New Boy

By Shamus Posted Saturday Jul 31, 2010

Filed under: Movies 51 comments

This one isn’t five minutes of silly fun like our normal Saturday morning vids. This one is beautiful, upsetting, haunting, and charming.

Link (YouTube)

At first I was worried this was going to be a contrived message about how racism is a bad thing. While anti-racism is a fine message and worthy of propagation, when packaged as entertainment it usually goes down like cough medicine. Perhaps this is the fault of the writers more than the subject matter? I don’t know. In any case, that’s not where this film was headed. At its core this movie was darker than that, and at the end it was more lighthearted than that. In the end it was about being the new kid. I saw my young self in more than one character here.

It’s amazing how some experiences can be so universal, no matter where you’re from or where you go.


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51 thoughts on “New Boy

  1. Spluckor says:

    All I know is I’m gonna teach my kid a finger hold. Those things seem to lock down bullies.

    1. Klay F. says:

      I tried that once when I was a kid. I unfortunately forget that he had two hands. So yeah…

  2. Jattenalle says:

    While the short certainly was nice, I’m with Spluckor on this one…

    Only bad thing about that finger hold is it probably falls under grapple rules…

    1. Raygereio says:

      Only bad thing about that finger hold is it probably falls under grapple rules…

      That’s probably why the bully immediatly surrendered. No one wants to deal with grapple rules.

  3. Folderol & Ephemera says:

    That was a beautiful little short. Thanks, Shamus.

    I’m not familiar with the short story this is based on, but I really loved Roddy Doyle’s novels in “The Barrytown Trilogy.” Highly recommended.

  4. Gilmoriël says:

    As soon as I saw the name Roddy Doyle appear on the screen I sat up a little straighter. His stories are always funny and sad at the same time, and also very human.

  5. Vladius says:

    That was really great. You were right when you said it felt universal. This sort of thing happens all the time in schools – all of the kids are jerks, but they somehow manage to get along because life sucks and they have to live in an authoritarian environment.

    1. Mari says:

      Apparently my kids’ school needs to be more authoritarian, then…

  6. Teldurn says:

    That was fantastic. I also saw my young self a couple times there.

  7. kingcom says:

    Surprisingly moving piece you posted there. Thankyou for sharing.

  8. johnQadams says:

    I think it is hard to say that the traumatizing environment of living under warlords who kidnap young boys and turn them into soldiers is “universal”.

    However, I did like the story, and I appreciate you posting it.

    1. Shamus says:

      Obviously I was talking about bullying and being the new kid in the class, not brutal African tribal warfare.

    2. Maldeus says:

      Wait, you mean that isn’t normal?

  9. Rutskarn says:

    This is a hell of a lot more moving than Old Boy, that’s for sure. More uplifting, anyway.

    1. Vladius says:

      It needs a prolonged fight where Joseph wields a hammer.

      1. Syal says:

        On the slide.

  10. Fede says:

    It was really good. Thank you for sharing, Shamus.

  11. John says:

    Touching…perfect moment in my day. Thank you for posting.

  12. Old_Geek says:

    I felt bad for both teachers. One gets arrrested at gun point for teaching division. The other has to try an educate a bunch of boys much more interested in staying ignorant and showing each other their snot. Yet when their countries test scores are declining compared to the rest of the world, they will get the blame. Well, not the man. He’s probably dead by now.

    1. Felblood says:

      Funny. I was under the impression that the lady teacher was incompetent, and got exactly what she deserved. If she can’t be bothered to escape ignorance about which of her students are picking fights, one can hardly expect her students to look at her as a font of wisdom and knowledge.

      It’s really strange, I’ve never seen anybody make peace after a schoolyard fight, if the truth didn’t come out in the inquiry. Then again, Joseph’s probably wiser than my younger self, or even my modern self.

      Cuts and beatings are water under the bridge, but if you slander me that’s beyond the strength of my forgiveness.

      1. Taellosse says:

        I don’t think she was ignorant about who was starting the fights. But her goal was to discourage violence of any kind. Not that her methods were altogether successful. But it can be kind of hard to control a classroom full of 10-year-olds. She certainly did better than I would.

        1. Felblood says:

          It doesn’t matter is she knows, if she can’t communicate that she knows.

          If it isn’t clear that the truth is known, both sides tend to continue fronting that the other party is the bad guy. Which generally leads to an ongoing campaign of snubs and cliques and re-matches.

