A Girl Like Her follows the story of Jessica, as we explore how constant bullying, specifically from Avery (Hunter King), leads her to attempted suicide. It takes a look at bullying in the digital age, bullying as a bi-product of abuse, and the inadequacy of the school officials to protect the children. We were able to ask Emmy-winner Hunter King a few questions about her own experiences with bullying.
Jon Espino: This is a docudrama, which is to say it is a film shot documentary-style, but not about any actual, existing person. In your experience, how close is it to the everyday struggle of those facing bullying on a daily basis?
Hunter King: This film is very accurate in the way it portrays what people being bullied go through. People experience bullying in all forms and all levels. Some experience it just like Jessica–some worse, some not as bad.
JE: Do you think the film over-brutalizes the experience or could it have stood to go further?
HK: This film shows just how cruel bullies can be. The bullying not only takes place at school, but also on social media which a lot of people deal with as well.
JE: We see Jessica getting harassed and bullied on almost every single form of social media and technology. Do you think all our advances in technology in the past 20 years have made it easier for people to bully each other, sometimes even anonymously?
HK: Even though social media can be a great way to connect with friends online, a lot of people tend to abuse it. When people are behind the computer screen, they start to have a false sense of confidence and saying what ever they feel. They tend to forget that a real person is on the other side of their comments and can easily be hurt by what they are saying.
JE: Have you ever been a victim, or know someone, who has been bullied either physically, verbally, mentally or even digitally?
HK: I was bullied a little bit in high school and it really affected me. High school is already a sensitive time for kids because they’re just starting to discover themselves and find out who they really are. Now adding bullies to this will in turn have deep affects on someone. Anyone going through this, my advice is to confide in your friends and family so you don’t have to go through it alone.
JE: How do you think people experiencing it or witnessing should react?
HK: Even though it seems so hard, try to ignore the bullies. Bullies tend to want a reaction, so the more you ignore them, the more bored they will get a hopefully stop. Just keep being true to yourself and keep your head held high.
JE: This film is heavily focused on the female perspective and experience. Do you think there is male bullying to the same extreme?
HK: It’s hard to say (since I’m not a guy) if bullying is this bad between them, but I would assume that in most cases (not all) girls tend to be more catty.
JE: Why do you think that is?
HK: Girls tend to be jealous of one another rather then be happy for each other and boost one another up. It’s so sad to witness this happening but hopefully girls one day will start spreading more positivity. Us girls gotta stick together!
JE: The film seemed to shift from the victim, Jessica, to the bully, Avery, in an attempt to convince us that Avery herself was also a victim in her own respects. I can see people being upset about this shift, especially those who have been bullied like Jessica was. Do you think their anger would be justified?
HK: I think that when the audience watches the film they will be more understanding rather then angry with where the film takes us. What I’ve learned is that hurt people, hurt people. I’ve also learned that we should never judge someone because everyone is fighting their own battle that we don’t know about. Even though people may think they know Avery at the beginning of the film, they’ll be surprised but how complex her character is.
JE: Seeking help and apologizing are a great start, but do you think Avery should also be punished or made to make amends for her actions? If so, what do you think would be just?
HK: Apology is a great place to start when you feel like you’ve been the bully to someone. But I do feel like people who are like Avery need to face some sort of punishment for their actions. I’m not sure what the right punishment is but I would think something along the lines of giving back. Maybe go volunteer their time and see how to deal with stress or pain in their life the right way rather then putting it on to others. Sometimes the best way to deal with being hurt, is to help others. Whenever I’m sad or down about something, I love to help others because it makes me feel better knowing I’m focusing my energy into something good.
JE: Several months worth of bullying was recorded by Jessica, and Brian wanted to tell someone in authority, but was sworn to secrecy. Do you think Brian should have told someone, knowing his best friend was being bullied?
HK: I understand why Brian didn’t want to go against his friends wishes but it’s hard to say what I think he should’ve done without being in this type of situation myself. I think if anyone is going through something like this, they should always share it with a friend, and a parent or counselor. Not only will they have good advice with how to deal with it, they can probably help you and put a stop to it.
JE: Do you think people should forego the “snitch” stigma in situations like this?
HK: I have to admit, when I was watching the movie I kept wishing Brian would tell someone so Jessica could get help.
JE: What advice do you have for someone facing this situation, or for the friend of someone going through this?
HK: For anyone going through this, just remember to not let the opinions of these bullies change who you are. Only focus on the opinions of those who truly care about you, and those who do, won’t have anything negative to say. I promise the bullying will stop and at that point you are going to be so strong, and so much further in life because of your positivity. Always spread love and kindness and remember that people love you for who you are. So cliche but… Forget the haters. Live life to the fullest and don’t let anyone stop you.
A Girl Like Her hits theaters March 27th.