If you need a good cry, just watch the trailer for Bully. The recently released documentary film, directed by Sundance and Emmy award winner Lee Hirsch, follows five U.S. families victimized by bullying. The violence and language in Bully was extreme enough to prompt the Motion Picture Society of America (MPSA) to bestow a ‘R’ rating, despite the fact that such violence and language is apparently a part of daily life for too many teens and pre-teens. Which would be comical if it wasn’t so tragic. After a public outcry and some editing of language, the MPSA has changed the rating to PG-13.
“Over 13 million American kids will be bullied this year, making it the most common form of violence experienced by young people in the nation,” according to the Bully website. Filmed during the 2009 school year, the documentary tells the stories of five bullied kids and their families:
12-year old Alex of Sioux City, Iowa, who is just beginning middle school, endures verbal and physical violence so extreme it’s the source of the ‘R’ rating.
16-year old Kelby of Tuttle, Oklahoma and her family are ostracized and worse after she comes out as a lesbian.
14-year old Je’Meya of Yazoo County, Mississippi brought her mother’s loaded gun to school to scare those who bullied her and faces multiple felony charges.
Kirk and Laura Smalley, whose 11-year old son committed suicide to escape bullying, launched Stand for the Silent to organize vigils and draw attention to the “high stakes of America’s bullying crisis.”
David and Tina Long of Murray County, Georgia, whose 17-year old son Tyler hanged himself after years of torment, demand accountability from school administrators and spark “a war in a community forced to face its bullying demons.”
In response to bullying incidents in our communities, educators and psychologists have said that in order to combat it effectively, a ‘culture change’ is needed. One Westport program that has arisen as a result is The Westport Kindness Project. The ‘collaborative effort’ of Staples High School’s Kool to be Kind Club and the Westport Youth Commission “seeks to engage as many community members as possible in recognizing and highlighting simple acts of kindness in order to improve the overall climate of our community.”
If the trailer is any indication, Bully will hopefully inspire similar movements. It’s disturbing to imagine viewers not alarmed by what they see in the film. Early reviews suggest it is a must-see for teens and their parents:
“Behind Every Harassed Child? A Whole Lot of Clueless Adults” by A. O. Scott in the New York Times.
“Cruel Kids, Weakling Schools, Hard-Hitting ‘Bully’” by Joe Morgenstern in the Wall Street Journal
“Movie Review: ‘Bully’” by Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times
Also of interest for those wondering how the film has been received by teens is “For Teenagers, ‘Bully’ is Tough to Watch, but Important to Discuss” by Beth Fertig. Fertig interviewed teens after they watched the documentary.
Bully is playing in several theaters throughout Fairfield County:
26 Isaac St.
41 Blackrock Tpk.
118 Summer St.
2 Railroad Ave.
61 Eagle Rd.
Have you or will you take your teens to see Bully?