Friday, January 29, 2016

Bully (2011)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

Someone once said that men had two main theories on women and that both were wrong.  (I want to say Will Rogers, but I’m not certain.)   The same applies for bullies.  As a child, I was told usually one of two things.  One camp held that bullies were looking for someone to push around.  If I stood up, they’d find someone else to push around.  The other camp held that bullies were looking for a reaction.  If I ignored them, they’d get a reaction out of someone else.  Neither one really held true.

Yes, I had problems with bullies as a child, but not so much as the children in Bully did.  The movie follows several children who faced constant bullying.  In one case, a child named Alex was poked, choked, shoved and otherwise harassed on the school bus.  Another girl, Kelby, was ostracized when she came out as a lesbian.  She was even kicked off the basketball team because none of the other players wanted to touch her.  She was even deliberately hit by a minivan.  Two of the children committed suicide because they couldn’t handle it any more.

Here’s the thing.  Not doing anything isn’t solving the problem.  Alex’s mother sees the assistant principal of his school after being shown the footage.  The assistant principal claims that she’s been on his bus and all of the students were perfect little angles, despite what the footage shows and what Alex has said.  The bus driver is shown just driving, not doing anything to stop the children.  (The mother points out that her bus driver would have pulled the bus over.)  Another student is asked why he doesn’t walk away from a kid that torments him.  He does, only to have the tormentor follow him.

Standing up does seem to have limited success.  One student admits that he stood up to some bullies and they backed off.  However, that doesn’t seem to hold true for Kelby.  Her parents offered her the chance to move, but she felt that moving would have handed the town a victory.  She felt that she should stay and try to at least show everyone she wasn’t backing down.  She was eventually pulled out of the school system.  Yes, she does have a few friends that accept her, but most students don’t.

It seems like the biggest problem is that those in a position to do something don’t.  Either they’re ignorant of the problem or they’re unwilling to admit that it is a problem.  The assistant principal at Alex’s school has a bully and the bullied shake hands.  When the bullied kid refuses, the assistant principal tells him that he’s just as bad for not trying to play nice.  The bully is let off the hook because he was so eager to play nice.

The kids don’t always stick up for themselves.  In Alex’s case, he thought that this is just they way kids behave.  It’s also easy to see why the students think that nothing will get done.  In many cases, if anything is done, it may change a very specific behavior, but not get rid of other forms of bullying.

It’s hard to say what to do because each case is different.  There’s no one action that an administrator, child or parent can take that will eliminate bullying every time.  It’s mostly a matter of persistence and knowing that you can have someone to turn to.  Even if it doesn’t stop anything, many of the children either feel that they don’t have friends or don’t really know what it means to have a friend.

I recall hearing about this documentary when it first came out.  It had to be edited to get a lower rating so that children could watch it.  I’d recommend that people watch this documentary as a starting point.  It’s available through Netflix on DVD and streaming, which will make it available to a lot of people.  If you do let your child watch it, I would recommend either watching it with them or watching it before them.  Even if they’re not bullied, you may want to be able to talk about the movie with them. 

No comments :