Bully Review

The perpetuation of bullying has become a nation-wide epidemic, and has recently come to national attention, thanks to none other than the parents of the children, teens, and young adults who have taken their lives in a rash attempt to end the pain that they endured through merciless bullying. The documentary Bully pulls back the curtain on education systems around the country, revealing the shocking, brutal truth surrounding this all too common issue.

I have to say, I wasn’t prepared for the things that I saw in this film. As I have said before, I watch horror movies with nary a wink; however, they did not prepare me for the absolute horror and brutality that I witnessed in this movie. While there was no blood, guts, or gore, there was pain – real pain, and the kind of tragic and unfortunate things that you just don’t recognize until it is presented in front of you as plain as day.

Bully follows the stories of several different families, all experiencing the fallout that has been brought to them because of bullying. From the suicides of seventeen-year old Tyler Long and eleven-year old Ty Field-Smalley to the relentless bullying of Kelby, a sixteen-year old girl whose über-Christian Oklahoma town has shunned her and her family since she came out as a lesbian a year ago, this movie covers issues in every corner of the country – something that is disheartening to realize.

For me, the story that cut deepest was that of 12-year old Alex. Alex, born fourteen weeks premature, was a miracle of life itself – the doctors told his parents he wouldn’t live more than 24 hours. Truly a kind, sweet soul, and yet bullied because of his “fish face” and his propensity to search for a friend – any friend. Alex has no friends, no one to eat lunch with or sit on the bus; in fact, the bus is the main source of pain for Alex, as he has been beaten, stabbed, choked, and more while riding to and from school.

What is sickening is the realization that, sure – the kids who are doing this to Alex are certainly to blame, and should be punished for their actions toward him; however, the true perpetuators of this violence are, in fact, the adults – teachers, principals, administrators, and the parents who refuse to parent their children.

Take the case of sixteen-year old Kelby, for instance, who was called out in class for being a “faggot,” by her teacher. While you might expect a child to taunt another child for their differences (though such is not in any way acceptable), the bullying of children by adults is incredibly sickening and absolutely intolerable.

Luckily, not all of the adults in this movie show such a lack of respect and dignity towards others; rather, many of the parents whose children were victims of bullying, including Tyler Long and Ty Field-Smalley’s parents have joined together to recognize those who have been bullied, and to promote a bully-free school environment for other children with their group, Stand for the Silent. This group has garnered national attention, both through this film, and through the efforts of the lovely Ellen Degeneres, who has been a proponent against bullying for many, many years.

While the stories themselves are told with passion and vigor, and certainly push all the right buttons emotionally, the filming can be frustrating at points. For instance, the single shots of parents or children talking to the camera are often handheld or unfocused. While I think this was probably done purposely, at times it distracted from what the person on camera was saying.

With that exception, the rest of the movie was exactly as it should have been. No ridiculous over-dramatization or unseemly situations; rather, an incredibly informative and unrestricted view into the minds of the children, teens, young adults, and their families, as they experience, battle, and deal with the consequences of bullying.

This poignant, heart-wrenching documentary will cut you to the core. Nearly everyone in the theater was in tears, and I myself couldn’t help but tearing up as I relayed what happened in the movie to my friends, as well as while glancing through my notes to write this review. More than saddening, this movie was maddening – it truly made me angry to see innocent children committing suicide because they felt that no one understood the pain that they felt. It also maddened me to see the actions and reactions of educators, parents, neighbors, and friends – adults who should be stopping these things from happening are the ones qualifying and perpetuating the bullying.

Bullying isn’t limited to physical abuse – it is anything that is said or done to put someone else down in a derogatory way. This includes “innocent” things, such as teasing or “kidding around,” and more escalatory verbal abuse, such as name calling or threats. Speaking from experience, these verbal assaults can be nasty, and kids today don’t spare any expense at asserting their “authority” and popularity over kids they deem to be lesser than themselves.

If you are a parent, an educator, or a concerned, compassionate person – you need to see this movie. I’m not being hyperbolic; rather, I feel that everything in this movie is poignant for every person, but especially you. This movie has been crucial in creating awareness about this devastating issue; it is up to us to maintain awareness and educate these younger generations, letting them know that behavior like this is NOT okay. You can claim I’m being overdramatic if you want, but bullying leads to more extremist behaviors, such as racism, sexism, and other forms of bias, hatred, and bigotry.

I’m not delusional – I get it. People aren’t going to change overnight, and bullying is still going to be a problem, because unfortunately that’s what people do. Call me cynical, it’s probably true. Still, I can’t help but think that if people opened their eyes and payed attention to something other than themselves, they would realize that their words and actions really do impale deep into the hearts of the people they are aimed towards.

I don’t expect everyone to run out to see this movie, but I do know that if you get the chance to see it, it might change the way you think about this trending epidemic, and help you to think about what you can do to help to stand for the silent.

Bully – 8.5/10

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