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Anger, Heartbreak, the hopelessness of watching a child lose youth, hope and feeling. These are just some of the emotions that I felt when watching Bully. Not the kind of feel-good comedy I’m used to watching, but this documentary is about something many people, including myself, had to endure.
I was a skinny and awkward über-blonde Anglo kid in a 98% Hispanic border town in Texas. I endured being picked on, spit on, yelled at, racist remarks and hit. I was lucky when my instance of bullying got to a really serious point (I was chased home and beaten up the entire way), my parents were supportive enough and has the ability to move me to a private school for my 7th and 8th grade years. That is not the case for most.
I tell my story, not for empathy or sympathy, but to illustrate a point. Everyone has been bullied. Be it by a classmate, a peer, a boss, a spouse, a stranger, or a loved one. It is something each person endures in a lifetime. Most grow up and become stronger because of it, but nobody should have to. Period.
Back to the Documentary. Bully details out five stories about bullying from five places over the course of a school year. Alex is a 12 year old boy in Souix City, Idaho. Kelby is a 16 year old girl in Tuttle Oklahoma, Ja’Meya is a 14 year-old girl in Yazoo County Mississippi, Ty Smalley was an 11 year-old boy in Perkins Oklahoma, Tyler Long was a 17 year-old boy in Murray County Georgia.
Their stories are all as unique as the individuals they are about, but one thing is the constant, they were all subject to extreme bullying.
Alex’s story follows his story as the bullying is happening. After Kelsey comes out as a lesbian in the heart of the Bible Belt she gets no support from anywhere but her family (including a shockingly negative response from the school she attended). Ja’Meya brings a gun on the bus because her bullying reached the point where she thought that was the thing to do and she lands in Juvenile Detention. Ty and Tyler both commit suicide as a result of enduring years of bullying.
I’m not going to lie. It was tough to watch because it was shocking and real. Bully puts it out there and the viewer gets an accurate picture of what a child in that situation endures from ALL sides. If you have children, they are seeing this kind of stuff happening in their school, even if they aren't involved.
After watching the film, I was left with more questions than answers. That is the nature of film Bully. This is a film that every adult should see. I strongly believe that Bully should be required viewing for anybody in the position of childcare.
It is PG-13 due mostly to language. There are a few scenes of child-on-child physical abuse, one that is just chilling.
Bully is currently playing in Austin at Alamo Drafthouse Cinema – South Lamar, Regal Arbor Cinema 8 at Great Hills, and AMC Barton Creek Square 14.