This blog is now retired. My new site is at: Predictably Irrational.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Bully (the Movie)

I'm going to tell you right now that this will be full of spoiler so don't even read on unless you A) have seen the move B) don't care if I spoil it for you.

It was wonderful. And not wonderful in the way that I enjoyed hearing and seeing the stories play out. That would just be sick.

In fact, from about five minutes in, until nearly the end, I think I cried the entire time. OK. Maybe not the _entire_ time but close enough. It is heartbreaking and cruel and poignant, all at the same time. And to think: this is what we have to have in our lives? Is it really necessary? I don't understand.

The movie starts with Tyler Long's father talking about his son, with clips of Tyler Long as a baby and as a young boy. Eventually, we find out that he finds Tyler, hanging in his closest, a day or so after boys at school had told him 'why don't you just go hang yourself'. The story of Tyler was that he had been bullied for years and at 17 years old, he ended his life because of it.

A similar story comes in, in the movie where an 11 year old boy shoots himself. We don't hear the actual form of death. I find that out later when I google his story. But we see the awful grief in his mom and dad, as they bury their son. That image I won't forget. But another victim of bullying and in the story I read (not in the movie), Ty Smalley had stuck up for himself against the bullies, got suspended, and then decided to end his life.

Both these families, in order to cope, rallied against bullying to do something, anything, to prevent similar tragedies for others because, it seems, teen suicides from bullying seems to be prevalent. And this documentary follows a few other kids who are bullied and we see how they fare with school administrators, or with law enforcement, or with the community, and it ain't pretty, to say the least.

Alex is the one that you'll hear about most, if you read anything about the movie. He's an odd looking, lanky middle school boy. And he gets picked on *a lot*. During filming, we see boys punch him at school, or on the bus, out of the blue, for no reason. At one point, the filmmakers apparently felt the need to 'interrupt' filmmaking to show their footage to his parents and the school because they thought he was in danger.

Keep in mind, before this scene, at least what the documentarist chose to show us, Alex sits alone at lunch, is alone in the hallways of school; he pretty much has no friends that he associates with at school whatsoever. The bus ride home is usually the same, with boys pushing him off the seat, or if he tries to talk to someone, there are boys talking down/back at him.

So when Alex's mom sees the scene on the bus, she confronts Alex about it and asks him: do you think these boys are your friends?! And Alex says, after staring at her in silence 'if these guys aren't my friends, then what friends do I have?'

My eyes water just writing it. It's sad. So, so, sad. We see Alex at home and he's just a normal, awkward kid, like any other kid. He takes care of his sisters and he eats dinner with his family, just like anyone else. We see his parents just trying to figure out what to do. And when they confront the principal about the bus scene? The principal says: I rode that bus just a week ago and they were as good as golden. And it gets worse. You have to watch this movie just to see how this woman reacts to the students. It's laughable because it's so real; it's just what you can expect.

I love when Alex's mom says to the principal: When I was a kid and I rode the bus, if anyone got up from their seat, that bus driver pulled that bus over and made sure we sat down. What happened to that?

The excuses in this movie about 'bullying' is: boys will be boys and girls will be girls. So essentially, no one is held accountable. So when little Ty Smalley stood up for himself against a bully, he got suspended. So he felt like he did something about it and got nothing for it. Similarly, in another scene with Miss Good-As-Golden Principal, she made a boy shake hands with his own 'bully'. The boy didn't want to shake hands. She scolded him for not being good about it -- that the 'bully' was trying to say he was sorry (how the fuck does she know?). The boy told her 'he doesn't mean it. he's just going to push me again anyway).

The movie hopes to spread the message that we need to do something about this. What to do? Well, we need to teach our kids not to stand by and watch others get bullied. I know. Easier said than done. We also need our school administrators to do something about it -- more than play pollyanna and act like our kids are not lying about being good citizens and apologizing for their behavior.

Parents - yes, we need to talk to them. We do. But to think that our kids will come home and tell us they are being bullied? That is a stretch. Alex wasn't telling his parents. The filmmakers had to show them footage and they were shocked, to say the least. The parents of those who committed suicide had no idea how bad it got. Who would come home and admit: hey mom, dad: guess what? Some kids shoved my head into the toilet today. It's humiliating. And there's no way kids are coming home to share that information with their parents, with anyone. Someone else has to do that and that's where we have to communicate with our kids. We have to say that it is wrong for people to do that and if you see it, you need to report it to me and to the school.

I had my share of incidents in school. One I shared with my kids. Others, they will go with me to my grave, they are that humiliating to me to this day. And I don't care what stupid jocks say about bullying, they don't make you the person you are today.  There's one point that Alex says in the movie that I can't help agreeing with, a bit of ironic hypocrisy (I paraphrase, of course): Sometimes, I get tired of it that I want to become the bully.

1 comment:

  1. I don't understand how bullying has gotten so out of control. I just don't remember it being a big issue when I was a kid... at least not to the extent it is now. :( Last week, my friend's son (about 12) was at his locker, and a bully came up behind him with a shoelace or string or something and tried to strangle him! He has this AWFUL burn/scar mark on his neck. It was on a Friday afternoon. When she went to the school to pick him up after he called her, the assistant principal said, "We'll talk to the other boy's parents on Monday. It is late, and he somehow made it on the bus." WTH?? So, she basically said, "Your child getting hurt and humiliated isn't important b/c it is Friday afternoon, and I'm ready to go home." My friend ended up filing a police report.