By now, I think it is safe to say that everyone has heard of the documentary, Bully. It is an important film about bullying in the school systems of the United States. What made the film more controversial than it needed to be was the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) initially giving the film an “R” rating. That rating provoked outrage by so many people, even those who had not even seen the film yet. The rating was for language because kids these days cannot be exposed to the “F” word. It will corrupt their virgin minds to hear such words. Unfortunately for those saying the rating was correct, kids in middle school already know that word and use it as part of their everyday vernacular. The rating was eventually lessened to the desired “PG-13” rating, making it more accessible to the kids and schools that need to see it.
Powerful. That is the only word that I really need to use to review Bully. It is a film that can bring about change in kids’ behavior, just from seeing this film. It has such a strong message that is given with truth and conviction using the examples of kids who are and have been bullied. Kids can be very cruel to each other. That much has to be known by all of us. You may have experienced bullying or teasing yourself as a young kid or teenager. God knows I was a total dork in school and had my experiences with cruel kids. The target audience for Bully needs to be kids, parents, teachers, and school administrators. If each group was made to watch the film, I believe there would be a positive change immediately in how bullying is handled both at school and at home.
The film focuses on five different cases of bullying across the US. The two cases most heavily used in promotions for the film are Tyler and Alex. Tyler committed suicide due to bullying, and Alex is experiencing heavy bullying at his school. Tyler’s parents are trying to figure out what went wrong in Tyler’s school. Something was so bad at Tyler’s school that he ended his life. The school administration is in denial and thinks they are doing enough to curb bullying at their schools. Alex is an awkward kid who does not have many friends. He is an easy target for bullies. His parents do not know the severity of his situation because Alex does not like to talk about it. What you will see in this film in regards to Alex is disturbing. The kids who punch him and call him names have no qualms about a camera crew filming all of this.
The most utterly sickening thing I saw in the film was the actions and words of the vice principal of Alex’s school, Kim Lockwood. This woman is out of touch with reality. She pours it on pretty thick, knowing the cameras are there. She refers to the students as “cherubs.” Her method of resolving fights and bullying between students is ridiculous. The most shocking thing this woman does is tell Alex’s parents that the situation on the school bus is just fine and is “as good as gold.” Excuse me while I go vomit. If there is any case for the reform of school administrators, Kim Lockwood is it. She is just one example of how schools are mishandling bullying in their schools.
While I could go on about the Bully points out, I would end up with a ten page review. While some might be questioning the motives behind the film and if teenagers will really want to see this, it is a film that needs to be seen by those who it was made for: students, teachers, school administrators, and parents. If this film is able to be shown in school assemblies and in classrooms, Bully will be on its way to changing how people act and think in regards to bullying. Make no mistake, this film will make you shed some tears, but it is one of the most powerful documentaries I have seen that has the incredible opportunity to make a positive, drastic change for those who see it.
I give Bully 5 “Down with the MPAA” out of 5.