Monday, March 26, 2012

Books, Movies, and Discussions

Hunger Games is all the rage. The movie made over $150 million in its first weekend, and the audience was filled with people of all ages and genders.

People are talking and they haven't stopped.

And this is a good thing!

Hunger Games raises questions about political and cultural issues. Discussion are led around dictatorship, government control, reality television, and war. Comparisons are made with our community today, past wars, and what the future may bring. Teens, their parents, and even those without kids, are reading, talking, and lining up to see the movie.

And teens don't need their parents to go with them to see the movie. Hunger Games, a movie about teens killing teens and high level topics all based in a fictional world, is rated PG13. I went to see the movie this weekend and loved it! There is very little blood, not a lot of cussing, no sexual content...I agree, not an R movie. We are reading the book, seeing the movie, and most of all, talking about it. That is what we want! And hopefully adults are talking to their children about the topics in the book, helping better understand the complexity of society.

But this raises another question. We can see how much people are reading and talking. Movies bring us together. We love to talk about what we've seen and read. A good movie or book can start the most difficult conversation.

If a movie about such complex issues in a fictional world receives a PG13 rating, why would a documentary about real life issues in real life schools receive an R rating?

Are we saying that our schools- our world- is rated R? There is something wrong with that.

The fight to lower the rating for the documentary "Bully" is still on. As it should be. We can clearly see how much a good book and movie gets us talking. Teens, parents, and teachers need to be talking about the dire situation of bullying in our schools. Let us be reminded if this documentary is rated R then our schools are rated R!

Think about it...

Monday, March 19, 2012

Restricted "Bully"

Have you heard about the movie “Bully” yet?

“Bully,” a new documentary film directed by Sundance and Lee Hirsch, offers an intimate look at how bullying has effected five kids and their families. It was filmed during 2009/2010 school year and is planned to be released in select theaters on March 30, 2012. (

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has given this film an R rating.

The rating has stirred a lot of controversy.

Some say it is hard to watch because of the profanities, violence and raw emotions and would leave teens and younger audience shaken.  (Funny- since that is what bulling does…don’t you think?)

A Michigan teen has started an on-line petition and has been joined by members of congress, celebrities, and other high profile individuals in hopes of lowering the R rating to PG-13. Those against the R rating feel it will stop the intended audience from viewing it.

The MPAA provides film ratings so that parents can determine what movies are appropriate for their children to see and still allow freedom of expression for filmmakers. The ratings do not determine if the movie is good, only the level of various material it contains. The ratings are determined by a board of parents independent from the film and film makers. The ratings consist of G- general audiences, PG- parental guidance suggested, PG13- parents strongly advised, may not be appropriate for children under the age of 13, R- restricted, children under 17 must be accompanied by an adult, not appropriate for young children, and NC17- no one under 17 admitted. (For more information on these ratings please go to

The biggest concern with the restricted rating for "Bully" is that the film will not be seen by its intended audience nor will it be able to be shown in schools or other groups for educational purposes. 

So we ask ourselves- Do films like the documentary "Bully" provide us with the opportunity to talk about tough issues and promote awareness? If so, will the restrictive rating stop us from doing so?

I haven't seen the movie yet, but from my understanding the R rating is due to inappropriate language. The director has stated that he refuses to edit the content because it will take away from the impact of the bullying. The ten member panel of parents representing the MPAA refuses to lower the rating. Is the MPAA outdated and remote?

We head out into this world everyday, faced with the harsh language, violent acts, and raw emotional pain from others. Profanities are yelled in public areas, school buses, cafeterias, and just about anywhere you can think of each and every day. Our lives are not restricted. What we hear is not filtered. The negative things that happens to us are not edited out.
Are we thinking that if we don't read about it, talk about it, see it, then it will all just go away???

According to the, over 13 million kids in the United States will be bullied this year, making bullying the most common form of violence among youth.  I don't think the problem of bullying is going to go away.

Of course we want to shield ourselves (our children, our friends, our family, everyone) from harsh words, violence, and emotional pain, but I'm not so sure it's the movie we're trying to protect ourselves from. Don't we want to be protected from bullying and violence in our schools, workplaces, and public areas? Will being stopped from seeing a movie do that? Or will seeing the movie and talking about it be more effective?...

Will the R rating stop you from seeing the film?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Welcome to Social Networking...

