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Katy Butler Headshot

'The Contest'

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Media, technology, television and movies play such a huge role in our lives and influence what we do and how we interact with people on a daily basis. Bullying is one of our nation's biggest issues and we all know that media, TV and technology can be a catalyst for dangerous behavior. However, we can use those same tools that send hateful messages to our kids or provide a way to torture classmates around the clock, to put a stop to bullying!

The Contest, directed by Anthony Joseph Giunta, is one of the many, amazing films using the power of the screen to combat bullying. Within the first 2 minutes of the film the main character, Tommy (Daniel Flaherty), became someone I and millions of others could relate to not only because he was being bullied, but because he was a sweet, smart student. As Tommy takes part in a television cooking show contest we see his school try to address the bullying, the importance of a kind and loving caregiver and even how it's possible for a bully to change.

Tommy's school, in The Contest, provides a clear example to its viewers of approaches schools can take to address bullying with their students. When Matt is called into the principle's office for bullying Tommy, the principle tells him their school has a zero tolerance policy for bullying. The concept of a zero tolerance policy against bullying is a great idea and really should be enough to stop bullying but from person experience I can tell you it isn't. In the film the principle then goes on to back up the policy. She does something that I believe is one way to truly end bullying in our schools. She tells Matt "people look up to you, stop all the bullying" and instead of suspending him for the rest of the year she challenges him to become an anti-bullying role model. This moment in the film shows us how important it is to take the time to educate students about bullying and teach them how to change instead of just providing a punishment.

This wonderful film also speaks to parents about the importance of providing a loving and accepting home and what the absence of good role models can do to kids. Not only when I was being bullied in middle school, but also through out my entire life, my parents played a critical role in whom I have become today. I was raised by two loving parents who supported me in anything I aspired to do. In the film you can see the difference in the households that Tommy and Matt grew up in and how it affected them as people. Matt, who bullied Tommy, was raised by an older brother who only cared about himself and took out his anger through violence. Tommy, on the other hand, had a grandmother who was kind and cared about him more than anything and instilled positive values in him. We learn the most from our families, just by being with them and I am so thankful I had a family like Tommy's. I hope parents watch The Contest and think about how their behavior might be affecting their children's behavior.

By the end of the film I found myself laughing and smiling and even tearing up as the characters began to resolve some of the conflict. Tommy displayed some of the most important qualities a person can assume to combat bullying: forgiveness and friendship. I know how hard it is to forgive, but if every student who sees this film decides to be a friend to someone who needs it, like Tommy did for Matt even though Matt bullied him, we would be moving in the right direction to stop bullying! With the help of the film industry and characters like Matt and Tommy from The Contest I know we all have the power to put and end to bullying in our country.