This article deals with representations of school bullying and cyberbullying in cinema, and more specifically in three recent fiction films: Después de Lucia (Michel Franco, 2012), 1:54 (Yan England, 2016) et One Kiss (Ivan Cotroneo, 2016). It provides an analysis based on the plot and on images of (cyber)bullying rather than on artistic or aesthetic criteria.
Sexism, homophobia and gender stereotypes
The three films highlight realistic aspects of (cyber)bullying, in particular its roots in sexism, homophobia and gender stereotypes. Alejandra (Después de Lucia) and Blu (One Kiss) experience “slut-shaming” because of a sexual relation they had with a classmate and which was filmed and broadcast online. Tim and Francis (1:54), Lorenzo and Antonio (One Kiss) are the target of homophobic insults, because they openly assume their homosexuality and/or because they do not conform to masculine norms.
Although Alejandra notices that her partner is filming, she believes the video will remain “confidential.” She is therefore terribly distraught when she realizes that it has been published on the social media. As for Blu, she doesn’t know for a very long time that she has been filmed. She believes that her reputation as an “easy lay” is due simply to the fact of “having had sex”.
Cyberviolence and “revenge porn” play an important part in the plot. For Alejandra and Blu, it is the trigger for the bullying they undergo. For Tim, who has been videotaped while having sex with another boy, it is the climax, the ultimate violence inflicted on him that will push him to the limit.
The consequences of school bullying
Michel Franco and Yan England’s films transcribe well the consequences of school bullying on victims, such as feelings of shame and guilt, their isolation and the silence they keep to protect their parents. Alejandra remains isolated and silent because her friends have turned their backs on her. She is now alone. Tim does not talk about his problems and also remains silent. He takes refuge in athletics and challenges his main intimidator at the 800m track running competition: a strategy of positive adaptation which will last only for a while…
The common experience that Blu, Antonio and Lorenzo (One Kiss) share of bullying in their high school reinforces their friendship and complicity. But it also leads them to indulge in cyberviolence. In fact, to avenge their intimidators, they publish incriminating information about them. The bullied become bullies, and this is another possible effect of school bullying.
The three films seem to reflect victims’ experiences and emotions in a relatively realistic way. But other characteristics of the situations in which the characters are immersed are taken to the extreme. Even before the beginning of the story, they all have already been weakened by life: Alejandra and Tim lost their mother, Antonio lost his brother, Lorenzo grew up in an orphanage, Blu looks after her depressed mother. The violence they are subjected to appears to be the logical continuation of their misfortune.
The teenage world in which they evolve is disconnected from the adult world. The figures of authority remain in the background. The parents are too absorbed by their own suffering (grief, depression) to understand their children’s. The teachers do not measure the seriousness of the acts they witness or even ignore them. Violence is developing with impunity.
Moreover, the three films end tragically (suicide or murder), implying that (cyber)bullying could have no other outcome than death.