Friday, April 12, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Bully (2012) ***½

PG-13, 98 min.
Director: Lee Hirsch
Writers: Lee Hirsch, Cynthia Lowen
Featuring: Ja’Meya Jackson, Kelby Johnson, Alex Libby, David Long, Tina Long, Kirk Smalley

Why are people so cruel to each other? As far as I know, nobody’s really figured that out yet. I’m certainly not the one who will crack the code. How sad it is to observe such cruelty. That’s what the documentary “Bully” does. Mostly it observes the aftereffects of such cruelty, which is hard enough to take; but it is most powerful when it actually catches glimpses of its subjects being victimized.

There is a girl in this movie who is facing a great deal of time behind bars because she is the victim of bullying. After enduring daily torments on the bus to school each day, she decides to take matters into her own hands. She steals her mother’s handgun and pulls it on her tormentors while on the bus. For her actions, she faces 44 felony counts against her: 22 counts of kidnapping for each person on the bus and 22 counts of assault with a deadly weapon. She may spend the rest of her life in prison, while her tormentors face no punishment.

The movie also follows a girl whose sexual preference ostracizes her from her entire community. She tries to be strong and stand against an unbending machine. There are two sets of parents whose sons have committed suicide to escape the abuse enacted on them by their peers. Perhaps the most fascinating victim, however, is a boy who doesn’t even realize how terribly abused he is. He thinks of the bullies who victimize him as his friends. He has no other friends. He has trouble expressing his emotions. He doesn’t understand that his abusers are shaping his personality; and his parents are desperate to break the cycle.

This is one of those important films that I recommend everyone see, but I know few will. I understand. It is a difficult subject matter. The movie is hard to watch. It doesn’t try to explain the abuse from the abusers’ side. It’s about the victims. These are children who don’t really understand what’s happening to them, let alone why. The adults represented here don’t know what to do about this issue. How can the children? Yet, so many schools leave it in the children’s responsibility to report such abuse. How can we expect that of them if we don’t understand or even observe the issue ourselves? The issue of bullies will never go away without active involvement of kids and adults to identify it and deal with it in a direct manner.

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