          If you don’t care about your students individually, then you don’t really care about your students as a group, and kids pick up on that in a hurry. As adults we know that these feuds are petty and pointless, and they’ll be irrelevant as soon as they end, but kids are trained to think of broken rules as something important.

          It’s like Terry Pratchett said, “The watchmen couldn’t be everywhere, so you put a little watchman inside everybody’s head.” Trouble is, that little watchman has a sense of justice of his own, and if he sees someone concealing his crimes, he sort of turns vigilante. You can’t teach kids to believe in rules, justice respect and law, and then tell them that truth and justice are too time consuming and bothersome. To a kid, that makes you a liar or a crazy person, and I’m not fully convinced that this is the wrong point of view.

          As to merely preventing fights, rather than curbing the instigators, I have no patience for the sophistry of, “It takes two to fight.” I spent two years of my elementary career as a strict pacifist, and I have the bone scars to prove it.

          Some kids think that if the teachers aren’t looking you can beat up on those who are unable or unwilling to defend themselves, and get away with it. You can never have enough patrols to prevent all fights, but that sense of forbidden accomplishment that comes with concealing an act from the faculty is generally preventable. Schoolyard bullies are a huge risk for violent crime and unlawful behavior later in life, and failing to find and help these kids means failing in your job as a teacher. You’ve got to find the little watchmen that aren’t getting the job done, and beef them up before it’s too late.

          If your students fall behind in memorizing their multiplication tables, that’s bad; they’ll have a harder time with the review portion of their next year, or even be held back a grade.

          However, if your student learns that rules can be broken when the administration is too lazy or foolish to catch you, it’s a lesson he’s unlikely to ever forget. You get one chance with this stuff, and it marks people for life.

          Maybe there’s still some spark of that 8 year old idealist that hasn’t been completely beaten out of me, but kids need to be able to believe in grown-ups. They aren’t ready for a world of grays, where you just do the best you can, and hope to patch up the rest later.

  13. Jamfalcon says:

    Maybe it’s because I was homeschooled my whole life and never was the “new boy” in school, but I really didn’t feel much from this video. It was well done, but I didn’t relate to any of the characters.

    1. Keeshhound says:

      I think that’s precisely why.

      1. BFG9000 says:


  14. TehShrike says:

    I was homeschooled as well. For me, this video outlines a few of the reasons I would never consider sending my children to grow up as part of a group of children their same age.

    Reminded me a bit of Paul Graham’s “Why nerds are unpopular”, though it implied a happier future for the school-ridden boy.

    1. Mari says:

      Thanks for the link. That was an excellent essay which summarized many of my own opinions while bringing to light some new points to ponder.

    2. thebigJ_A says:

      Honestly, I think this is a perfect argument FOR sending your kids to an actual school. Things like this happen all the time in life, and therefore, in school. You come out more ready to deal with the world. That is, of course, just my opinion, and I do respect the opposing view.

      1. Mari says:

        Yeah, because I know that I constantly in the “real” world have people taunt me for being boss’s pet, a braniac, and fat. I constantly have random men wander up to me and ask me for dates then dissolve into giggles and insult my appearance. To this day women ask me if I’m expecting a baby or just ate too much. And sometimes people I barely know these days drop by just to offer to help me commit suicide if I ever get tired of how crappy my life is because it’s not as full of awesome as theirs. Did you know that to this day my friends mock me when my husband doesn’t send me a student council carnation on Valentine’s Day? Thank heavens I went to public school to learn to deal with real life.

        OK, yes, I’m bitter about my school experiences. I was one of those shy, awkward kids that never quite figured out how to fit in and it made my life a living hell. Yes, I survived but not for lack of trying to do otherwise. Put it this way, school was so bad that the “quiet life” of the psychiatric hospital eventually became preferable and when I’d had enough of school I’d make a half-hearted suicide attempt and go back to the nut hut once I’d discovered how great it was in the wake of a couple of not at all half-hearted attempts. Neither place did much to prepare me for my comfortable and secure adulthood but on the whole I much preferred dealing with addicts, schizophrenics, and paranoiacs in a hospital setting than in a school setting. In the hospital at least they weren’t allowed to hit/kick/trip/molest you.

