"Bully” is an important movie for every student, educator, and parent to see. In the weeks to come, schools around the nation should take their students on field trips to witness this magnificent documentary. When “Bully” is available on DVD, schools ought to set aside one day every year to play the film and discuss the bullying epidemic that plagues society. Upon watching the movie, schoolyard bullies might finally recognize the severe impact of their deeds. Those who have been victimized by bullying to the point of contemplating suicide may additionally see the value of their lives.
In the course of roughly a year, director Lee Hirsch follows the lives of several kids who have been harassed by bullies, along with their families. Hirsh spends a great deal of time with the families of Tyler Long and Ty Smalley, two kids who took their own lives after being pushed to their limits. While not every kid in “Bully” is driven to the point of suicide, many are still forced to take extreme measures to survive. In one case, an honors student named Ja’Meya Jackson brings a loaded gun onto a school bus after being continuously terrorized. An openly gay young woman named Kelby Johnson drops out of school after not only being singled-out by her fellow students, but teachers as well. They’re the proof that bullying exceeds kids merely being kids. It’s physical and psychological torment that can drive genuine people to do unbelievable things.
What are the schools doing about this problem? Clearly not enough. Alex Libby, a socially awkward boy with no friends, is constantly ridiculed on the bus everyday. Alex has been stabbed with so many pencils and had his head bashed into the seats so many times that he accepts this behavior as natural. It is not until the filmmakers show the footage to the parents that they realize just how cruelly Alex is being treated. When the parents ask the principle for help though, she shockingly responds, “I’ve been on that bus, they are just as good as gold.” This is documented evidence of just how incompetent and oblivious some school faculty members can be when it comes to bullying.
The only thing that might have made “Bully” an even stronger picture is if Hirsch had gained access to the bullies themselves. It likely would have been difficult to get these bullies or their parents to sign off on an interview though. Besides, this isn’t really a movie about why bullies find it necessary to pick on others. It’s about the victims and how they overcome ridicule.
There have been numerous after-school specials about the negative effects of bullying. But no entertainment has been as deeply moving and eye opening as “Bully.” This is the kind of movie that truly has the power to make the world a better place and resonate with anybody who possesses a heart. A particular moment that will stick with audiences is when a man speaks out at a meeting regarding bullying. He asks the law and school officials how come a bartender can be sued for over serving a drunk driver, but a bully can get away with pushing somebody to suicide. His words are painfully honest and nobody can refute them.
It should also be mentioned that “Bully” has undergone one of the most idiotic rating controversies of all time at the hands of the MPAA. Although this film will make any individual a better person, the MPAA shamefully slapped it with an “R-rating” for strong language and a scene in which Alex is intensely beat up. Not since “The King’s Speech” has the MPAA proved themselves to be so pigheaded and out of touch with the world. Fortunately, the filmmakers and the Weinstein Company stood up for “Bully,” refusing to give in. The MPAA has since granted the film a “PG-13” rating in exchange for editing out three “F words.” At least now kids will be able to see this wonderful movie, with or without an adult guardian.
Ahwatukee native and Desert Vista graduate Nick Spake is a student at Arizona State University. He has been working as a film critic for five years, reviewing movies on his website, NICKPICKSFLICKS.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.