BULLY aka THE BULLY PROJECT (2011)
Running Time: 90 mins. Rating: 4 Stars/5 Stars
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Director: Lee Hirsch
Distributor: The Weinstein Company
One way to identify who the bullies are in a school is to pass out a confidential survey with one question. “If you had a gun, who in this school would you shoot and why?” How many Columbines will it take before school administrations AND parents wise up and take action to nip bullying in the bud, starting in kindergarten? Many, many more I’m sad to say. The MPAA is acting the bully in it’s own way by giving this film a ‘R’ rating rather than a ‘PG-13’ so that teens and pre-teens can see it.
Boys will be boys. Kids can be cruel at that age. What’s a little rough housing among teenagers? He didn’t mean to (fill in your choice of ‘horseplay’). How often will the 13 million children who are bullied on a daily basis and their parents hear comments like these from principals, deans, teachers, guidance counselors, ministers, school bus drivers, police and the courts? The principal who tells the parents of a bullied child that she rode the school bus their son is tormented on, on a daily basis, and that the students were good as gold is typical of school administrations and their ostrich-like tendencies to bury their heads in sand when they don’t want to know the truth. This scene is hilarious after you see the footage that was clandestinely shot and offensive overall. She should be fired for this.
BULLY features the stories of five kids (four white and one black, three boys and two girls) and their families during a school year. Two young boys commit suicide and we are left to discover the reasons why they took their lives with their parents who are shocked to discover the level of hatred leveled at their sons from their peers, and the school administrations that would rather brush it under the rug claiming it’s an anomaly. Bullying doesn’t occur in their schools. (Do they teach that the Earth is flat?) A 14-year-old girl finally snaps and pulls out her mother’s gun on the school bus to threaten her tormentors. Good parenting skills prevented her from rightfully pulling the trigger. With the permanent video camera on the school bus I’m surprised that the administration claimed they had no idea the bullying was ongoing. The young woman who comes out and declares that she’s a lesbian is psychologically brutalized by her peers, teachers and the school administration. Growing up in the buckle of the Bible Belt I was ecstatic that her parents did not denounce her homosexuality and instead stood by her 100%. She spent a year trying to change people’s opinions about herself to no avail before throwing in the towel. The boy in the Sioux City school system who is the main protagonist of the film takes so much abuse (on camera, how much off-camera I’d like to know) that I was surprised he didn’t attempt to blow up the school.
From watching the film you notice two major contributors to bullying in schools. The first is organized religion, especially the ones that are virulently homophobic. The children subconsciously pick up on this hatred and utilize it to attack other children they perceive to be different (gay or not). Fag, pussy, cocksucker. Words do hurt, especially among young adults who are becoming aware of their sexuality, are confused and are having raging hormones all at the same time. I read something awhile back that referenced a study that stated that a large number of male bullies in adulthood turned out to be closeted homosexuals.
Michelangelo Signorile, best known for his OutWeek Magazine “Gossip Watch” columns in the early ’90s, was the originator of the journalistic “outing” of closeted gay individuals. Years later he mentioned in an interview that when he attended the Catholic Farrell High School in Staten Island, NY (we always called it the School of Fascism when I grew up), he was a participant in the bullying subculture with the jocks. This is the other contributor to bullying in schools, sports programs, especially football. The tribalism of high school sports programs is notorious for attacking non-believers, those who don’t attend pep rallies or team games. I remember the principal of my high school telling students that they weren’t “good citizens” if they didn’t attend pep rallies. They even made attendance mandatory. Hitler Youth with a mascot.
Being in the intellectual property business I do not usually promote piracy. In this case I would plead with Harvey Weinstein to forgo the profit motive and let BULLY be pirated far and wide. If it saves the life of one child (and, a bully who doesn’t get shot by his victim) then it’s worth all the money in the world.
If you like this recommendations: Rats & Bullies, Zero Day, King Of Devil’s Island