PHOENIX -- Her name was Margie. She was my bully when I was in the second grade. She was in third. For reasons totally unknown to me (to this day), she decided to target and taunt me. Every day I had to endure her shouts of “Hey diaper pail” this or that as I walked home from school, with her trailing behind me.
I, like probably most of you, am living proof that bullying has been going on forever. But to say that kids bullying kids is nothing new would be wrong. Because kids killing themselves in record numbers due to bullying is new and very alarming. “Bully” is a new documentary that hopes to shed light on the epidemic, give voice to the mistreated and hopefully make it loud and clear that kids and their families are mad as hell and aren’t going to take it anymore.
“Bully” tackles the issue by following a handful of the 13 million American kids who face bullying at school, online, on the bus, at home, through their cell phones and in the streets of their communities. It is the most common form of violence kids will experience. And while we certainly get a glimpse of physical violence, it is clear that the deepest, most deadly wounds are of the soul and spirit.
Serving as a kind of glue is the Long Family. Through David Long’s narration we see his first born son Tyler, first as an adorable and curious infant to a happy child, down to the very closet where at 17 he hung himself. Now the Long Family is on a mission to end the violence and to remember those lost in the battle.
Interspersed with their story and mission we meet other kids who are facing daily abuse. The most haunting of these is 12 year old Alex. The camera follows him closely throughout his days, weeks and months of never ending assaults, humiliation, and soul searching as he wonders why everyone is so mean to him. In a shocking twist, the producers can no longer carry on their mission as a fly on the wall due to the fear they have for Alex’s safety. They speak out to his parents, who in turn demand answers from the school.
And this is the real crux of the problem: the adults. While much has been made of getting a PG13 rating so that kids can see the movie, (it was originally rated R due to language-you know the f-words kids were calling other kids!) the real audience for this movie is adults. Parents, teachers, counselors and anyone else in authority who is turning a blind eye to the torment with a stale and trite “kids will be kids and kids are mean” copout.
In “Bully” the kids’ fear is palpable, their parents’ pain and frustration gut wrenching. I can’t recommend it highly enough. There isn’t anything in “Bully” that would not be appropriate for any mature child. Trust me, they see, hear and sadly might experience far worse first hand every day.
And as for Margie? Flash forward 15 years later. I was working as a Quality Control Inspector at Revlon. I had several lines and areas that I inspected and one day I walked up to an assembly line and there she was, working her minimum wage job, waiting for old diaper pail to inspect her work. We looked each other in the eyes and what I saw in hers made my day. I took my time looking at her work, put the product down and walked away. Bullying never pays. Not then. Not now.
“Bully” targets 4 Red Vines for being an incredible, moving portrait of kids in America
GET INVOLVED: The Long Family has started a non-profit program to end bullying and save lives. Find out more here: http://www.standforthesilent.org/
3TV has partnered with Rachel’s Challenge, a school program that aims to combat bullying by starting a chain reaction of kindness and compassion. See how to bring the program to your school. http://www.azfamily.com/community/Students-145198085.html
A preview of this movie was provided by the studio but in no way affects this review.