Most stories follow a three-or-less act structure; the exceptions to this rule are notable just by breaking it, even. Shakespeare, for instance, constantly made 5-act monstrosities. Cyberbu//y does not, and can come across as lopsided due to it. In this post, I will attempt to explicate each of the acts, and perhaps grow to appreciate it for the art that it is. Or the writers for actually not deserving the title of writer.
Served 2


Act I exists to set up the initial parameters and conflict. Even your dog could write a decent Act I. Cyberbu//y establishes the following in short order:

  • Our protagonist, Rich White Teen Girl who's having her 17th birthday.
  • The main character, Her Mom. She is a professional woman — a public relations agent, she clumsily exposits in her very first on-screen line — who has been historically restrictive towards her children.
  • Rich White Teen Girl's best friend, The Brown-Haired One.
  • The little brother, a nonplayer because he is a man.

Without missing a beat, they establish the thesis of the movie, the reason de eatery: RWTG calls The Brown-Haired One a brat, Her Mom gets all up in her business, chastises her, and tells her that "what you do online isn't exactly private," which is basically the trajectory of the whole film. Oh, and she's divorced! (That has no bearing on the plot, other than to minimize further the presence of men and make that poor Her Mom feel even more put-upon by the target audience of mothers.) Also, all the teens are using a new site called Cliquester. And there's bullies. All of this takes about 1 minute, but at least it's bounding along nicely and technically, it's no more expository than many Act Is, just less subtle. Then the high schoolers proceed to talk nothing like high schoolers and everything slows down signifigantly, but soon we're back in the house and RWTG is opening her birthday present: a brand new laptop.

Her first reaction is to ask what the catch is. Her Mom tells her there is none, then tells her the catch. It's to the effect of "no visiting inappopriate sites," so I guess no porn? Puritanical, Her Mom. And "no giving out personal information," which is literally the first thing we see her do. But still, it's only enforced on the honor code. BIG MISTAKE, HER MOM! This is the takeaway moral of the story in miniature. Even if you think you're being too strict with your kids, you're actually not being strict ENOUGH. They can't handle anything on their own, and evne the slightest allowance for them to act like an adult is verboten until they're in college, where they will surely be able to handle a sudden influx of freedom and responsibility due to your stern parenting.
But back to the giving out of her personal information. RWTG, TBHO, and the only African-American character, who we'll call "Blackie," are setting up RWTG's Cliquester profile. I believe the proper term for a group of teenaged girls is a "gaggle," actually. Afterwards, TBHO goes home in an utterly pointlessly long transition and looks at RWTG's wall. She coos at the poem RWTG posted, but I thought RWTG wanted to be a journalist? IDK, LOL. But there's trouble in paradise. Somebody called RWTG "DOGFACE!!!" Or "LARDO!!!"

Then she goes back to school where literally nothing important happens. Might as well be called "Paddington High." I think the gay guy hits on her, though? And with the conflict established, Act II can begin!


