Bully Movie Review
Bully has sparked news since it first hit the film festival circuit in 2011. Released nationwide on April 13, with a PG-13 rating, this important documentary focuses on what everyone in the country is talking about right now – peer-hate, otherwise known as bullying.
I endured bullying as a child. As a result, I am now the founder of a bullying solutions and self-compassion outreach organization for girls called Severson Sisters. Because of personal experience and what I take on professionally, “Bully” was painful to watch. I launched Severson Sisters because I was bullied as a girl. It started in 4th grade and got progressively worse. I got through middle-school by bribing a girl with costume jewelry. The deal was I continue to give her jewelry if she made sure three particular girls never hurt me. I gave her a lot of jewelry in 7th grade.
I knew I had to see “Bully” but I wasn’t excited to experience it. I lived it. I still do because I work with girls who live it today. My professional life involves guiding girls through and away from peer-hate and I have yet to walk away unaffected from a girl who shares her story with me.
“Bully” is heartbreaking. I believe it’s meant to make the audience uncomfortable. That said, I hope “Bully” continues to create conversation nationwide.
I believe the director, Lee Hirsch, does a brilliant job showcasing the intensity of this issue. The film follows five children and their families throughout the country during the 2009 – 2010 school year.
I could feel the pain of the families portrayed in the film immediately. The film opens with David Long, the father of a 17-year-old boy who hung himself in his closet because he could no longer endure the bullying he faced at school. And unfortunately, the Long’s aren’t the only family “Bully” follows that is mourning the loss of a child who committed suicide. The second family is the Smalleys. They lost their 11-year-old son because he too had enough bullying at school.
Hirsch also follows the family of a 14-year-old girl in Georgia who was arrested after bringing her mother’s gun on the bus after she reached her breaking point of being bullied, the family of a 16-year-old girl in Oklahoma who is shunned at school because she is a lesbian, and finally the 12-year-old boy who captured my heart from Sioux City, Iowa named Alex.
Alex knows he has trouble making friends. He’s nervous every time he goes to school because of the way the other kids treat him. He’s not really sure what a true friend feels like. He believes the abuse he endures on a daily basis by his peers is just a big joke. His parents are left in the dark until this one particular day on the bus.
Kids on the bus strangle Alex, punch Alex, kick Alex, and stab Alex with pencils. And nobody stopped them. Nobody stood up for Alex and that includes Alex. The film crew captures it all on camera. They had enough and turn over the footage to the police to protect Alex.
Alex doesn’t have trouble talking about his feelings to the camera. The most haunting scene for me was a private interview with Alex after the film crew turned footage over to the police. Alex says, “They punch me, strangle me, take things from me, sit on me. Sometimes they push me so hard it makes me want to be the bully.”
I work with girls who say the same thing. Kids are bullied so badly they become the bully. It’s a cycle that feeds into itself and creates more hate.
The assistant school principal at Alex’s middle-school is the biggest culprit of the entire film and I found myself yelling at her – out loud. She admits that she doesn’t know how to handle the bullying at her school. And rather than protecting the kids being bullied or educating herself, she stands up for the bullies.
I found myself hurting for the parents. I was nervous for every child – the bystanders, the ones who are filled with so much hate they punish others around them and finally the ones enduring that hate.
There’s a void in our society and I believe this film is sitting right in the center of it. Everyone involved from the school board, parents, police, to the kids doing the bullying to the ones being bullied need advice, support, education and overall solutions.
I hope this film is a call to action for deeper community involvement, higher levels of advocacy for safer schools, ongoing education and overall solutions for the school boards across the country, the police, the parents, the kids doing the bullying to the ones being bullied.
Bully Movie Trailer:
Severson Sisters is a bullying solutions and self-compassion outreach program for girls ages 7 – 17. Our mission is to inspire girls live their life as their authentic, awesome, super self. We help them connect to their inner super girl – and CELEBRATE IT! We are always graciously welcoming of donations, partners and volunteers. Visit www.seversonsisters.org to learn more
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