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Bully: The Movie and the Movement

Bully: The Movie and the Movement

When I was young I was pretty small and scrawny. While the diminutive stature did not harm my social life, nor did it make me the target of those who prey on the small and weak, I did get a brief taste of what it must have felt like to be routinely intimidated and bullied. The story, while somewhat mundane and hardly traumatizing, made quite an impression on me. Basically I, the small kid, staked out the prime seat on the bus; a seat that the big kid/bully desperately wanted to take from me. After asking me to move in a forceful manner, the boy resorted to violence (shoving and a bit of open-handed smacking on the back of my head) but I stood my ground, with my fists curled around the metal bar on the seat in front of me, and refused to give up the seat. Ultimately I won the right to stay seated, as the big kid gave up and dismissed me with some epithet. I came out of the experience shaken, but understanding that not giving in to the tyranny and oppression of the bully would later serve me in life. I had it easy compared to most children who are bullied.

While most teens in this country will no doubt be plunking down $10 to see The Hunger Games or the raunchy American Reunion movie this coming weekend, they might be better served by checking out a documentary slowly making its way into wide release, director Lee Hirsh’s Bully. While much of the attention given to this film arose from the MPAA rating controversy addressing the issue as to whether or not it deserved an “R” rating, thus deeming the film off-limits to its intended audience of teens, the film’s singularity moves well beyond ratings issues (it is now going into wider distribution as an “unrated” feature, allowing teens to see it in the theaters).

The documentary film, as the title would hint, is about the issue of bullying, particularly about how instances of bullying have impacted five particular families, in four different states, and some with very tragic results. There is Alex, who is a sensitive and bright 12-year-old boy who is mercilessly taunted, harassed and brutalized by his schoolmates. There is Ja’Meya Jackson, a 14-year-old girl who pulled out a gun on a crowded school bus threatening her frequent tormentors after enduring endless amounts of flack and abuse day after day. And most tragically there is Tyler Long, a 17-year-old boy who took his own life after many years of alienation and criticism (however there remains some controversy and criticism of the filmmaker’s handling of the Tyler Long case).

But more than the summation of these individual stories, Bully is about the growth of a movement set to acknowledge that our schools, playgrounds and buses and the children who populate these places, present a clear and present danger to vulnerable children. It is also about fostering a movement (There is a “Bully Project” which is a social action campaign associated with the film that is attempting to educate and provide parents, educators, and children with the tools to empower and change the dynamic) that doesn’t look the other way and addresses the issues of bullying and intimidation head on. It is a consciousness raising event for the picked on and their families, and a means to hold everyone accountable for such abject cruelty (parents, teachers, fellow students and not just “bullies”). It is, as NPR movie critic Bob Mondello writes, “a wrenching, intensely moral film, and so potentially useful to children who are either being bullied, or doing the bullying” and holds great potential to bring the discussion of bullying into the forefront. Finally!

Read more: Blogs, Children, Family, Mental Wellness, Parenting at the Crossroads, Stress, Teens, , , , ,

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Eric Steinman

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, NY. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture, and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.

26 comments

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8:37AM PST on Feb 17, 2013

This film holds promise for all children and youth. It should be mandatory that all kids who bully others should enter a therapy program,for as long as it takes. There should also be better resourses for bullied kids in schools but we all know this. Just get it done. Thanks

3:18PM PST on Feb 16, 2013

an excellent movie

1:32AM PST on Nov 15, 2012

Avoiding a bully is one reason your child may be reluctant to go to school. Perhaps he is being forced to relinquish his lunch money to this bully. Or he might be fearful of physical harm. If you suspect a problem like this, you need to take action to ensure your child's safety and well-being. Thus, being a parent I've learned to be vigilant and more particular on the safety of my teens especially when it comes with bullying cases. Then I found this site that provides a protection for children from a safety mobile protection that can access family, friends and 911 in times of emergency. I just downloaded their application on their iPhone. Here’s where you can find it: http://safetrec.com/

7:27PM PDT on Jun 7, 2012

i'd like to see the Alex part of the film. i'm not really "ready" for the other sections. Don't
imagine a lotta kids are either.

6:50AM PDT on Apr 30, 2012

I took my sons ages 11 & 15 to see this movie on Saturday. I was surprised that there were only 8 people in the theatre to see it. I have to say that EVERY middle school kid in this country should have the opportunity to see this movie not only that I thinks it's important that they see it. It is very moving. Thanks for finally bringing this issue to the surface!!!!

7:27AM PDT on Apr 28, 2012

Thanks for the information. The few people I know who have seen it so far have had nothing but good to say about it and have also highly recommended it. I'll have to find out when/if it's going to make its way over to the UK.

8:44AM PDT on Apr 17, 2012

thanks you. Can't wait to see it.

6:17AM PDT on Apr 16, 2012

thank you

6:03AM PDT on Apr 16, 2012

Bulling is a horable thing. Kids deserve to be who they are. I hope this film does a lot of good.

10:16AM PDT on Apr 15, 2012

Thanks.

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