Before I get into Lee Hirsch’s documentary Bully, I would like to state my own stance on the topic of “bullying.” When I was younger, I was the one being picked on because I was different, whether it was because of what I looked like or how I spoke. I’ve gone to the brink and back with my head held higher because of it. And as I sat and watched this documentary, my memories of everything that I’ve gone through came rushing back into as an emotional tidal wave. I wish a movie like this came around when I was younger, and maybe it could have spread around like it’s doing now bringing up the awareness of how some of our youth is being tortured by others for something as simple as “being different.”
But how can you stop a child from speaking out? The honest answer is that you can’t. If you think that a parent should discipline their kid because of the ways they act at your house, then I would imagine that they will take that hate and transfer it into their fellow students. You can always suspend someone for something that they’ve done, but that doesn’t mean they won’t come back and be worse. All we end up doing is stoking the flames of our youth’s hatred towards one another. And just like flames, it crackles, it pops, and it hurts.
Before I continue to ramble on, let me actually talk about the film. Bully follows three students and two sets of parents, each one coming from different areas of the United States, and each one being effected by bullying. Whether it be because someone is gay or for simply not looking like you, their lives have changed dramatically because of the excessive taunting and teasing. This went as far as one of the children bringing a gun with her on the bus to stop them from teasing her. The film also follows two sets of parents, both of them losing a child due to suicide. One of them happens in the middle of shooting in Oklahoma, and the crew was there to document the funeral for their eleven year-old boy. This prompts one of them to start the Stand For The Silent foundation to try to put an end to bullying. The film is riveting from start to finish, and has moments that would melt anybody’s heart. It gives you a look into what schools are doing (and how I feel and how it’s edited, nothing), and what other families are trying to take a stand to do. The film itself is something that I think should be watched by a lot of people – whether it helps them or not is up to them.
One of the biggest problems with the distribution of Bully is how it will effect people. There are scenes in here depicting the vice-principal of a middle school as an authority figure who uses whatever powers she has as incompetently as possible. The filmmakers had to show the footage to both the parents and the staff so they knew what was going on to the main subject of the film, Alex. And when the parents confronted the VP about it, she defends herself by saying that she’s been on the bus where he is ridiculed, and everything was fine. Of course, like it probably was with the cameraman, having someone of power watching over you changes how you act. Did some of the kids (who knew they were being filmed, but weren’t the subjects) ham it up for the cameras? I would think so. The kids on the bus, however, didn’t know that there were any cameras were there, and acted like they normally would. But if those kids knew that there were cameras on the bus, or had someone of power watching sit there and watch what they were doing, wouldn’t they try and look like outstanding citizens? Yes, and that’s what would happen in that situation.
Personally, I’ve been in multiple situations with counselors and principals about things that happened to me, and just like the VP in the movie, almost shoved it to the side because “boys will be boys.” As much as I would love to say that the anti-bullying movement should start with the kids, it really needs to start with the parents. And this is what Bully does best – it gives parents a real life look at what really happens when your child is at school. It’s a movie that is supposed to be eye-opening for the people who shrug the problem off, and solidifying for the people who have gone through that. I can almost bet that because of how the VP of the school was depicted in the movie, that this film is not going to be shown in schools. But if ourselves as adults want to instill change in our children’s lives for the better, then seeing this film and understanding why children are afraid to speak up should be a great first step.
Will Bully really be a movie that makes children turn the other leaf and start over as positive individuals? We don’t know. Will the topic of bullying be a hot topic in a year, as the sensationalism from this movie cools off? We don’t know. But if parents go and see this film, do you think that they might try to make a positive difference in their child’s life; making sure that their child is safe at a place that is supposed to help him grow as a human being? Absolutely.
Final Grade: A
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