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Cyber-bullies and Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo”

A message for a high school punk

Viewed as a masterpiece by film aficionados, Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, which was released 60 years ago, is often hailed on technical grounds, for its point of view shots mixed with omniscient camera angles, authorial touches by the master of suspense, worthy of a literary novelist.

The film is less often cited for its insights into evil, and it is highly relevant today in our era of increasing polarization, international treachery, cyber-attacks and cyber-bullying.

According to www.stopbullying.gov, 28% of kids in grades 6-12 have been bullied.

Of course, some people never stop bullying others, even as they reach adulthood.

A case in point, Vertigo speaks to me as one of the finest movies ever made about what one might view as an Adult Bully Gone Wild.

To give a brief synopsis of the film: James Stewart’s cop witnesses a death in the midst of a police procedure.

Perhaps, he could have prevented the fall of an innocent person from a rooftop. Perhaps, he could not.

But the guilt remains, and Stewart’s character, traumatized by the incident, retires from the police force due to vertigo, which is depicted by Hitchcock through a special technique of zooming his lens.

Not long after this traumatic incident, Stewart’s character is contacted by an old high-school classmate, who works in the Bay Area.

This old classmate, a business executive, as I recall, has read in the papers about the tragedy that transpired on the police beat.

He senses that Stewart’s character is psychically paralyzed.

What Stewart’s character does not realize is that this ex-classmate hates him, hates Stewart for undoubtedly all kinds of reasons that do and do not pertain to Stewart.

This is all part of a backstory that we will never fully know.

But for those of us, who have been victimized by bullies, we understand at core what motivates the old classmate.

The old classmate is jealous of James Stewart, who, we can assume, was a star in high school.

So, the ex-classmate, whom Stewart’s character does not really remember, offers Stewart an assignment to be a sleuth, to shadow a beautiful woman, the executive’s wife, who apparently disappears every day.

I need not go further into the plot, other than to say that the ex-classmate, no friend of Stewart’s character, sends him off on a death mission.

He knows that Stewart will fall in love with the beauty, played by Kim Novak, only to lose her in another tragedy on the rooftops.

The ex-classmate may or may not have been a bully at Stewart’s high school.

He has a feigned air of sophistication about him, which suggests a stealth operator, more than a punk on the blacktop.

But he reminds me of the bullies we confront now on the Internet.

I have encountered more than a few of these bullies over the years, even been pestered by one or two in recent times, who have provided me brief or nonexistent notes and then links that are intended to damage my computer.

I have sent these links, on which I have not clicked, to a computer expert, who has confirmed that they were intended to damage my computer.

These are routine tactics today. They are the tactics of latter-day high school bullies.

These people tend to be angry, very angry. They nurse and collect grievances and lash out at others, rather than face their own failings.

Maybe, the businessman, the ex-classmate from high school, got cut from a varsity team, whereas Stewart’s character starred on the football field.

Maybe, the ex-classmate wanted to date a woman, whom Stewart’s character took to the prom.

Or, maybe, just maybe, that ex-classmate struggled in school, perhaps even stayed back a year, while someone like you or I excelled.

Bob Dylan has a line on one of the songs from his Christian albums, where he sings, “You mistake my kindness for weakness.”

So many bullies have made this mistake with me over the years.

But I have news for them.

Yes, it is absolutely true that I was traumatized years ago, with a vertigo of a sort, my own psychic paralysis.

But unlike Stewart’s character in Vertigo, I am not traumatized any longer.

I have written and spoken openly about my illness, my former diagnosis of schizophrenia, my suicidal ideation in the late 1990s.

I have done so, not because I am weak, but because I am strong.

It might surprise us that some bullies just can’t seem to let go of their grievances.

We must realize that they are sadists, filled with resentment at others, those of us who shine with light and truth.

And by the way, bullies exist in all fields, not just among businessmen in the Bay Area.

They might be lawyers there too.

They might have even taken the Hippocratic oath and might be facing a malpractice suit.

To quote Bob Dylan again, “I just want you to know I can see through your mask.”

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