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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.

Despite sincere intentions from ABC Family, Cyberbully was quickly mocked and ridiculed by the internet for its over-the-top dramatic approach to its subject matter as evidenced by the above page quote.

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 fits this trope to a perfect T.
  • 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... and all because she refused to lend him her computer.
    • Namely, he and his friend somehow managed to hack into Taylor's Cliquesters page and wrote the eloquent "I'm a naughty bad girl! Somebody should spank me!", which kicks off the main conflict of Taylor being bullied.
  • Antagonist Title: Well, cyberbullying in general is the main conflict.
  • Apathetic Teacher: The entirety of the faculty at Taylor's school, given the nature of the plot. In the real world, most of what's happening to Taylor could be ended with her telling a teacher what's happening.
  • 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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    • When Taylor's mother confronts Lindsay's father about his daughter's bullying, he threatens to sue her for slander. Given that he is an attorney, you'd think he would know that there's no way in Hell that he would have any kind of case for that against her. Not only is there readily available evidence that Lindsay has bullied Taylor (making Taylor's mother's statements demonstrably true), but private statements, by definition, cannot be defamatory.
  • 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, would not only be extremely expensive and time-consuming, but also be infringing on various privacy laws as well. So it's pretty probable that they wouldn't even bother with it.
  • 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.
  • Cyberbullying: The plot, as implied by the title, is about protagonist Taylor suffering from severe cyberbullying after insulting an Alpha Bitch online- most of the bullying involves Slut-Shaming and spreading rumors. Because the bullying is online, however, Taylor and her mother struggle to get any proper justice served over it.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Lindsay's bitchiness to Taylor is retaliation for a comment Taylor made in Health Class that Lindsay incorrectly assumed was directed at her.
  • 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. After setting up a fake student account, flirting with Taylor, breaking her heart, and (unintentionally) driving her to almost commit suicide, it's a little hard to imagine that Taylor would just forgive and forget. Of course, 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 that 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 that she has no excuse to take her pain out on everyone else, as opposed to seeking counseling.
  • 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 are easy targets.
  • 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 Samantha 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 capacity for empathy is pretty 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.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Lindsay's father says that 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.
  • Kick the Dog: Basically the conflict of the movie. A series of events prompts Lindsay and her posse to pick on Taylor online. Samantha is no better, as her starting rumors online is the bulk of it.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Defied. Samantha believes being bullied online is a fitting punishment and she 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 perfectly.
  • 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: The position the film ends up taking with Taylor's mom trying to get the internet legislated when in reality, there are already various digital rules and terms of service along with simple features universal to most all social media sites such as an option to block people that for the most part, weed out would be malicious trolls and cyberbullies.
  • 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 cyber bully.
  • 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 or block people. Not even after Taylor's attempted suicide makes headlines.
    • Despite constantly being bullied on the site, Taylor never thinks to just shut down her profile.
      • 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, Taylor 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.
  • Suicide by Pills: After being bullied online and having her heart broken, Taylor attempts to take a lot of aspirin to kill herself. Luckily, she can't get the cap off and is stopped by her friend Samantha.
  • Teens Are Monsters: Once it's revealed what Sam did, the bullying quickly and viciously shifts focus to her.
  • 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".
    • 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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