By: Oberst Von Berauscht (Two Beers) –
Anyone who has been the victim of protracted childhood bullying knows the toll it takes both physically, and mentally. It is a feeling of helplessness, in severe cases worthlessness. Adults are often slow to help, assuming that the child is either exaggerating the events, or believing that bullying is just inevitable in school. There is a large proportion of adults who blame the victims for not standing up for themselves.
Every kid has a kindly old Japanese Karate master-friend right?
Bully, the new documentary from filmmaker Lee Hirsch, explores this topic through interviews with parents, School Administrators, and the students themselves, in an effort to raise awareness of the issue. The film also explores the horrifyingly extreme results of bullying, profiling the parents of Ty Smalley and Tyler Long, two children whose desperation to stop the attacks resulted in their suicides.
Filmmaker Hirsch’s approach to the film is to minimize his own profile, allowing his interview subjects to tell the story themselves. His non-interventionist approach to the interviews pays off in droves, effectively capturing the spirit within his interviewees. One of the challenges of the film must have been to get the younger children to participate so openly. It is a small, but significant victory that the conversations don’t end up coming off like this:
It is amazing how little the children censor themselves in the presence of a guy with a video camera. A great deal of credit should be given to the editors, who weave through each family’s story seamlessly, without it becoming difficult to follow.
There are powerfully emotional moments throughout the film that may test the limits of your tear-ducts. But rest assured, that Bully has an ultimately positive message. It is a call to arms for parents and children all over the world to think about their actions, and how they affect others.
While Hirsch does a fantastic job at pointing out the affects of Bullying, his film never addresses the reasons bullying occurs, nor does he attempt to confront the Bullys, and parents of Bullys. This is a missed opportunity, as the first step in identifying a solution to any problem is to find the cause. Of course, this would have complicated the narrative of the film, and logistically would have presented the additional challenge of attempting to interview subjects who did not want to be profiled. It doesn’t hurt the film’s purpose much, but I do hope that Hirsch, or some other filmmaker out there takes the initiative and addresses this issue in a companion film. There is no excuse for Bullying, despite what that shitty John Hughes movies would have you believe.
“My Dad beats me, which gives me license to take it out on all of you”
But that’s ok because that “Simple Minds” song makes it better. (Fuck you, Judd Nelson)
An immensely effective, and brutally emotional documentary.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: when the word “bully” is used
Take a Drink: when the school principal does or says something totally ignorant
Drink a Shot: when something hits too close to home