover to cover.)

Great choice, Eric!

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13 hours ago, Bethluvsfilms said:

REVENGE OF THE NERDS, simple comedy that it might have been, has had its share of controversy in later years.

(SPOILER ALERT) There's a scene where Lewis (Robert Carradine) tricks the girl of one of the bullies to make out with him by hiding in costume, similar to the boyfriend's. When she finds out, she seems irritated....for one moment, then she's cool with it.

However, some of today's modern moviegoers choose to look at this scene as 'rape' since Lewis led the girl to believe she was making out with the boyfriend and not him. I don't go along with this view, but nevertheless quite a bit of viewers did and do.

Beth, I agree with both you and Eric about this film. I think Robert Carradine does bring more to the role than one would usually see in a film like this. Thanks for both of your thoughts!

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I posted this short in the Games/Song thread, but I guess it fits here: An anti-bullying short starring Frank Sinatra:

 

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The Mating Game.  Paul Douglas' family are bohemian farmers who get by on the barter system, and the neighbor who doesn't like this tries to use the biggest bully of them all -- the State (in the form of IRS agent Tony Randall) -- to get back at his neighbor.  This is portrayed as an unambiguously bad thing.

It also turns out that the federal government has been screwing Douglas' family for close to 100 years by violating the terms of a Civil War-era contract.

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On 6/29/2018 at 9:29 AM, Det Jim McLeod said:

 

Private Prewitt (Montgomery Clift) is a proud soldier who sticks to his ideals. He was also a boxer for his company and quit when he blinded a friend while sparring and vowed to never box again. He now is in a new company where the C.O. Captain Holmes (Phillip Ober) wants him on his boxing team, so Holmes has his non commissioned officers apply to "the treatment" to Prewitt. This includes both verbal and physical abuse heaped on him, but he won't budge. He finally fights back against one of his tormentors but still refuses to get in a boxing ring. Prewitt ends up being killed (accidentally) because of his refusal to give in. Holmes is forced out of the army for his cruelty to Prewitt, an ending not in the original book, but was demanded by the army since they did not want to be considered sympathetic to this bullying character. 

That poor Monty.  Couldn't win back then, eh?

First, bullied by his non-coms for refusing to box in FHTE, then bullied by his fellow soldier's for being Jewish in THE YOUNG LIONS('58).

Sepiatone

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Stanley Kramer's Bless the Beasts and the Children (1971) centers on a group of misfit boys who are bullied at summer camp.

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"Bruno" aka "The Dress Code" (2000) has a kid that is "different" bullied by his classmates.  Bruno's grandmother taught him at the end how to defend himself added the support from his new friend  Shawniqua .  Loved when the head bully got his butt kicked near the end by Bruno wearing a princess dress. :lol:

Shirley MacLaine both directed and starred (grandmother) in the movie.

Trailer

 

OT trivia...Stacey Halprin who played Bruno's overweight mom struggled with it in real life.

http://www.oprah.com/oprahshow/stacey-halprins-weight-loss-journey/all

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One of the first anti-bullying films I remember seeing as kid was about THIS cute little guy here who was picked on and bullied to quite some extent for a while...

dumbo-classic-disney-4613149-1280-960.jp

(...until, that is, he found what he had first thought were his major liabilities would turn out to be his most unique assets)

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15 minutes ago, Dargo said:

As I recall, THIS cute little guy here was picked on and bullied to quite some extent.

And....that's why we're getting the Tim Burton remake.

(No, really:  The guy IS married, right?  With kids?)

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3 hours ago, EricJ said:

And....that's why we're getting the Tim Burton remake.

(No, really:  The guy IS married, right?  With kids?)

Wow! This is the first I've heard of this, Eric.

Okay, and so seein' as how the whole "I done seen about everything, when I see an elephant fly" crow sequence is now somehow seen as being "racist"(and whereas I always thought those crows were just plain cool as hell dudes, but yeah sure, black dudes), I wonder how Burton is going to handle THIS scene? I mean, this scene IS the whole turning point in Dumbo's story of redemption, now isn't it?!

