It's no coincidence that a story about bullying in the Miami
Dolphins' locker room would garner this much press from every
major news outlet and worthy publication in the U.S. right now. It's
symptomatic of where we are in our sentiments toward bullying.
We're fed up. We're exhausted. The idea that "a little toughening
up is good for your character" is now an archaic one. That is why
it was so important for me and my twin brother, Gary Entin, to
commit years of our lives to seeing Brent Hartinger's novel Geography Club made into a
feature film. We wanted to get involved in the conversation.
When we came across the novel, we
were just 19. It had the same profound effect on us that it
had had on many of its readers. Here was a story that spoke to the
teenage outliers of the world in a mainstream way.
Years later we would find ourselves with an opportunity to adapt
the novel into a feature film. As far as our collaboration goes, I
write, and Gary directs. But we're a team, so we must share an equal
passion for the story. After rereading the novel, Gary and I were
excited about translating the film into something that could be
accessible to everyone, a John Hughes-style film that would break
the barriers of gay cinema. Take a gay teenage protagonist and
make him the star of a movie. Not a gay movie. A movie.
In the last decade or so the "gay teenager" has become the face of
bullying. While so many of those stories have ended tragically,
we've also seen that the bullied teenager isn't the maudlin type.
There's a mettle there that didn't exist before. In Geography
Club the character Russel finds the strength reflected in so many
teenagers who have discovered the power in standing up for
themselves. By the end of the movie, Russel acts as the mascot not
just for teenagers struggling with their sexuality but for
teenagers, period. The film also follows a boy with weight issues,
a reticent kid searching for his voice, and a girl who just wants
to be loved. So if the gay teenager ignited the conversation, it's
led to an inexorable fight for overall inclusion.
That said, there's a long way to go. This fight is more of a war.
While we've seen huge strides made in the battle for marriage
equality, the epidemic of teen suicides as a result of bullying is
as alive as ever.
Our hope is that this film not only serves some
therapeutic purpose for the kids who feel alone but serves as a mirror to
those who are perpetuating the problem. To accomplish that we've
focused on making this an entertaining film first. It isn't a PSA
by any means. The film was made with every type of teenager in
mind. We want them to have a great time but also walk away with a little more understanding of the world we live in.
Check out a trailer for Geography Club: