Bully

I wouldn’t make it as a teenager today.

In the 80s when I had my teen years, I had my moments of being picked on. More often than not, my wits, and occasionally smart-alack mouth would get me out of as much trouble as I would get in to.

It didn’t help that I was an outsider, and wasn’t big into conforming with the popular kids, though I was lucky enough to be one of those kids who could migrate from group to group and not really offend anyone.

My appearance, ugh. I was the acne poster kid, it was terrible, and don’t be fooled by how good my hair looks now, it took a good 20+ years to make it look the way it does.

High school was rough for me emotionally, though that may have been more my fault than anyone’s.

But nowhere near as bad as some of the kids have it today.

I knew it was rough, but watching Bully opened my eyes to how bad it really is.

These poor kids.

The film follows a number of teens, exploring their details, and why they’re being bullied – they look different, they’re quiet, they’re gay, they’re too smart.

I went through my days of being called names, and getting my ears flicked (they did stick out – A LOT!) but some of these kids are being hounded, virtually to death.

One young fellow, Alex, is beaten, threatened, strangled, and stabbed with pencils – and that’s on the school bus!

All because he looks different, and people think he’s weird.

His mother is trying desperately to connect to him, to get him to communicate with him, and she fights for him. I think she’ s an amazing woman.

Her husband, however, doesn’t seem to realize the extent to which the abuse is being heaped upon him (until he sees the video playback), and says, stand up for yourself, what happens when you’re sister goes to the same school in a couple of years, what are you gonna do then?

All valid questions, but none of them are helping Alex get to the bottom of his problem.

Now, while I agree that standing up to a bully can and will on occasion work, speaking from personal experience, that’s not always the case.

Kelby grew up in the bible belt, her parents taught Sunday School, their family was loved in their little town. Until Kelby came out as a lesbian. Not only did the town turn on her, they turned on the whole family! She’s hounded mercilessly at  school, and all because she doesn’t fit the accepted norms.

I don’t understand the logic behind that, I get that kids can be mean, but what kind of environment are these kids being brought up in? Where are the positive influences and role models?

THAT is one of the things I did find lacking in the film.

While attention is paid to the families and the kids themselves, making sometimes for a difficult and emotional watch. I found that it was a little sad that no effort was made to talk to the kids who are the bullies, there are a few blatantly obvious ones in some of the sequences with Alex.

I get that they probably wouldn’t want to talk to the camera, but no move is made to talk to the parents of these kids either to find out what kind of environment they are being raised in. If any effort was made, it sadly isn’t mentioned in the film.

No matter what though, this film is important to see. It’s well made and emotional, especially when dealing with two sets of parents whose children took their own lives from the bullying they were suffering. It’s heartbreaking to see these parents, but I would never be able to thank them enough for letting us see them in their private hell.

And that’s important, it shows the consequences of the actions these bullies commit. I also believe that they should be held accountable in some of these situations.

State-side this film has walked a way with an R-rating because the MPAA will only let you use the F-word so many times. It’s an absurd ruling, a case of following the letter of the law, and not the spirit. By making it an R-rated film, the Weinstein company apparently settled for an “Unrated” as opposed to cutting it, the MPAA has made sure that the film’s target audience, teenagers won’t see the film.

Nice one.

Here, in the Great White North, the Ratings Board has realized that the subject matter is much more important than the foul language and has given it a rating of PG.

Still, fore-warned is fore-armed. If you are taking your family to see it, there is some strong language in it, which you may not think suitable for your child. But I also believe it will open up a strong discussion with your kids, and that’s important.

I’m not casting blame at any one party in this situation, there is bumbling in the school system, I’m sorry but true. The bus drivers seem complacent as well. They see everything, but do nothing. Alex’s mother tells a story about when she was a kid, the bus would pull to the side and stop until children behaved themselves, I remember a few trips like that as well. But they get paid for driving, not to be a babysitter. There is a lack of parenting and discussion, with the bullies – why are they doing what they do? Why is no one teaching them to accept responsibility for their actions, and to know that their are consequences for them? And some of the fault may lay with the parents of the kids as well. All children need to know they are loved, that they can feel safe at home, the ones we visit in this film all seem to come from good homes, they’re the lucky ones in that regard. Communication with a teen, or child can be tough, I know!

I know that when I was a teen, my home life wasn’t so hot, but who’s is when you’re a teen? I didn’t really talk with my parents about anything, we never really connected. I had my books, my friends, and my movies.

I don’t know what I would’ve been like if I had been able to connect emotionally with my parents… It’s tough to do even now.

But I do know bullying needs to be stopped.

That is something I agree with whole-heartedly, I also believe that we’re sadly devolving into a prison culture, and it not only upsets me, it worries me that we may not get out of this century as a species. We’re too busy being greedy, violent, and uncaring about our fellows.

You can ask for Bully to be shown in your town by visiting demand.bullymovie.ca, you can support it on Twitter and Facebook.

Be aware of those around, and help those who need it. Not a bad idea. So why is it so hard to do?

See this film, talk about it, promote it, share it. Don’t let some rough language keep you from letting your teens see it – that’s the way they talk when you aren’t around anyway.

I know that we CAN be better than this. But will we?

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Touching article … I just can agree with you about this world which become more and more crazy… And I know a lot about intimidation unfortunately…
    When you “undergo” (don’t know if it’s the good word sorry) some intimidations or violence, often you really don’t want talk about it to your parents, and for different reasons : that depend of the relationship you have with your parents, or if they are present or not, but also we feel some shame… it’s crazy cause it’s at these persons who did that to feel the shame, but no, often it’s the vctims who feel that.
    The world turns in the wrong way…
    And even, now, when someone violent you or steal you in a street full of people, nobody moves. Everybody make like they didn’t see anything. Crazy world…
    Thank you guys for this article, it seems to be an interesting movie !

    1. TD Rideout says:

      Thanks for your thoughts Audrey. I agree with you, there’s something very wrong in the way we as a society behave and act, or lack in acting, today.

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