Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Recommended: Bully

This is not "entertainment"; in fact, Le Duc and I both cried through the documentary "Bully" (director, Lee Hirsch). My first words as the lights came up were, "This is an important film"–an important film that will break your heart and galvanize you.

Everything I'd say has been stated eloquently in a review by Mike Lasalle in the San Francisco Chronicle. Here is his final paragraph:

"..."Bully" makes Oklahoma look like one of the most awful places to grow up in the United States, though I have to admit one person in this film shook my urban bias to the foundation.

I'm talking about Kirk Smalley, whose little boy shot himself because he was afraid to go to school.


"To my ignorant eyes, Smalley, tall and rail thin, looked like something out of the dustbowl, like someone about to be photographed by Dorothea Lange. And then this man started talking into the camera about his son–and later to a group of people on the subject of bullying–and every word out of his mouth was pure, true and unconsciously eloquent.

I could sit at this keyboard and write for a month, and I'll never be able to come up with words so full of feeling, and yet so dignified and so elevated by a concern for others. That's an extraordinary man, and this is an extraordinary picture."


There are few films that aim to save lives and change the world; "Bully" is one. Edited to finally earn a PG-13 rating, "Bully" will now be shown in schools. Every child, parent, teacher and community member should see it.

Even if you're out of the world of kids and schools, you will be served by the film, because bullies grow up to abuse outside the playground. Viewing the type of behaviour which contributed to the suicides of children as young as 11 will be difficult and intense, but you'll discover new resolve and heart for addressing a complex issue which affects every community.

Here's a start, the trailer:

21 comments:

frugalscholar said...

I have many memories of bullying--as a witness, not as a participant or victim. But still, no one spoke out, perhaps because we were afraid of becoming victims.

Interestingly, one of our pres candidates was involved in bullying--but has no recollection. I imagine the victims never forget.

Mr FS will probably watch this. Not sure if I can.

M said...

FS-the family of the alleged victim in the "Romney was a bully" article has said that the story is factually incorrect and has asked the Obama administration to stop using Mr. Lauber to promote his campaign. To adhere to their wishes you might want to do the same.

I've heard the movie is hard to watch but very moving.

Duchesse said...

frugal: I urge you and anyone else to try to watch it.

M: I do not recall the Lauber case as part of the film "Bully"- is it?

M said...

No it's not. I was addressing FS's accusation in her comment.

Duchesse said...

M: I was stunned, when reading the accounts of the four witnesses to that alleged incident with Lauber, to realize I was acquainted with one of them at college, and that I had witnessed his physical bullying of a woman, an act I had never forgotten. This does not reflect on Romney, but it certainly added credibility to this person's statement for me.

sisty said...

I don't know if I can bear to watch this -- just looking at that boy's face in the stilled video brought tears to my eyes. (I'm assuming he was a victim).

LPC said...

It seems that if we are going to lay claim to advanced civilization, this might be the most important next step we can take. Thank you very much.

M said...

I agree it's always troubling & shocking when someone attempts to smear another person with unsubstantiated and conflicting claims. It's bullying at its worst.

Duchesse said...

M: Smear a person with unsubstantiated and conflicting claims is damaging- which is why laws exist against libel and slander. However, the level of unremitting physical and emotional abuse against persons generally unable to protect themselves, as shown in the film, and which in some cases led to suicide- causes me to disagree with your opinion that smear attempts warrant "bullying at its worst" status.

Duchesse said...

sisty: Yes, he grabbed my heart. He provides one moment of levity at the end, when he unselfconsciously talks about girls, whom he is beginning to notice; it's priceless.

LPC: I can think of no good reason not to put every resource we can behind changing a culture that thinks it's OK.

SusanNYC said...

Brandon Teena, memorialized in the movie "Boys Don't Cry, is yet another example of how the more fragile members of our society are hunted and bullied, often to death. Despite the veneer of "civilization" and "enlightenment," many people seem hardwired to cruely exploit those weaker than they. And children are the worst...very Lord of the Flies. I really don't know the answer...it's very disheartening at times. Kids watch parents have roadrage meltdowns, punch out soccer coaches, scream at neighbors...how can they not think it's okay to bully? The internet also enables girls to brand someone as a "whore," "skank," etc. so it's even easier to torment someone without having to actually face them.

Duchesse said...

SusanNYC: Brandon Teena, Matthew Shepard and so many others- this is why I think the film is so important. It graphically shows bullies and their targets, and its only shortcoming is that it does not investigate the pain and needs-tragically expressed- of bullies. But that is another film.

"Bully" has the power to change people's tolerance for bullying, whatever the age of the bully.

Anonymous said...

I will definitely see this film. I hope it will lead to better understanding of what leads certain children to torment others, and not simply more "zero-tolerance" policies. I believe that, while some may bully from the desire for power, or simply because they can, others do it out of a despair as deep as that of their victims. As a child, my daughter feared and avoided a particularly aggressive girl in our neighborhood. When that girl threatened to cut off my daughter's hair one day on the school bus, the principal assured me that the school would come down very hard on the aggressor. But all I could think of was the bleakness of that child's life, and the fact that I had never once heard her mother speak to her in a voice that wasn't angry. I knew that my daughter would be fine, it was the other child who really needed some gentleness and compassionate help, yet the principal seemed astonished by my response. I can't help feeling that our entire community failed that girl.

C.

Duchesse said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Duchesse said...

C.: The roots of bullying are likely multiple. I learned a great deal about the neurological factors from this recent New York Times Magazine article on the identification of psychopathological behaviours in children:
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/13/magazine/can-you-call-a-9-year-old-a-psychopath.html?_r=1

There is obviously and environmental factor too- the family system and a culture that accepts trash talk and physical violence as entertainment.

The behaviour of the school admin and teachers in the film is one of its most shocking aspects/

lilly said...

I'm at work and can't watch the film until I get home. I was thinking of having my three kids watch it with me: ages 17, 9, and 6. Do you think it would be too much for the younger ones?

Duchesse said...

lily: Watch it yourself first. The real violence is graphically portrayed, so I would not show it to a 6 and 9 year old myself.

Duchesse said...

lily: Just to be clear, I have posted only the trailer, which is not as graphic as the film.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic article, Duchesse. Thanks for the reference.

C.

barbara said...

I do so hope, that this film will be showed in Germany, where bullying is of course a topic.
Hopefully the Weinstein Brothers, who always had and have the guts to produce films about difficult topics will be at the Cannes Film Festival this week and sell this film in Europe.
As always, Duchesse, a very impressing essay from you.

Mardel said...

I'd like to see this film. That we allow this to exist seems untenable and it is a very sad statement about any society.