Beware the Ides of March: A Look at ABC Family’s “Cyberbully” (2011)

Meaghan Rath, Kay Panabaker, and Emily Osment star in ABC Family’s “Cyberbully” (2011)

Et tu Brute? It’s a made-for-television movie where the acting is actually good and it deals with an all too common topic: cyberbullying. In the 2011 movie produced by ABC Family, Cyberbully takes a look at an ancient problem in a modern forum: backstabbing. Today, being March 15th, is the “ides of march.”  Julius Caesar was assassinated by his confidants Gaius  Cassius Longinus and Marcus Junius Brutus when he was stabbed in the back (literally.) Coincidentally, the story of Cyberbully also deals with two friends who do their own form of backstabbing online.

When I was in middle school, and even high school, cyberbullying was not as prevalent. It existed, but not to the extreme that it does nowadays. I was even the victim of some not-so-nice comments online in its early days. Sites like Facebook, Myspace, and Twitter weren’t even created yet. I don’t know what I would do if I were a teenager in this day and age. Our society has made it easier to keep in  contact people, yes, but also to share too much information and do a massive amount of  harm. Bullying has gone beyond the schoolyard of movies like A Christmas Story and replaced bare fists with the stroke of a keyboard. I never get too one-sided in my reviews or arguments and try to play devil’s advocate whenever I can, but bullying, in any form, is not okay. As someone who was bullied growing up, I can relate to the feelings of hopelessness and extreme sadness.

What gets to me most is the fact that situations like these are completely, 100% avoidable. Older generations in our society chock it up to just part of growing up, sometimes citing that “I was picked on as a kid and I turned out fine.” They might even see it as a right of passage. And when I speak of older generations, I am specifically citing things that were said by my grandfather’s generation and he is around 85.  Why does this back-stabbing and hatred NEED to exist at all? It doesn’t. I know that people feel the need to bring others down in order to bring themselves up, but bullying is never a solution to one’s self-esteem issues. And what happens to the bullies once they grow up? Do they become our bosses? wives? husbands? Yes.

This current generation of teens need to think twice before posting harmful videos and bullying escapades online, because those videos might come back to stab them in their own backs. It could have an impact on future employment, spouses, and other relationships, even legal consequences. We need to have an open discussion about how we can change all these negative things into something positive and really try to help the next generation of bosses, wives, and husbands to become more respectful, accepting, and kinder human beings. We need to teach them to use the internet for good and not harm. We need to use the internet to get a positive message out there.  Cyberbully (2011) is available to stream on Netflix and I think it is a must-watch for anyone with a teenager.

The following clip is from 2011’s Cyberbully and contains an all-to-real account of the dangers of bullying (online and off):

Sex Scenes and Sense Memory

Sex sells. It’s a simple fact of life. Ask bestselling author E.L. James of the 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon. In today’s media market, I’m not sure how Constantin Stanislavski, Lee Strasberg, Stella Adler or Uta Hagen would feel about the amount of fornication that permeates our stages & screens. I do know that a love scene, whether in front of 15 people in a class or projected for 15,000 people to view on screen, personal hangups and nerves always become a part of the mix.

Sense and Affective memory exercises are essential in the study of Method acting pioneered by Stanislavski. For those unfamiliar with these, let’s refer to Wikipedia as a jumping off point:

Affective memory was an early element of Stanislavski’s ‘system’ and a central part of Method acting , (two related approaches to acting). Affective memory requires actors to call on the memory of details from a similar situation (or more recently a situation with similar emotional import) to those of their characters. Stanislavski believed actors needed to take emotion and personality to the stage and call upon it when playing their character. He also explored the use of objectives, actioning, and empathizing with the character.

“Emotional recall” is the basis for Lee Strasberg’s Method Acting. “Sense memory” is used to refer to the recall of physical sensations surrounding emotional events (instead of the emotions themselves). The use of affective memory remains a controversial topic in acting theory. otherwise known as emotional memory, it is often used by making the actors completely relax so that they recall the memory better.

If you are an actor yourself, or have been in an acting class at least once, you’ve probably utilized one of these tools. Remember when you had to spend nearly an hour sitting in a chair trying to smell an orange?  Or when you had to remember what it was like to fall off your bike and skin your knee at five years old? Calling upon personal experiences is a great thing. It helps an actor tell the truth that they need to. But what if they lack personal experience? What do they draw from? Is it observation? Maybe. Is it recalling another person’s experience? That too. What about when it comes to a love scene? Fake it until you make I guess.

Making love, having sex, doing the deed, and dancing the horizontal mambo: Sex. It’s a very very personal thing. It’s so personal, that it’s illegal to offer one’s bedroom services for monetary gain. And it’s so personal, that the rating of your movie might just change from R to NC-17 with the flash of a body part or sound of ecstatic moan.

It’s the actor’s job to make an audience believe them. To tell the truth. Halle Berry was so truthful in Monster’s Ball, for which she won an Oscar, that many believed that she was actually too in the moment. Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams did such a good job at “love faking” that their film Blue Valentine originally received an NC-17 rating until it was appealed and the rating was dropped to R.

Both Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams are amazing actors and it probably wasn’t due to anything overtly graphic (although it is, at times, graphic) that their movie was in the rating’s hot seat. In fact, the controversial scenes contain the truth; Actors so good at sense and emotional memory that they made the folks at the MPAA blush because what they were seeing appeared real. Newsflash, it wasn’t. Knowing that Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling identify themselves as “Method actors” it is safe to assume that they utilized the tools that exercises like sense memory and affective memory give an actor. They give us access to the truth that we know within ourselves and the ability to relay that information to an audience.

Things like ADR or dubbing can be employed to make such scenes believable. This involves the actors in sound booths weeks, months, hell even years after shooting a movie where they record over faulty dialogue and yes, make sex noises.  Sex scenes in movies are probably the most technically involved because so much make believe is required to make it seem real. They aren’t sexy and glamorous. Instead of hearing someone shout your name, all you hear is the director saying “You’re out of your light!”  “Move your head/leg/arm to the left!” or “You’re blocking so-and-so’s lighting!”  Yeah, really romantic. Plus, if it’s a film, there are at least 3o people watching you fake an orgasm. It’s uncomfortable.  But it’s safe to say that sense memory is as real as you’re going to get in terms of seeing sex in mainstream movies. Don’t worry, it’s fake.