Act II was summed up efficently in the title of this section. At the beginning of this act, RWTG is almost unscathed by the minor conflict of being called "Dogface" or "Lardo." She managed to shrug that off, and the insults about her shoes that I let pass without comment, but during this act she suddently loses that ability entirely for no reason at all. For the rest of the movie, everything is serious. This is an issue flick, if we aren't serious all the time how will anybody see the tragedy?
We go back to Paddington High, where she is already leaving, thank God. Anyway, The Gaggle get in their car to go to "the mall" after school, like every teenager ever in a movie, but halfway through RWTG says she wants to go home instead today. Somehow TBHO, driving, is offended by this for unexplained reasons. The Gaggle literally kicks RWTG out of the car for wanting some downtime, socializing on one medium for mass teen gathering instead of another. I guess we're supposed to interpret that as cyber addiction? Anyway, RWTG walks home. Sobbing. This is the new RWTG I was talking about.
She goes home and does nothing on the computer, like a regular teen, then goes downstairs to her perfect family dinner where Her Mom asks her children about their days at a sit-down table in a uselessly spacious house. RWTG compulsively checks her Cliquester and finds her profile has been hacked! She stays at least a yard away from her computer upon finding out. It might bite and infect her with the hacked. Her Mom investigates, is told what's happened, and decides to take a more active role in her daughter's life.
What's worse, she's been called a slut and a whore. Remember when she laughed off "Lardo?" Well that's not coming back, we're in real territory now. "Taylor Slutridge" is so much more emotionally devastating, obviously. RWTG goes to the bathroom and pants heavily. She basically looks like somebody who is going cold turkey on heroin. It's like that bathroom scene in All That Jazz, but much less snappy or meaningful.
She comes back into her room, where Her Mom has been perusing the site, just to whine. Her Mom tells her that the site is evil, which is true because it is basically designed for trolls and it has "clique" right in the name. And all this after only a day! (Even though we've seen her leave school like 3 times now.) Her Mom says to delete the account, which isn't good advice in general but since RWTG is taking the slightest slight so poorly I'm gonna say it's a good call. But nothing happens, because Her Mom isn't strict enough!
Also, despite being an aspiring journalist or poet, the best insult she could think of was "ur nasty and a bitch."
RWTG comes home from school (again,) and it turns out her little brother is the one who hacked her account. Her Mom, however, is angry at RWTG too, because of her "ur nasty and a bitch" comment. She grounds her for breaking her rules to the internet. Remember those, from Act I? Well this rule isn't one of them. "Don't be insulting or rude on the internet." Arbitrary and constantly changing rules is the key to good parenting. It makes your kids trust your authority.
She goes back to Paddignton High, and The Gaggle informs her that literally everybody in high school has been singlemindedly devoted to destroying RWTG's self-confidence for three days straight. She demands to see her profile on TBHO's phone, please baby, please, just one more hit of that sweet Internet, but TBHO isn't having any of it.
She goes to the one class we've ever seen her go to, and somebody else is also being cyberbu//ied. But it's different, because she's Rich White Teen Girl and the somebody else is gay, so when he gets insulted for being "Too Gay To Live" it's actually true, also he doesn't have emotions. Wow, RWTG really deserves this.

Anyway, this is supposed to be about the act structure so I'll just say bad shit keeps happening and RWTG just keeps taking it more seriously. Eventually Blackie disowns her for being social poison, although I like to imagine it's because she's tired of dealing with drama nobody else actually spends so much time obsessed with.
Served 3


Act 3 begins mid-montage, so you know the writers know what they're doing. RWTG goes home again, because there's only like 4 sets. Our perspective switches to the true main character, Her Mom. RWTG walks right through the scene and we linger on Her Mom, as a passing of the torch. Her Mom gets a call from Her Dad, I think, and is made aware of what's been happening to RWTG (I thought she was already?) Her Mom is concerned, and decides to take a more active role in her daughter's life.
She goes upstairs and actually watches her pathetic husk of a once-daughter as she sobs and deletes her account at Her Mom's request. At this point it is apparent how much of a cyber junkie RWTG has become, with her half-coherent ramblings about comments and deathly palor.
We cut to one of her main tormenters, posting a rude comment on her wall. Pan back, and... IT WAS THE BROWN-HAIRED ONE ALL ALONG!
Wait, what? That doesn't make any sense! Is she a psychopath? Is it because she was called a "brat" in Act I? Is she jealous? Is it a kismeisitude thing? It's never explained. No attempt is made.
I'm not going to cover the next scene because nothing important happens. She tries to reconnect with her father on her internet-enabled cell phone that she was not grounded from.
Her Mom goes to the principal looking for help, because she's the new main character. The principal gives what is essentially the old "my hands are tied" speech, only the writers fuck it up because he makes some valid points but is presented as a strawman.
RWTG circumvents Her Mom to get her next hit of the super HIGH-way. They're still insulting her. Look, you realize that stupid teen drama is an opt-in thing right? If you hate it so much, you can just assosciate with different people or laugh it off like you did in Act I.
Then blah blah blah, some more shit happens that belonged in Act II, and the TBHO disowns her. She's all alone now, and I am getting really tired of dissecting this movie.
Finally, after another 6 minutes, she has hit rock bottom. She has nothing left. She goes home again and watches a ridiculous video about her that her cyberbu//ies scripted, directed, and overall orchestrated, in a fashion exactly reminiscint of nothing in the real world, ever. Then, she sobs for like 3 minutes straight about this shitty, shitty video.
It's apparently the final straw, too. The movie reaches its apex and climax as she posts a live video suicide note to Cliquester. TBHO sees the video and a single tear runs down her face. TBHO coordinates an effort between herself and The Mom to save her, and it turns out they have a lot of time because RWTG is still too mentally immature to get the child safety cap off the bottle of pills she plans to kill herself with. You would think that would be a hint that you should understand you also don't have the mental faculties to decide if anybody, even yourself, lives or dies, but whatever. She's gone into a fit of cyberhysterics from her cybermadness. She breaks down crying in the fetal position, cradled by Her Mom, surrounded by everybody even remotely on her side.
It's a fitting end to her character arc, that fufills all the promises laid down in Act I and draws out the conclusion of the plot laid down in Act II. All in all, a bad film, but nobody can say it didn't have any proper act str — wait, it keeps GOING?!

