rebecca puhl, Other, 01:30PM Jun 17, 2013
In the past few years, there has been increasing national attention to the problem of bullying among youth. In response to this significant social problem, many social media campaigns have emerged in an effort to support youth who are bullied by their peers.
As a researcher who studies weight bias, it's been concerning to see a lack of attention to weight-based bullying in the national discourse on this issue, even though we know from research that being overweight is one of the most common reasons that students are victimized and bullied at school.
Given the lack of attention to this issue, I was especially pleased to see a new educational film that raises awareness of this issue, spoken in the voice of a teenager who is bullied because of his weight. High school senior Luis Hernandez was the 2012 winner of a national screenwriting competition for his first-ever script, a short story called "Timmy Two Chins", about his experiences being overweight and bullied. He won the REAL DEAL Scenarios writing contest, which partnered him with a distinguished film director to turn his story into a short film. His film premiered this spring with Showtime and on other networks and festivals, and will be shown in thousands of schools across the country. (According to Scenarios USA, approximately 15-20 million people see their films every year on cable, in the classroom, online and at festivals).
At a time when bullying is so prevalent, and when overweight youth are particularly vulnerable to victimization because of their weight, we need to hear the voices of those who are targeted, and how they cope with these experiences. What I especially like about Luis's film "Timmy Two Chins", is that it challenges common weight-based stereotypes and promotes a message of self-acceptance and tolerance for others, regardless of their body size. The story is also told from the perspective of a boy, which adds to the film's uniqueness, given that we rarely hear male teenagers talking about their experiences of body image.
I hope that schools will use this film in their efforts to promote tolerance of diversity and as part of existing anti-bullying curriculum. We need to ensure that weight-based bullying is treated as a legitimate form of bullying in the school setting, on par with other forms of teasing and victimization that are already being addressed in schools. This film provides a helpful step in that direction.