It’s easy to be mean on the Internet. And cowardly. It’s like drone warfare, in that we don’t engage directly with our target and so we can distance ourselves from realizing there are actual victims out there. Lizzie Velasquez is a woman who has been on the receiving end of such online strikes. You can meet her in the trailer above for Sara Bordo’s upcoming documentary about her story titled A Brave Heart. Velasquez has a rare disease that keeps her from gaining weight, was once called the ugliest woman in the world on the web and she’s overcome both to become a motivational speaker (see some of her famous TED talk here). I don’t know if she’s the hero that the Internet deserves, but she’s the hero that it needs.
The sort of cyber bullying, indirect as much of it may be, has led others to commit suicide. In between both her and them we have millions who try to just shrug it off. We’re too sensitive as a society now, right? Well, yes, but that’s not really related. I’m pretty un-PC and cynical and non-serious, but I know the line between good humor and being awful. You can see the latter in those who took shots at Velasquez, regardless of whether they thought they were simply having a laugh on a platform permitting free speech and anonymous harmless fun. And of course those are the people who should see A Brave Heart, even though my cynical heart fears they’d just use the opportunity to crack more insults.
Why am I getting beyond the trailer in a way that seems above the matter of the movie? I think the doc itself might be perfectly aligned with a matter I’ve written about elsewhere in the past regarding the issue of audiences’ reactions to nonfiction subjects. It’s something that a lot of reality television and sensational talk shows (and some doc-makers) have long encouraged, treating any real person who’d allow themselves to be on screen as fair game for laughter, ridicule, scrutiny, scorn, etc. And it extends past docs to TV and web video appearances, such as the one Velasquez originally appeared in that brought about so much hate.
That said, I also think, on the other end of the matter, that critics and viewers should rate A Brave Heart as far as its quality as a movie goes, not on what they think of Velasquez and her work. I know, it’s a tricky deal.
A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story premieres next month at SXSW. You can find out more about the doc from its hugely successful Kickstarter campaign page or the film’s website. See the new poster, via The Playlist, below.