As I finish up edits and begin the publishing process on my current book, Break From You, I've decided to dive into the crazy world of social networking. I've taken this step head first, not only am I wanting to start my own pages to spread the word about my books, but I am beginning research on a new book about cyberbullying.

Social networking has many positive aspects. Creating a page can promote a company, sell a product, spread awareness, and much more. Businesses, musicians, actors, writers, artists, and other public figures can use social media to obtain followers. As a consumer, social media is an easy way to stay up-to-date on your favorite things. On a personal note, social network sites can allow you to get in touch with old friends, and stay connected to family and friends who live near and far.

Social media can be fun. People can share pictures, videos, favorite songs, and keep in touch with others no matter where they are. It is a great way to share news or spread the word.

However, there is a downside to social media. Networking is a public thing, regardless of how private you try to be. It is so easy to share information, and that information may not stay secure. Comments may be regretted later or read by people they weren't intended for. Pictures can easily be tagged or commented on and get passed around to multiple users. Many pictures get misused, misrepresented, and abused. Unwanted spam, annoying news feeds, and getting bombarded with advertisements are other negative aspects of social media.

Online bullying is a major problem. Statistics state that over half of teens have been bullied online. More than one-third of individuals have experienced threats online. Most young people do not tell their parents or a trusted adult that they are being bullied. 

The abuse and negative use of social media can destroy positive self image, relationships, trust, and much more. Being bullied online can happen to anyone at any age. Even I have experienced first hand the devastation that the negative use of social media can cause.

Although social media can be negative, it can also be a very positive experience. Being online and connecting with friends is fun. However, when going online, make sure you are safe. Make sure you block people you don't know. Do not share private information about yourself.

 Stop and think before you post.

I take the step into social media cautiously. I am wary of the abuse and bullying that can occur. Yet, I am excited to connect with people, readers, and fans. I realize the positive things that social networking can provide. 

If you or someone you know is being bullied on line, please get help. Block the user, keep a record of all bullying, and let someone know.

When online, make sure you are not part of the problem, but part of the solution. Do not bully.
Follow me on facebook and join me in the effort to stop cyberbullying.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Continue to Raise Awareness!

Hearts on your sleeve, shoelaces, socks...whatever it might be, make sure you find a way to start the conversation on dating abuse. The month of February has ended but raising awareness and prevention about dating abuse shouldn't.

As I sat back and watched the Huguely trial this month, I was reminded of how prevalent dating abuse is in our society. Stories of abuse surface in our news regularly, a scary observation considering how the majority of victims remain silent.

Yet, we are still confused by abuse. Those having never experienced abuse before are wondering how anyone would ever let it happen, why the abused person didn't just leave. Those caught in the cycle of abuse are continuing to make and accept excuses, allowing the pattern to repeat itself over and over. Maybe the Huguely trial can remind us of how hard it is to break from abusiveness and therefore increase the need for prevention and awareness.

George Westley Huguely was born in September of 1987. He grew up in Maryland, attending an all-boys school and excelling in both lacrosse and football. He went on to attend the University of Virgina where he continued to play lacrosse. He formed a relationship with Yeardley Love, a member of the lacrosse and field hockey teams. Yeardley Love was found dead in her apartment on the morning of May 3, 2010. Cause of death was blunt force trauma. George Huguely was arrested on the suspicion of her death.

George Huguely was charged with first degree murder, felony murder, robbery of a residence, burglary, entering a house with an intent to commit a felony, and grand larceny. His trail took place during the month of February 2012. Throughout the trail, it was reported that he kept his head down, displaying clear signs of remorse. The defense presented many excuses for Huguely and his behavior and explained that he didn't mean to kill her. George Huguely's attorneys told juriors that he had made mistakes and was "immersed in a life of sports, sex, and alcohol." Regardless of the excuses, Yeardley Love was dead. The facts were presented. Witnesses took the stand. (For more information please google Huguely trail)

The jury felt he didn't mean it. Thank goodness they didn't excuse it. On February 22, 2012, George Huguely was found guilty of second degree murder and grand larceny. He is being held in the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail, awaiting sentencing.

During a press conference, the prosecution stated that there were "no winners, nothing but loss everywhere."

This case reminds us that abuse is everywhere and can happen to anyone, regardless of race, social economic status, sexual orientation, age, religion, or gender.  Abuse can be in the form of emotional, physical, sexual, economical, or psychological. Abuse can get bad, bad enough to cause death.

Even though February had ended, the reasons to raise awareness and prevention have not. Get out there and continue to where your heart on your sleeve!