Served 4


So now comes the part where I can't even tell you what the fuck is supposed to be happening during the Act. I guess it's supposed to function as a sort of epilogue. It shows RWTG in the hospital, alive and recovering from mental disstress is. TBHO externalizes her repentence for using a puppet account to torment her best friend, which she didn't have any reason to do in the first place unless she's schizophrenic.
When RWTG gets back home, she is dead weight. Her Mom signs her up for cyberrehab, or "e-hab," and decides to take a more active role in her daughter's life.
Her Mom gets printouts of screenshots of the Cliquester site and begins to dig up dirt on who the male bully (who is secretly TBHO) really is, because she caught onto it being a puppet. It's a dead end. Then she goes to the main female cyberbu//y and confronts her father, an attorney and also a single parent. Why are there no double parents in this movie? Anyway, she tells him his daughter has been bullying her daughter, and he refuses to believe her and basically paints his daughter as an angel. But he's not the douche in this scene, oh no. The movie, it turns out, is actually advocating we overturn the Constitution to avoid hurting any more Rich White Teen Girl's feelings. Herr Mom sneers at the attorney's "1st Amendment" defense of his daughter's right to speak her mind, which is an entirely valid point. After all, if you banned this sort of thing, what's stopping that same law from turning around and smacking, say, people who make political cariactures, with jail time? It's basically the same thing as what the video did, only towards a public — and influential — figure. But somehow, the politicians persevere, in spite of the mockery they recieve for having last names like "Wiener." Herr Mom is probably regretting letting RWTG go more unrestricted on the baleful storms of the Internet, as evidenced by multiple incidents in which she decides to double down on restrictions, but it is this very attitude that actually led to all her problems. By not acclimitizing her daughter to the Internet from an earlier age, by not gradually doling out responsibilities or rewards, by trusting that maturity was simply a linear progression that advanced at the same rate no matter what, she virtually ensured a flipout or failure of some kind when she let her daughter have so much freedom and power all at once.
So that was about a 45 second scene, yeah.
The little brother is somehow appointed by Herr Mom to be the ultimate vangaurd of his older sister. Those of you that think a 12 year old couldn't possibly babysit a suicidal 17 year old, congratulations, you didn't write the movie. Indeed, he proves to be an enabler and actually hands RWTG her laptop. He set a dangerous precedent earlier by fetching her a glass of water. That's when Herr Mom comes home and, wait, what is the point of any of this anyway? Didn't we sorta make the point of the story when she tried to commit suicide? Are we going to get to see the next twenty years of their life?


