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Film / Cyberbully (2011)

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"I CAN'T GET THE CAP OFF!"
— Taylor (Emily Osment)

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/cyberbully_poster_5177.jpg
The film that delivers a hard to swallow pill.
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Cyberbully is a 2011 Made-for-TV Movie starring Emily Osment. Made by ABC Family, Muse Entertainment and Seventeen magazine, it is a Ripped from the Headlines story about a girl named Taylor who is bullied online after offending a classmate.

Prior to the airing of the film, ABC Family (now Freeform) and Seventeen began a campaign against cyberbullying and released online "badges" reading "[delete] digital drama" that can be added to profiles on sites like Facebook.

Not to be confused with the 2015 Channel 4 movie starring Maisie Williams.


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The film contains examples of:

  • Alpha Bitch: Lindsay.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Eric, to Taylor. Deconstructed, as he goes from annoying to irresponsible to the point it might endanger his sister's well-being... because she refused to lend him her computer.
  • Antagonist Title: Bullies are effectively antagonists.
  • Apathetic Teacher: The whole school accidentally comes across as since in any sane situation in real life, just telling what's going on should already help solve the problem. Yet again, we wouldn't have a plot as per Rule of Drama.
  • Artistic License – Law: The legislation that they pass at the end, and the legislation they say they will try to pass after the movie's over, besides being impracticable, is actually infringing on many other privacy laws that already exist, including the Constitution itself, so the law will eventually be overturned by a court.
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  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: At least Eric towards Taylor, he is visibly upset at the very idea of his sister actually killing herself.
  • Big Brother Is Watching: The solution to cyberbullying is apparently to monitor every single computer and make trolling illegal, which, as mentioned in Critical Research Failure, it would not only be extremely expensive and time-consuming, it would also be infringing on various privacy laws as well. So it's pretty probable that they wouldn't even bother with it. But, it is mitigated by the fact the politician says he will try to pass a legislation making verbal harassment on the internet illegal. Which basically means that reporting insults made somewhere on the internet to the police office like the mother tries to would be constructive. It would just cause prosecution for repeated, willingly insulting comments about a minor, given they are reported, and their existence is proved, and the case would most probably be brushed away by the judge as a stupid feud between teenage girls unless one of them's sexual orientation or her ethnic origin are invoked.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Samantha, who pretends to be a boy online to lure her best friend Taylor in, and then spreads rumors about her. She regrets it later on after realizing the damage she's caused.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Taylor, Cheyenne, and Samantha, respectively.
  • Both Sides Have a Point: While Taylor later admits her mom had a point when she kept saying it wasn't healthy of her to read all the nasty comments on her social media, her mom also believes it wasn't wise on her part to jump at her daughter's throat instead of listening to her.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Lindsay's bitchiness to Taylor is retaliation for a comment Taylor made in Health Class that Lindsay assumed was directed at her. And the thing is, it wasn't.
  • Driven to Suicide: Taylor tries to kill herself by overdosing on aspirin, but is stopped when she's unable to get the childproof cap off.
  • Easily Forgiven: Samantha. Seriously, after setting up a fake student account, flirting with Taylor, breaking her heart, and (unintentionally) driving her to almost kill herself, it's a little hard to imagine that Taylor would just take her back like that. Although to be honest, they both agreed that it would take a while for things to get back to the way they were. And Samantha did manage to stop Taylor from killing herself, so that could be part of it.
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil: Despite her bullying ways, Lindsay's group of friends includes a Latino, a black and an Asian, which is more diverse than the protagonist's close circle.
  • Freudian Excuse: It's implied that the reason why Lindsay (and, by extension, her father) is so hostile toward Taylor is because her mother passed away a few years before the events of the film. We learn about this as soon as we meet her father.
  • Freudian Excuse Is No Excuse: Despite the implication that Lindsay acts the way she does because her mother passed away some time ago, Scott makes a point she has no excuse not to seek counseling or talk about it with someone in a healthy manner.
  • Get Out!: Samantha has this reaction towards Taylor when she makes a snide remark at one point. While driving, too.
  • Heel Realization: After Taylor nearly commits suicide, Eric can't help but feel he indirectly caused this to happen. Samantha also feels this way too, knowing that the whole thing was her fault to begin with.
  • Hypocrite: Played Straight with Lindsay, who lashes out because of the anger caused by a misdirected comment from Taylor, but then bullies her and all the people who have nothing to do with this story, but of whom she can easily make fun, despite the fact that, for some of them, they had common enemies and she had no reason to hate them, but she goes along remorselessly because that's the trend, nicely proving both how self-centered and shallow she is.
  • If You Taunt Him, You Will Be Just Like Him: Arguably a secondary message of the film. Discussed during the support group.
  • Insane Troll Logic: Samantha hates Scott because of something he had nothing to do with - namely, his friend slept with Samantha and then dumped her. Then her method of "protecting" Taylor by alienating Scott from her was posing as a guy, gaining Taylor's trust, and then spreading rumors about Taylor having an STD. How Taylor expected this to end any way but horribly is anybody's guess.
  • Interrupted Suicide: Taylor gets one as she tries to gulp down Tylenol after the cyberbullying goes too far, but it's stopped at the last minute by Samantha.
