Movie Trailer for Bully

This year, over 5 million American kids will be bullied at school, online, on the bus, at home, through their cell phones and on the streets of their towns, making it the most common form of violence young people in this country experience. The Bully Project is the first feature documentary film to show how we’ve all been affected by bullying, whether we’ve been victims, perpetrators or stood silent witness. The world we inhabit as adults begins on the playground. The Bully Project opens on the first day of school. For the more than 5 million kids who’ll be bullied this year in the United States, it’s a day filled with more anxiety and foreboding than excitement. As the sun rises and school busses across the country overflow with backpacks, brass instruments and the rambunctious sounds of raging hormones, this is a ride into the unknown.

The Bully Project opens in select theaters on Friday. I had hoped it would be opening in Indianapolis, but I don’t see it playing here yet. The movie was rated “R” because of the language, but the producers objected to that rating – it would mean that kids, who are the target audience, would not be able to see it. They tried to fight that rating, and ultimately rejected any rating, choosing to release it without a rating rather than accept it. Movie chain AMC has agreed to open the movie to minors.

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Skins: British vs. American

Skins is a British TV show finishing it’s fourth season in the UK. It’s fictional, set in Bristol, England, it focuses on teenagers, and it’s very raw and realistic, covering drug and alcohol abuse and sexuality as topics. It’s raunchy and hugely popular in Britain. I’ve been watching the British version streaming through Netflix, and I like it a lot. It’s a bit shocking in that there is a lot of stuff one would never see on American television, but it seems really real; like these are real teenagers and how they really act, and despite their adult behavior, there’s a sweetness and longing to the kids that betrays how innocent and hopefully they really are underneath their facade of cynicism.

So of course they brought the show to America. And fucked it up. Because that’s what we do.

The American version is almost a shot for shot recreation of the first season of the British original, but with American teens, so of course they look just a bit slicker and cuter. That shot-by-shot recreation is an important point, though — because when they deviate from the original, it means that there’s a calculated reason for it. And the calculation is what’s disturbing.

The story centers around a teenage school kid named Tony and the friends that revolve around him: his girlfriend Michelle, buddy Stan (Sid in the original), and several other pals. Tony is an attractive jerkwad who manipulates his friends, usually for selfish reasons. But he has charisma and charm and they hang around him despite his jerky behavior, because he can talk them out of being mad. He regularly cheats on his girlfriend Michelle, and she knows it, but she overlooks it. Usually. In the British version of the show, this is what brings their relationship to a halt halfway through the first season, and is the source of conflict through the rest of it — Tony decides to fool around with their gay friend Maxxie. It’s not because Maxxie’s a guy that Michelle gets upset, but rather that Tony does it openly where everyone knows about it. She’s been overlooking his cheating for a long time, but now that it’s no longer a secret, she can’t look the other way and she dumps him. The storyline is daring because Tony is so casually fluid about his sexuality; he’s clearly straight but isn’t freaked out about fooling around with another boy, and he’s so vain that he enjoys the attention. He only ends up apologizing for his behavior because he loses Michelle, but for that he wouldn’t care or have any moral problems with it.

And that brings us to the American version, and the homophobia problem with it — in this version, the gay boy Maxxie has been changed to a lesbian girl named Tea. She’s a cheerleader and is open about her sexuality to her friends. She casually sleeps with girls because she enjoys it, but she’s bored with most of the girls she meets and can’t find one that “matches” her level of interest in the world around her or her curiosity. She agrees to go out on a blind date arranged by her dad, and it turns out to be with Tony – whom she fools around with. He makes a case that he is the one that “matches” her. And despite her declarations that she’s gay, she appears to be considering him as a potential interest, at least for the first few episodes in.

Given that every single other element of the show is the same – dialog, jokes, shot for shot recreations of the original – this change is really blatant. Clearly, they were too freaked out by the gay male storyline, or the idea that a straight boy could be fluid about his sexuality, to leave the original story. But in making the gay character a gay girl, they made her sexuality fluid, which is already a stereotype about lesbians that we have to fight constantly, because the idea of a lesbian being “changed” or “corrected” by sleeping with a guy is so pervasive that a common hate crime directed at gay women is “corrective” rape. Having been a victim myself of that particular hate crime, these kinds of perpetuations of the myth that gay women aren’t really gay are painful to watch. It’s the reason I hated The Kids Are All Right, among other things. It’s just not true, and it’s annoying when guys have that false notion in their heads validated onscreen.

I’m going to continue to watch the American version of Skins, but if they end up putting Tony and Tea together, I’m going to be hard pressed not to throw my remote at the screen in disgust.

UPDATE: Of course they went there. Ugh.

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links for 2010-09-24

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Evan vs. Johnny, part 3897

I’ve never liked Evan Lysacek. I can sense the underlying homophobia in all of his comments about Johnny Weir, and he always has seemed to suffer from insecurity badly masked by snottiness. All of that could be forgiven if he were an interesting skater, (hell, I LOVE watching Tonya Harding skate, and look at her issues!) but on the ice Evan just seems really ill-at-ease to me.

Even so, I felt sorry for him after Evgeni Plushenko’s asinine behavior following the Olympics – in the battle of skating douche-baggery, Plushenko takes the gold over Evan all week long.

But my sympathy for Evan lasted all of 5 minutes – witness the latest go-round between Evan and Johnny over the Stars on Ice controversy. In March, the show declined to have Johnny skate with them, despite the really beautiful job he did at the Olympics (he was robbed of a medal, frankly) and Johnny thinks it’s because he’s not “family-friendly.” That’s probably right on target; Stars on Ice is rather on the white bread, homespun, booooooooorrrrrrrrring side. Bring your snooze alarm to the show. Johnny can occasionally court controversy (although I think he really does this at pretty strategic times) and they were probably worried about him upsetting the apple pie genera image the show maintains. (In reality, I’ve never seen Johnny bite the hand that feeds him – he genuinely appreciates his fans and treats his coaches well even when he’s not getting along with them. He works hard at his sport and always had great things to say about the figure skating world in general.)
In response to Johnny’s comments, Evan had this to say:

“Stars on Ice” is really selective of who they hire and they only hire the best of the best to skate. It would’ve been hard of them to justify hiring him, and I think he was really upset because he wanted the financial benefit of the tour. A lot of us in the skating world were really disappointed in the way he reacted, basically whining that he wasn’t chosen.

I call bullshit on that one – They do have some amazing skaters, but I’ve also seen some of the crash test dummies they’ve had on their programs – talent ain’t exactly a requirement for the gig. It’s more of a showcase of the wholesomeness of figure skating, geared towards tween girls, rather like Disney’s princess movies.

Johnny has been a U.S. Nationals champion (beating Evan!) three times, and he’s qualified for the Olympics numerous times and won a Bronze at worlds. He’s a very good skater and better than Jeremy Abbott, who’s a sweetie but just not the same caliber.

Johnny fired back today, saying he wouldn’t join the cast if asked, and calling Evan a “slore.” The Urban Dictionary definition if you need it. I can’t see the video yet to see whether Johnny was pissed or playful. I do think he has a point, though. I thought the Dancing with the Stars gig was on the whorish side.

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links for 2010-04-24

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