At this point, you and I both are tired of this movie's bullshit.
Herr Mom is taking RWTG to e-hab. It's a struggle, but she gets RWTG to at least go there. Hey, remember the gay dude waaaaay back in Act II that RWTG just didn't care about? He's there too, but now... now she understands his plight. Whatever.
Herr Mom decides to take a more active role in her daughter's life and tries to get some kind of law enforcement officer involved. Local? State? Hard-Boiled Private Eye? SWAT? It's never specified. Regardless, they can't help because there's no laws against being a jerk. So Herr Mom decides she's not going to let this minor setback deter her, and to take a more active role in her daughter's life.
Back to the e-hab, which at this point is more like a vestigal subplot, and nothing happens except the movie tries to be achingly relevant to the issues of today.
Then some more nothing happens with TBHO and Creepo, I don't care.
Then some more nothing happens with RWTG and Her Dad, which has been a subplot this entire time but there has been no reason to care about the whole "single parent" plot the whole time.
Ah, but then Herr Mom comes in, and the movie becomes unabashedly "things we wish our disrespectful kids would say to us." Transcription:

Actual DialogueEdit

RWTG: You've been so nice to me. I never used to think you were nice.
RWTG: I don't know, I... I guess I just thought you were so strict and overprotective and... mean.
HERR MOM: And here I thought you adored me.
RWTG: Yeah, that too.
HERR MOM: You're in a funny mood. {Yeah, I guess "suicidal depression" could be considered a funny mood.}


RWTG: I wish I'd known you weren't against me.
HERR MOM: Oh, Taylor!
RWTG: I should have talked to you I don't know why I didn't I'm sorry, I should have I should have talked to you {Delivered exactly like that.}

And the scene ends with a tearful embrace. The bathos is so thick you can't even ladle it on, because you can't get the ladle to even penetrate the surface.
Then TBHO finally confesses her double life to RWTG: She's actually Batman. No, it's the whole Cliquestep second profile thing. And here we were thinking the plot was on the upswing! The resolution! Nope, we couldn't have wrote this complication to arise and be resolved at the same time as all the others. It's special, it gets its own act.


TBHO confesses to her family, who aren't important. RWTG goes back to e-hab. Back to TBHO, who cries for 2 minutes of no plot development. I can't believe I'm clamoring for the exciting adventures of Herr Mom. TBHO tries to be sassy and self-confident on the internet while sobbing in real life, and fails entirely.
Nothing happens.
Herr Mom Goes To Washington, in order to push her anti-internet legislation to her senator. The senator makes a lot of good points, such as "I don't want to try to legislate the Internet," or "They do have delete buttons on the internet," but is painted as a strawman villain for not understanding that the Internet is teenager's LIVES.
By the way, when did the Internet become something only high schoolers used?
Then more nothing happens.
RWTG comes home and says she doesn't want to give up on getting a law passed. Something has to be done. For once, RWTG has decided to take a more active role in her mother's life.

Served 5


RWTG and Herr Mom go to the newspapers, but they don't want to run a sensationalist story about the dangers of the internet. Which newspaper is this? Narnia Weekly?
Hey, unrelated, but what happened to the lead Cyberbu//y chick and Blackie and the little brother? Does Blackie ever forgive RWTG for... whatever it is she was mad about? Did the Cyberbu//y chick become a sketch comedy superstar?
Anyway, the newspaper editor begins either interrogating or psychoanalyzing TBHO, neither of which is his job, but TBHO can't really explain why she did what she did because it doesn't make any fucking sense and nobody can even pretend it does, not even the writers. TBHO literally had nothing to gain and no motivation. In fact, in every instance we see her alone, she shows the utmost earnest concern for RWTG, so her actions run directly counter to her motivations and feelings.
Then another few agonizing minutes of basically no progression at all. TBHO is repentant, RWTG forgives her, and she's ready to go back to school and be bamboozled by like a month of late work. Also, I haven't mentioned but the colors have been steadily getting drabber the whole movie and in this scene it's all gray but one of the actors decided "fuck art direction" and went with a hot pink tracksuit. The colors resurge in the first scene back at Paddington High, which is like, congrats guys, you understand elementary color usage. Now learn to write.
Then, together, RWTG and TBHO stride into the lunchroom (why is lunch their first period?) and tell the cyberbu//ies off in a final stirring speech about how "you think you're funny but you're really not" and then everybody in the school lunch stopped what they were doing and listened as she dropped some knowledge and everybody else thought she was really cool and people started standing up and telling the mean bu//ies off and it was so cool and then everybody in the entire school applauded and the mayor gave me a medal for being so awesome and then all the bu//ies died in a fire in a hole and then and then Quasimodo grew wings and flew off into the sun

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