  • It's All About Me: Throughout the first half of the film, Taylor's sympathy levels for other people's problems are shown to be fairly low, which results in her casually and thoughtlessly saying very cold things to people. One of the worst examples of this is a scene where one of Taylor's classmates tries to empathize with her about how much it can hurt being constantly bullied, insulted and targeted by their peers, and Taylor blows him off by stating that there's a difference - what other people are saying about her isn't true. Taylor finally grows out of this trait towards the end of the film, after she's come to understand how much words can hurt.
  • Jerkass: The Alpha Bitch and her father are rather laughable examples due to their portrayal.
    • Although it is realistic in that they never get a real comeuppance and Taylor's speech involves five people and a ten-second long applauding before Lindsay tells them to go and regains her status, still being followed by her friends, and getting some gossip as there probably were before exchanged about her. Also, it is revealed that they may have a Freudian Excuse, and the father reacts as most parents would, except for the way he says what he says. Plus take Evil + Teenage Girl + Popularity + Internet, and you've got Lindsay in Real Life.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Lindsay's father says this his daughter has the right to insult people online, due to the First Amendment to the Constitution. He may be an asshole, but the First Amendment is there to protect unpopular speech, including hate speech, and other people have an equal right to fight back against hateful speech with more speech. But that's not good enough, according to this film, and anybody who does anything slightly resembling cyberbullying should be severely punished to the full extent of the law, which could potentially ruin their lives.
  • Job Title: Being a cyberbully is something someone does.
  • Kick the Dog: Basically the conflict of the movie. A series of events prompts Lindsay and her posse to pick on Taylor on-line. Samantha is no better, as her starting rumors on-line is the bulk of it.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Defied. Samantha believes being bullied on-line is a fitting punishment and they had it coming for bullying Taylor. Taylor, who knows first-hand how horrible the experience is, doesn't think so.
  • Lifetime Movie of the Week: It's an ABC Family movie, but it fits the formula.
  • Moral Dissonance: The apparent happy ending is to monitor every computer at all times so that even good-natured ribbing of others is considered illegal. Does this remind you of anything?
  • My God, What Have I Done?: After Taylor attempted to commit suicide, Samantha realizes that she has gone too far with her fake account.
  • New Media Are Evil: Probably the reason why there's so much Critical Research Failure.
  • Not So Different: While attending a support group, Taylor learns that Caleb knows what it's like to fall for someone online, only for them to turn their back and become your cyberbully.
  • One-Word Title: Also a Portmantitle, Antagonist Title, and Job Title.
  • Plot-Induced Stupidity:
    • Apparently, Cliquesters doesn't have a feature that allows users to report cyberbullies, nor does it have a policy on bullying. Not even after Taylor's attempted suicide makes headlines.
    • Despite constantly being bullied on the site, Taylor is so reluctant to delete her Cliquesters account that she completely ignores her mother about taking down her profile. But if she actually did delete her Cliquesters profile, this movie would be short.
      • Next to each post on the site, there are these little X's which are supposed to mean you can either block the person, or ignore the post. So, for some reason, she NEVER notices them, which is why she asked about blocking people during her counseling.
  • Portmantitle: Using the compound word, "Cyberbully".
  • Recycled Premise: The film shares a few too many similarities to the 2010 film Easy A. Notably it stars a previously-invisible everygirl who becomes well known to her school primarily for being a supposed slut (who's actually a virgin) based on rumors started by a local Alpha Bitch and an old friend, who ends up falling out with her because of this Slut-Shaming; she has a gay friend who gets similar bullying because of his homosexuality that's been going on far longer than her bullying but she doesn't really understand it until she sees how badly the homophobia hurts him, she's got a crush on an attractive nice guy who doesn't believe the things people say about her and, in the end, stays by her side, but before that she meets a seemingly nice guy who's really two-faced and makes the situation worse (and in Cyberbully's case, isn't really a guy). And, in both films, the protagonist makes a video that the school watches after having an emotional breakdown of sorts. While the details of the tropes and such are different, the film's got more than a fair share of similarities.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Delivered by the five main characters towards Lindsay near the end.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: The film was inspired by the many stories of young people committing suicide after they are bullied online. Specifically the story of Megan Meier, who hung herself due to a situation very similar to that in which Taylor finds herself, and is actually mentioned by name in the film.
  • Single Girl Seeks Most Popular Guy: Taylor wants to date a football player.
  • Spotting the Thread: Taylor's online friend claims to go to a school named Ridgeway. But Cheyenne happens to have a cousin who goes there, and after contacting her, learns that no such person goes there.
  • Teens Are Monsters: Tries to do this with the bullies, that they will blindly and savagely switch targets in the blink of an eye (shown as the gossip and lies stop featuring Taylor and start featuring Sam, after they find out what the latter had done).
  • Teens Are Short: All the main characters are about One Head Shorter than the adults.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Inverted. Among other things, Taylor is too dumb to open a childproof cap without struggling, making this a strange case of Too Dumb to Die. Made funnier when the cap pops off while Taylor and Samantha struggle over control of the bottle.
  • Totally Radical: The teenagers in the movie use a lot of slang that teens in real life stopped using LONG before the movie was made. Among these slang terms used are "bling" and "the clap". This is in sharp contrast to the British version, where the film's teenage star and the director's teenage daughter were both consulted regularly by the production staff in order to ensure that the slang was accurate.
    • When Taylor's friend Caleb talks about being subjected to cyberbullying over his sexuality, two of the anti-gay insults he mentions receiving are "fruit" and "fairy".
    • At the end, when the word is getting around via texts that Taylor and her friends told Lindsay off, one of the responses that can be seen is "That's fab!"

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