Sunday, June 3, 2012

Bully - Movie Review

There are a swarm of summer movies out now, but I’m going to back up a bit and review a film I saw a couple of months ago.

Bully, opened in limited release and seems to have disappeared too quickly. I’m hoping the more people talk about the more it will be requested in schools, theaters and special screenings.

Despite an important message, this is a wonderfully done documentary that keeps the viewer engaged throughout. You may have heard of this film because of its ratings controversy, which in my opinion was a load of crap. The ratings board wanted to slap an R on this film because the “F-word” was used a couple of times and other colorful language. It’s important for adults and kids to see the bullying in its full, uncensored context and I’m pretty sure there’s not a kid out there today that hasn’t heard curse words.

I have to be honest and tell you that I put off seeing Bully. See, I was one of those kids. I don’t mean that I’ve been bullied once, or I had a short period of bullying growing up. No, I was the kid that was picked on almost everyone single day from second grade to eighth grade. The worst of course, was 6th through 8th grades. I know why I was a target. I was and still am short. As an adult, I still don’t hit the 5 feet mark and in school I was the smallest kid in class every single year. I was stick-skinny, pale and had huge glasses. Kids would chant “midget” at me and medium sized kids were always picking fights with me. Believe it or not though, I was lucky. Tall kids, boys and girls always managed to come to my defense just before I might actually have to “throw down.” I wasn’t meek, I vocally stood up for myself, but I was so much smaller than everyone else that I was never a threat to anyone. Needless to say, I didn’t want Bully to remind me of those days. I didn’t want to feel those emotions again. Still, I know what a huge problem this is for kids today and I thought it was important to see the film.

Bully does an excellent job of portraying a wide range of bullied victims. Alex, 12 is a quiet, sweet kid who tries to brush off his bullying as not a big deal. He’s your typical victim. Bespectacled and gangly, you know by looking at this kid he gets picked on. As you follow his day to day life though, it begins to weigh on you how much this kid is piling on. The taunting and hitting is so much, the filmmakers had to step in and show their footage to Alex’s family and his school.

Kelby 16, came out as a lesbian in her small town high school and wants to be brave enough to suffer through the bullying to make her school-mates more open minded and to prove that the other kids won’t break her.

We also meet Ja’Meya who is one of those kids that seemed to get singled out for no apparent reason. She is also one of the kids who snaps from the constant taunts and pushes and jabs. Her school bus ride has become a virtual hell for her that she can’t take anymore.

The parents of two teens, Ty 11 and Tyler 17, who committed suicide due to bullying are also chronicled.

It’s simply gut-wrenching to watch these stories unfold. The frustration and anger is so palatable, it’s hard to stay still in your theater chair. You want to do something, you want to yell, you want to hug these kids and tell them it will be okay.

So what can we do? In the end this film is really for the kids who aren’t bullies and do not get bullied. The regular kid, he/she needs to stand up and say something. I know it’s a lot to ask to step in to a situation that you’re not a part of, but I really feel that’s the answer. To be over 30 thirty years removed I can say I was appalled to see how loud and unruly it was on the school bus these days. I went to public school in San Francisco and no one was allowed to get out of their seats, reach across the aisle or have their voice be at such a high decibel. As I recall, the bus driver would pull over and the bus would not move until everyone got in their seat and shut the hell up!

I also have so much gratitude for all the kids that came to my defense. I had guys and girls tell me to let them know if someone “messed with me.” Still, I took the taunting, but even then, if some kids saw me in a situation they would step in and point out how lame the bully was for picking on someone so small. Never did the situation escalate past that. Usually, calling the bully out is humiliation enough. I do know this is not always the case. I did have someone who made snide remarks and threats to me almost every day for over a year. Everyone needs to band together to show this behavior is not okay. I realize how much it is to ask. I understand the mind set of the kid who is not being picked on not wanting to be thrust into the spotlight, yet I don’t see any other way to tackle this situation. What the parents and school administrators say will only go so far. When they are not around, and they are not when the bullying is taking place, then it’s up to other kids to step in and say that this is wrong.

Please see Bully. Please try to do what you can. My heart breaks for the parents of the kids who saw no way to stop it other than to take their own lives and I applaud them for going around the country and telling their story. Go to the Bully website. Most of us survive, but it stays with you. When I think how hard it was for me to see this film and to write this review, how hard it is to go back to that time in your mind; I don’t want other kids to go through that. I know you don’t either.


marge said...

Sounds like a great film to help the young people see the impact that bullying has on their peers. This is the fist that I have heard of it.

Visiting from SITS, make it a great day! said...

I really want to see this!
thanks for the review.
stopping by from sits!