Bullying doesn't disappear as we all get older. There is a misconception in the minds of some that bullying is something only children experience.
Erin Davies knows that isn't the case.
In 2007, Davies, then a Sage College of Albany graduate student, found her Volkswagen Beetle vandalized. The word FAG was spray-painted on her driver-side window, while the phrase U R GAY was scrawled across the hood.
Naturally, Davies was upset and planned to remove the graffiti posthaste. Somewhere along the line, though, plans changed.
I spent a year driving the car cross-country with the graffiti still on it. The idea was to force a conversation. That conversation would start wherever the car was. People would see the graffiti and have really emotional reactions, Davies said. By keeping the graffiti on the car, it made people feel the same discomfort I felt.
During her road trip, Davies interviewed the people she encountered, everyday people at gas stations and hotels whose reactions ranged from outrage and disgust to sympathy and support.
The product of Davies' experiment? Fagbug, an 83-minute documentary that will screen at the club Twist in Wilkes-Barre this Friday night, Nov. 9. A presentation of the NEPA Rainbow Alliance's SafeZone Youth Empowerment Program, Davies herself will be present, along with the now rainbow-colored Fagbug, which she still drives, to host the screening and take part in a discussion.
She's taken the personal activist thing to a whole new level. It's a very visible, very candid conversation that she has with the community that the community can learn from, John Dawe, executive director of the NEPA Rainbow Alliance, said.
Dawe is also manager of the Anti-Bullying Coalition of Luzerne County, a group which will host its own film screening – in this case, the Lee Hirsch-directed documentary Bully – at the F.M. Kirby Center in Wilkes-Barre on Thursday, Nov. 8.
Though the screenings are not formally connected, they are linked nonetheless by a shared theme. While Fagbug spotlights the issue of bullying amongst a specific segment of society, Bully tackles the broader issue of bullying in general.
It pulls no punches, Michael Zimmerman said, stressing that Bully, though rated PG-13, deals with weighty subjects like suicide and school violence in a serious and unflinching manner.
The film does a good job of portraying the feelings of people who are bullied and the reality of what goes on with bullying in our schools and our community at large. It draws up a lot of strong emotions.
Zimmerman is executive director of the Family Service Association of Wyoming Valley, which, like the NEPA Rainbow Alliance, is a member of the Anti-Bullying Coalition.
For the Bully screening, which is also comprised of a pre-film discussion and a post-film forum, Zimmerman is coordinating representatives from Catholic Social Services, Community Counseling Services, Northeast Counseling Services, Children's Service Center, and the Family Service Association. The representatives will be present to provide information, take part in the discussions, and offer one-on-one counseling.
Bullying happens all the time, no matter what age, no matter what demographic. However, it's kids that are most at risk, Dawe said. Hopefully, when you're out of high school or college and in the ‘real world,' you've developed skills to cope with and process bullying. The reason a lot of anti-bullying efforts are focused on kids is because a 10-year-old isn't going to understand what's happening as well, or how to deal with it.
Davies shares Dawe's emphasis.
The reason I did ‘Fagbug' is for younger kids to see it and see that they can turn these experiences into something positive, she said.
When these things happen, I think most people feel shame. A lot of kids are driven to suicide. What I did is turn the tables on it. I encourage people to document when these things happen. If we don't, people think it never takes place. How can we find a solution to a problem if we don't admit it really exists?
Bully screening, Nov. 8, doors at 6 p.m., film at 7 p.m., F.M. Kirby Center (71 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre.) $5. Info: abcluzerne.org
Fagbug screening, Nov. 9, 8 p.m, Twist (1170 Route 315, Plains Twp.) $5 for 21+, free for under 21. Info: twistbarpa.com