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The Boy Game

by Deirdre Fishel

Tackling bullying among boys at its core: the cult of toughness and silence boys live by.

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The Boy Game tackles bullying among boys at its core:the culture of toughness and silence boys live by. Targets need to be protected, absolutely, but rather than vilify bullies, The Boy Game looks to unpack the the complex dynamics that lead some boys to bully and the majority to stand watching in silent conflict. Michael Kimmel, Pulitzer Prize nominated author of Manhood in America says, "If the conversation about bullying is going to advance this is the project that will help us advance it."

The truth is all boys suffer under cultural codes that demand toughness and silence.  This is the landscape in which kids who bully (who have often been targeted themselves) thrive but lose their emotional wholeness, the unspoken harness that keeps targets from speaking up, and that leaves the many bystanders watching, conflicted, but too scared to act.

Boys desperately need a way to talk about the painful gender straitjacketing they are subject to, to develop the resilience needed to stand up, be themselves, and redefine masculinity in terms of emotional, tolerant strength. 

And girls (who can be the victims of hyper masculine behavior and can support it or stand up against it) need to be part of the conversation. 

The Boy Game follows the stories of three boys whose lives are intertwined: Reynaldo, who masks his own insecurities by acting tough who targets Noel, too scared of looking weak to tell anyone, and Kenny,  the protagonist and bystander, who is increasingly conflicted by his friendship with both.  Based on off-the-record interviews with boys nationwide, then fashioned into a hard hitting scenario, it was shot like a doc to capture the intense pressures boys face every day.  The video comes with a cutting edge study guide.  Written by two Harvard Educators, (designed to be used with  co-ed groups or boys alone)  it's a resource in itself.

quoteWhile bullying has certainly exploded on the national agenda, most of the conversation has revolved around empathy for those who have been targeted by bullies. While this is laudable - and necessary -- it doesn't capture the dilemmas, the agonies of those who witness it, who get swept up in its dynamics. The Boy Game is that rare document that takes you inside the heads of several boys at once. This prismatic approach enables viewers to enter the scene, rather than simply observe it with greater understanding and empathy. If the conversation about bullying is going to advance, this is the project that will help us advance it."
Michael Kimmel, Sociology SUNY Stonybrook, author, Manhood in America & The Gendered Society

quoteBully-victim-bystander behavior is a pervasive and toxic public health crisis. This invaluable video will be a powerful aid to raising awareness and helping students to develop the skills that support socially responsible, "upstander" behavior.
Jonathan Cohen, Ph.D, President of The National School Climate Center

quoteAn intense film that will promote important conversation in health classrooms.
Kim DeAndrade Program Leader Health Education & Social Emotional Learning,Cambridge Public Schools

quoteThe Boy Game may well save a life.
Steven Brion-Meisels, Harvard School of Education

quoteThe Boy Game effectively demonstrates the power of bystanders to rescue or doom victims of bullying. In examining the reasons why young people are reluctant to interfere (including fear, a desire to fit in and to seem masculine enough) this emotionally searing story provides an opportunity for middle schoolers and adults to address the strong need for bystanders to intervene and the high costs of silence.
Andrew Kosak, Middle School teacher, Brunswick School District, Maine.

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Appropriate for: Middle School High School College/University

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