Bully Movie Review
The shy kid who looks different, the girl who came out as gay, the teen who took a gun on the bus to fight back, the parents of two young people whose bullies drove them to suicide. These are the stories presented in the powerful new documentary Bully.
12-year-old Alex of Sioux City, Iowa is called “fish-face” because of his prominent jaw and lips (Alex was born very prematurely). A sweet kid, the boy has gotten so used to being bullied (stabbed with pencils, strangled, sat upon etc.) on the bus and being called names and roughed up at the bus stop and at school that he just sadly accepts it and tells his parents that kids are just “messing with him”. As he enters the 7th grade, his torture only escalates.
16-year-old Kelby was a basketball star at her Tuttle, Oklahoma school headed for a college sports scholarship until she came out as gay. With the attacks and shunning by her teammates and even her teachers, the talented teen was forced to resign from the team. Her understanding dad offers to move with her to a bigger city where people aren’t so narrow-minded but gutsy Kelby, also with the support of a few friends and her girlfriend, resolves to stay in school and change things. Can she be at all successful?
14-year-old Ja’Meya, is a quiet Mississippi teen who is picked on every morning on an hour-long bus ride to school. The abuse is so horrible that the girl takes a handgun she found in her mom’s drawer with her on the bus to scare off the bullies who torment her. This lands Ja’Meya, who wanted to graduate and join the Navy, in juvie hall, locked up and charged with many felony counts for pulling the gun. Will she be in jail for the long haul and have her future ruined? Her family’s strong support helps her through.
David and Tina Long of Georgia are the mom and dad of Tyler who hanged himself in his closet after years of continued bullying and indifference from school officials. David and Tina mourn their loss and demand accountability from school leaders. Their efforts start nation-wide crusades against bullying.
Kirk and Laura Smalley were the parents of 11-year-old Ty who also killed himself when bullies drove him too far. He is mourned by his best friend as his parents start their own anti-bully organization called Stand for the Silent and vow to never give up until kids are safe from the torture.
The Bottom Line:
The documentary Bully is a long time in coming and, with the controversy over its “R”-rating for language continuing, it has become a champion for bullied kids everywhere. Although the movie doesn’t address online (cyber) bullying or profile a bully and what makes them torment fellow students, it does showcase the problem by focusing on different victims, all with the same sad effect.
Caring teachers and school officials that I know tell me that, although they have taken cases of bullying to the highest school district levels, they are often overruled by politics, rich, influential parents of some bullies and school board members trying to “get even” with them for their stand on other issues by voting down their efforts to help bullied kids. This part of the problem is also not addressed.
If the filmmakers included all sides of the issue, the movie would have to be hours long. Although Bully has a choppy feel and it jumps around at times from story to story, it does what it needs to do: put the issue in our faces and demand action….from all of us. For that, it gets 4 stars.
It comes out this Friday on March 30th, 2012.
By: Lynn Barker