(...and btw, THAT was always my favorite song in the whole flick TOO!)

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4 hours ago, Wayne said:

Stanley Kramer's Bless the Beasts and the Children (1971) centers on a group of misfit boys who are bullied at summer camp.

That's a great one that I own on VHS. Billy Mumy (one of the best child actors of the 1960s, most famous for "Lost In Space" and a some of the best "Twilight Zone" episodes) is now teen aged and plays the leader of the misfits. There is some nice soft rock music in this, typical of the 1970s. This deserves to be better known, one of Stanley Kramer's best.

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Thanks to CaveGirl for citing BANG THE DRUM SLOWLY.  I saw this film years ago and DeNiro and Moriarity are both very good.  This was quite early in their careers.  DeNiro became a mega-star and I always thought Michael Moriarity was a good actor and I liked him as the original DA in LAW & ORDER but apparently he had a snit with Dick Wolf and left the show, opening the door for Sam Waterston's long run.

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1 hour ago, Dargo said:

Wow! This is the first I've heard of this, Eric.

Okay, and so seein' as how the whole "I done seen about everything, when I see an elephant fly" crow sequence is now somehow seen as being "racist"(and whereas I always thought those crows were just plain cool as hell dudes, but yeah sure, black dudes), I wonder how Burton is going to handle THIS scene?

Oh, you know how Tim does remakes:  It's not going to look anything within a hundred miles of anything faintly resembling the original...Like, no crows, no Timothy, no snooty talking elephants, Eva Green plays the misogynistically retro-glamour villainess, and the whole story is now refocused around "They're picking on me!"

https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/dumbo-everything-know-disneys-live-action-remake-1123533

(But, hey, at least he remembered the clowns and the Pink Elephants.)

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As the title of this thread is concerned with ANTI- bullying themes, I don't recall any movies older than 15-20 years old that dealt with an "anti" bullying issue.  But as we've now discovered, there were plenty over the years(and decades) that clearly displayed  bullying, and how the target dealt with it, or overcame it's affect on him/her.  Nobody, until more recent years, really considered bullying to be ANY kind of major "issue", so movies with an "anti" bullying theme are likely in shorter supply. 

ALL the biker dudes in EITHER gang in THE WILD ONE('53) could be considered bullies...

As well as all the "bosses" and "bulls" in any prison movie from I WAS A FUGITIVE FROM A CHAIN GANG('32) to COOL  HAND LUKE('67) and even the guards and the "Sisters" in THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION('94).

Sepiatone

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What about Cinderella, she was bullied by her step-mother and step-sisters. I think they lived to regret how they treated her.

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Okay, so I was really bored and watched the 2010 version of The Karate Kid, filmed on location in Beijing and starring Jackie Chan, Taraji P. Henson and Jaden Smith, the then-12-year-old son of Will and Jada Pinkett Smith. There will not be much new to anyone who watched the Ralph Macchio-Pat Morita movies. It combines plot elements of the first two films, often putting some little twist on each plot point as if to say to the parents who had to come watch this new version with their kids, "See? We didn't do it exactly the same as the one when you were a teenager!"

The antognist is played by a boy named Zhenwei Wang who just looks sadistic and evil and seems to be taking great pleasure in tormenting the hero. They go to the same school, so there are lots of scenes of school bullying. I guess I will say Spoiler Alert, if no one watched the original movies, but the real villain turns out to be the "bad" kid's out-of-control militaristic coach. There is a scene that feels very tacked-on at the end where the kid who's just been horrible to Jaden for 99 per cent of the movie bows to him honorifically after being bested in the climactic match and then glares at his coach as if saying, "See, I don't have to be evil anymore!" I wouldn't mind that scene if it came on with some foreshadowing or subtlety, but it doesn't.

 

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