        1. thebigJ_A says:

          Obviously I wasn’t referring to people giving you noogies as an adult. I meant dealing with interpersonal relationship issues, etc. Obviously you have very strong feelings about this, and I respect that (I have similar feelings toward home schooling), so I won’t push it further. I’m sorry if what I said upset you. This is a case of differing opinions, no more. :)

      2. acronix says:

        I agree with Mari. School is useless in “teaching to live the real life”. School-life is too different from the adult life. However, it can drastically affect people.

        I think school can be useless or not, being highly dependant on the authorities(aka, teachers). There seems to be some sort of…universal state in which bullies and infant trolls get away with their crimes because the teachers ignore them, either in a sort-of innocent level (“They are just kids!”) or because they like the spartan way (“They must learn how harsh the world is!”), or either because they want to avoid problems and meetings with the parents as much as they can. Or plain ol´negligency.
        Let´s put two and two together: we know children can be terribly, terribly cruel. We also know that teachers let them do such cruelties for whatever reason. Finally, we know childhood is the most fragile psycological age in a human being. We could add other stuff, like the parents of the victim having the same mentality as the teachers (“They must learn the world is harsh!” or whatever). What could be, then, the most probable result of leaving a kid in a harsh enviorement for half a day, without anyone to support him? I´ll give you a clue: it´s not becoming stronger.
        There´s always one result, and it is the lose of willpower. That lose of willpower will have, at the same time, other varianble effects. From depression to murderous hate against the offender (and maybe those the kid thinks are responsible for doing nothing to stop him/her). There´s also the possibility that they´ll join the bully wagon and start doing the same to others or supporting the bully when he/she attacks other people, in order to “be friends” (and stopping him). Then the cycle repeats against the next victim.
        Basically, the responsability of the mental health of the kids in the schools falls on the teachers. If they like the spartan way, or ignores the pleas for help, then, for that particular kid, school was useless at teaching him “real life”.

        1. Maldeus says:

          Any system which is dependent on its employees being better at their job than said system can consistently train them to be is a horrible system.

          In other words, if we can’t find a way to systematically teach someone to be a good teacher to the point where we could, in theory, program a robot to do the same thing if only we could get it to properly handle input, then we need a new system. One which is either better at making good teachers, or still acceptably functional with mediocre ones.

    3. Tizzy says:

      “School is terrible” “School is useless for real life” “You must go to school to learn socialization”. Yadda yadda yadda… There are lots of different schools out there, as there are lots of different kids out there. You can spin this debate until the cows come home without getting anywhere.

      TehShrike, in regard to your original comment, I would say your reluctance is quite understandable. But again, it depends both on the kids’ personalities and the general school population.

      1. Slothful says:

        I sorta have the feeling that nobody is really sure what the best way to teach, just no one’s willing to fess up first. All schools do is make a mad scramble to get something that seems like it works and roll with it until another poor schmuck comes in to try to fix everything.

        Everybody just goes through the system and never look back, because DEAR GOD I’M NOT DOING THAT AGAIN.

  15. thebigJ_A says:

    I don’t know if you guys realize the best part…

    Joseph actually grows up to be Old Spice Man.

    1. Zaxares says:

      Did you mean that literally?? If so, that makes the tale have even more of a happy ending.

      In any case, I found that movie particularly moving and touching on sooo many levels. I could definitely see my younger self in Joseph. Well, minus the finger holds. I should have learned how to do that when I was in school. >.<

      1. Maldeus says:

        …No. Not literally. This movie is a fiction that was created no more than a few years ago, and the Old Spice Guy is, like, twenty five.

        EDIT: I should clarify that I haven’t actually researched this, but I’m almost certain what I wrote above is correct. Especially since that comment really sounded like a joke.

    2. Jattenalle says:

      You are the new boy, look again you are now the old boy! I am on a website posting a comment.

  16. UtopiaV1 says:

    To be honest, I don’t know how anyone could relate to this film (with the obvious exception of actually going through that exact set of circumstances)! To come from a place of such horrific atrocities and poverty to the affluent western world and seeing these privileged kids who don’t know how good they have it… well, Joseph is a much stronger people than I, because I would hate those kids.

    Bloody good film though, the acting and story was suburb. I got the feeling this was going to be ham-fisted ‘down with the kidz’ kind of affair, but it was intelligently done. I’m glad to be proved wrong!

