Film: “Bully”

Review by Pete Mason

The documentary “Bully” is an impressive and powerful film, aimed at the students and their parents and thanks to the Weinstein company forgoing a rating (the MPAA sought to rate it PG-13 for a few swear words) and should be required viewing for all student grades 4-12.

While bullying has been around for ages and will not go away due to this film, the reality of the impact of bullying is seen in two suicides, an incarceration in a juvenile center, a student withdrawing from school and two students who stuck it out, despite numerous continued instances of bullying in school and on the bus. To discount the message that “Bully” sends is to throw hands up in surrender and accept bullying in schools, in society and as a unstoppable constant in our lives.

Directed by Lee Hirsch and featuring students across the south and Midwest in middle and high school, the film jumps around to each student during the movie, rotating in their stories, sharing the details of their lives. Alex is called “fish lips,” stabbed with pencils on the bus, pushed into lockers and is scared to admit to his parents what happens. Only the documentary footage proves the unspoken.

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Then, the cast of administrators steps up to the plate to turn a blind eye to ever strike like Mr. Magoo umpiring a baseball game. The principal is dismissive, says she cannot do anything and resorts to the now-tiresome ‘kids will be kids.’ In reality, kids that bully without repercussions grow into adults who bully in their lives, their homes and their workplace, so the principal passes the buck to an assistant principal who seems to do her homework and talks to kids on Alex’s bus and suspends one from riding the bus the rest of the year, but Alex is held to be guilty of retaliation, ultimately lessening his case and making the discipline wholly ineffective. When the bullied is treated the same way as the bully, the level playing field benefits the bully.

Alex is just one of the six profiled in the story. Two committed suicide because the bullying would not stop. Their parents have turned the tragedy into a campaign to end bullying in school, so that this doesn’t happen again. But in reality, until school administrators stop using zero-tolerance policies and act to involve parents and students in an effort to end bullying and educate those who continue to inflict physical, emotional and mental abuse on others, it will be a struggle more than a campaign.

The sad story of these students is uplifting, knowing that the effort to curb bullying is growing, and if enough parents start to realize their children are being bullied or bullying others, the propensity of children taking their own lives will decrease and students can focus on their education in school and not fear coming to school each day.

“Bully” is currently being screened at the Spectrum 8 Theaters in Albany. The movie is not rated and runs 97 minutes.

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One Response to “Film: “Bully””

  1. PK Miller says:

    Very, very powerful, moving film. I was moved to tears by what happened to these kids, espec. Alex who comes across as a little “geeky.” Both a social worker who saw it w/me and a clinical psychologist friend who saw it on her own, think he might be mildly autistic–perhaps Aspergers.

    Of course, kids pick on anyone who is the least “different,” perceived to be different. I was bullied as a child. I was a geeky, myopic, painfully shy kid, who was happier playing the piano or organ or better yet, singing than trying to play any sports. I also was very conscious of being “different” from a very early age (I’m Gay–knew it as early as kindergarten if, in that era, the word meant something different.) I was fortunate to have a few teachers, espec. Brother Ralph, CSC, who took an interest in me, encouraged my gifts, and a Scoutmaster, Howard Lasker, who believed in me more than I believed in me. The kids in this movie seem to lack support systems. And,as is all too common, powers-that-be are utterly oblivious, blame the victim. We need to put the ADULTS back in charge of our kids.

    Everyone should see this. Talk about it. If ou see yourself on either side, do something about it.

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