There is an old expression—“fight fire with fire.”
For Oscar award-winning actress Kate Winslet and writer/director Galvin Scott Davis, however, the saying should be “fight the Internet with the Internet.”
Specifically, the two have teamed up to create a free online animated short film that deals with cyber bullying. Narrated by Winslet herself, the video “Daisy Chain” follows the story of a little girl named Buttercup Bree who becomes the victim of a group of girls at a rundown playground. Their reason for targeting her? Buttercup has a talent for making daisy chains, and the bullies are jealous and spiteful. Ganging up on the little girl, they tie her up with her own daisy chains, take a photo of her and pin copies of the photo to the many trees in the surrounding forest.
While Buttercup was bullied for making daisy chains, Winslet also faced bullying as a child because of her appearance.
“I was bullied quite a lot at school, actually I think probably because, well, I was chubby, always had big feet, the wrong shoes, the wrong hair, bad hair” she said on an episode of “Running Wild with Bear Grylls,” an NBC series where host Bear Grylls takes celebrities on outdoor adventures. “When I grew up, I never heard positive reinforcement about body image from any female in my life. I only ever heard negatives. That’s very damaging because then you’re programmed as a young woman to immediately scrutinize yourself and how you look.” These experiences have motivated her to encourage her own children and narrate “Daisy Chain.”
As is often the case with children’s stories, “Daisy Chain” handles real life issues in a symbolic way. Although no computers, tablets or smart phones are featured in the 5:41 minute YouTube video, the forest of trees that Buttercup’s photo winds up posted on represent how digital photos can be copied and placed on thousands of websites.
The appearance of the bullies in “Daisy Chain” is also symbolic. While Buttercup’s clothing, hair and skin are all different colors and pop against the background, the four children who bully her are constantly in dark shades that blend more into their surroundings for the majority of the film. This style choice raised concerns from one YouTube viewer who posted on the video’s page, “Great story but kind of perpetuating still of how white is good and black is bad. Could have been more powerful [if] more diverse.”
In response, Protein One, the creative agency where Davis is a director, posted the following on the video’s YouTube page:
“Thanks for your feedback! We're glad you appreciated our animation but understand your concerns about diversity. In writing this story for children we tried to make it as simple as possible and chose to shroud the bullies in shadows to emphasize how scary and nasty they appear to children affected by this horrible phenomenon. Hopefully that helps to explain some of our stylistic choices for the animation.” This shadowy appearance also gives the bullies a sense of anonymity, another common aspect of cyber-bullying.
“The allusion in the narrative to cyber-bullying is particularly pertinent to children who are growing up connected to the Internet and is something they need to understand as soon as possible,” said Oscar Yildiz of the Bully Zero Australia Foundation, which is one of the charities associated with “Daisy Chain.” Yildiz also said one of the most important ways to help children being bullied is to talk to them about it.
Dealing with bullying through communication is something that Davis understands on a personal level and the reason he created his anti-bullying themed children’s book and award-winning narrative app “Dandelion.”
“‘Dandelion’ was a way to talk to my son about his experience of bullying by using the fictional character Benjamin Brewster,” Davis said. Benjamin who endured and rose above physical bullying in his story returns in “Daisy Chain” to help Buttercup deal with being bullied.
“Don’t cry. You’re strong,” Winslet narrates as Benjamin adding later, “You’re not alone, so don’t be scared. A problem halved is one that’s shared.”
Benjamin’s empathy, however, extends beyond Buttercup. `Although he helps her take down as many of her photos as possible (symbolic of how things posted online can never be completely deleted), he also offers her advice about why the bullies hurt her.
“It’s not their fault,” Winslet narrates as Benjamin. “They just don’t know. They’ve not been taught.” In the end, it is Buttercup understanding her bullies better that helps her get through to them, so they start to change their ways.
“The short film of ‘Daisy Chain’ is a vehicle for parents to broach the subject of bullying with their kids, regardless of whether they suspect their child may be the victim or the perpetrator,” Yildiz said. Winslet also express how important it is for bullying to be directly dealt with rather than passively accepted and ignored.
“I sought the counsel of one trusted teacher who guided me through this situation in the most kind, discreet and supportive way,” she told “The Daily Mail.” “I was lucky that my school had this person there for me. My hope is that anyone being bullied can also find the support in any way that helps them too.”
“I’ve always been passionate about creating original storytelling world’s that resonate on more than one level,” Davis said. “Though this series is first and foremost a series of fantastical tales, a knock-on effect has been that it has actually gone some way to helping the core audience.”
Like “Dandelion,” “Daisy Chain” is also available as a book and an app.
To watch the “Daisy Chain” online video visit https://www. youtube.com/watch?v=PGxm-schhkNg