    1. thebigJ_A says:

      You don’t need to have gone through the exact same experience as someone else to be able to relate. Frankly, I don’t see how someone could NOT relate to this, at least on some level. Even if home schooled. Who hasn’t been the outsider or new person? Who hasn’t had some dark thing hidden inside that others “don’t get”? Who here hasn’t been accepted into a group, or made peace with someone they considered an enemy/antagonist?

      All of these are present, and very profoundly so, in the film.

  17. asterismW says:

    Great acting, but all through the short I couldn’t help but think, “Man, are all the kids in that school snotty little brats?” Even the “nice” girl mouthed off to the teacher. Maybe school has changed since I went there, but no kid in my class would have ever gotten away with acting like that. I actually found it rather sad that the new kid had to disrespect the teacher in order to fit in.

  18. Lalaland says:

    As an Irishman pretty much all the characters in that class would be familiar to me but what surprises me is the reaction to the teacher. It seems as if some feel she hasn’t got control of her class but do we really expect teachers to have the clairvoyance to catch each act of malfeasance by her students?

    I think she was exercising restraint with her defence of Joseph to avoid separating him from the rest of the class as a ‘teachers pet’. Far better to see if he can bond with the rest of the class independently and when she discovers them laughing together she realises that punishing the indiscipline in the yard was a secondary consideration to Jospeh making friends.

    Loved the little girl though, I think some of the reaction to her may be down to cultural differences regarding acceptable language. ‘Female dog’ would be on the lower end of offensiveness like a ‘dang’, depending on context of course. The Irish vernacular is laced with profanity, for examples I can heartily recommend the filmed versions of the Barrytown trilogy ‘The Commitments’, ‘The Snapper’ and ‘The Van’. Not sure how easy the latter two would be to find outside of Ireland or whether the thick Dublin accents are properly subtitled for non-natives…. :)

    1. Shamus says:

      Very interesting.

      Yeah. In the US, bitch is among the worst curses cunt. Is the worst. If you want worse than that, you’d need to string together some curses for a combo attack.

      1. Lalaland says:

        That word is also well beyond the bounds of ‘acceptable’ profanity here too. Curse words such as the F-word and references to excrement are not really regarded as cursing unless used in a direct personal attack. More often they’re used as adjectives or adverbs in place of the more standard fare.

        The general coarseness of casual conversations here can take some getting used too and it’s not exactly a national badge of honour but it’s a fact of life that can lead to awkwardness when travelling or in business situations. I often use it myself in my role to build a bond with a customer often by admitting a failure in our services emphasised with a curse. It helps by showing that I’m willing to be honest and blunt about where we fail, of course not all folks are receptive and it’s a judgement call but in most cases it builds a better relationship.

        It was always fun in college to watch young American exchange students get used to the Irish idiom. I’ve always wondered if they found it hard to refrain from cursing every fourth or fifth word when they get back home.

  19. Phoenix says:

    I found myself wondering, it this “hands up” stuff common in the UK or US? Haven’t ever seen something like that during my own school years here in Germany.

    1. Mari says:

      Never had a teacher do the “hands up” thing but I’ve seen some pretty inventive (from an educator’s POV; “silly” would be a bystander’s assessment) classroom management techniques in my time. My favorite was the middle school teacher who got tired of the little savages in her class being hateful to one another so she started requiring that any utterance of name-calling or other abusive language was immediately off-set by the offender standing before the class and listing three positive traits of the victim. I’ve also seen teachers that required the entire class to hold hands (think the “We Are the World” video) when they became unruly, teachers who made unruly classes sit on the floor, and teachers who forced talkative classes to sit with their index fingers to their lips or a hand clapped over the mouth for five minutes. The closest to the “hands up” technique I’ve ever seen was a kindergarten teacher who made the kids use their “listening ears” by holding hands cupped to ears like antennae while she was giving instructions.

      I’m not sure about other countries but in the US schools are so limited in how they can control a class (no physical punishment, no raised voices, no keeping students after class or making them come in early, etc.) that especially young/inexperienced teachers often lose control of a class and resort to strange things to regain it. My own kids’ school is a great example. Miscreants are subjected to a verbal reprimand. Escalation is grounds for a visit to the principal for a verbal reprimand from a different adult. The next step is a call to parents for (hopefully) a verbal reprimand from them. Then in-school-suspension where the student spends the entire day sequestered in a private classroom, working and eating independently. Then the out-of-school suspension where students go home (except few actually stay there; they tend to wander the streets like packs of wild dogs looking for trouble). Personally, looking at it from the viewpoint of a troublesome student I would work extra hard to get to that out-of-school suspension quickly. It almost seems like a series of ever-greater rewards to the student who doesn’t want to be bored senseless in a classroom doing work. And, in fact, that seems to be the case. Our town is considering a daytime curfew for minors. It’s common in US cities but our town has a unique reason for it. Unlike most cities who pass them to “combat truancy” our town is passing it to combat students working hard to get suspended so that they can wander the streets aimlessly, unsupervised, all day because this is actually an epidemic problem locally.

      1. Phoenix says:

        Hm. A brief stop at Wikipedia suggests that corporal punishment in school isn’t as rare as I thought, even in the US.

        But then I also always thought that being able to control a group of children is an elementary school teacher’s main skill – if you don’t have it, you’re doing the wrong job (and being able to hit a child won’t help you in any way). Teaching basic elementary school knowledge shouldn’t be a big deal for somebody with a college degree…

        1. Mari says:

          Oh, I agree. Managing a classroom is definitely the most useful and essential skill for teachers (both elementary and secondary). And being able to hit a kid is not necessarily the best way to do that. It gets a result with certain students, maybe, but by no means most or all. And honestly, I don’t know exactly what the answer is. I just know by observation that for students who don’t mind getting in trouble, it seems like the current system of successively removing the kid from the place they don’t want to be anyway doesn’t seem like a very effective deterrent to bad behavior. It’s like the old sending your kid to their room thing. For kids who knew that there was much worse waiting if they did anything other than sit on the bed and wait it was an effective punishment. For the rest of us, it was an escape to a magical land full of toys, games, and entertainment; not exactly a punishment then, is it?

          As far as corporal punishment, that map doesn’t tell the whole story. For instance, I live in Texas. According to the map corporal punishment is allowed. The reality is, though, that corporal punishment is allowed with parent consent in school districts that don’t have their own policy forbidding it. About 1/3 of districts in Texas have an official policy of no corporal punishment and another 1/4 have such a policy UNofficially. Even in the remaining districts where it’s allowed, parents have to be notified prior to punishment and give consent. And beyond that many schools are reluctant to use it even if there’s no policy, either official or unofficial, because of the threat of lawsuit or the red tape involved. For instance my kids go to a small, conservative school (dress code requires that boys’ hair be trimmed above the ears if that gives you an idea) with relatively few serious discipline problems beyond verbal and social bullying but in the seven years my children have gone there, exactly one paddling has been administered. It was to an administrator’s child for a relatively minor infraction (I suspect it was more to make an example of him than anything else). In fact, I just read the other day that in public schools in Texas 48,000 students were paddled last year. That sounds like a horrifyingly high number until you consider that our enrollment, state-wide, is 4.5 MILLION. That’s a little over 1% of students receiving corporal punishment. Not exactly what most people would classify as a common occurrence.

    2. Lalaland says:

      The hands up thing is common between the UK and Ireland, it’s a fairly standard tool as it let’s teachers see easily who is keen and who isn’t to get involved. Unique to Ireland though is the fact that a lot of the standard classroom commands such as ‘sit down’, ‘stand up’ and ‘be quiet’ are given in Irish (‘suigà­ sà­os’, ‘stad suas’ and ‘beigeadh cuainis’).

      Corporal punishment is not allowed in most Irish schools but to be honest a lot of lads I know who grew up in the 80s were still getting bet around the place. Corporal punishment is only effective if it’s used as intended but frankly good teachers never need it and bad teachers abuse it. If you can’t control a class without it you never will with it, there’s a very sad history here of serious child abuse of all forms in what were our ‘reform’ schools. Formed with the idea of helping impoverished kids or kids who fell afoul of the law they became hell on earth for the poor. Perhaps that’s an indictment of Irish society more than corporal punishment itself but when you allow it the worst effects hit those you’re trying to help. Children of the middle class or the wealthy have parents who can stand up to institutions and won’t tolerate abuse of their kids, the poor are rarely listened to.

  20. Slothful says:

    This is the true human accomplishment. No matter what the world throws at you LIFE GOES ON. Apocalypse be damned.

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