Thursday, April 19, 2012

Bully: Movie Review


Writers: Lee Hirsch, Cynthia Lowen

Director: Lee Hirsch

* and 1/2*'s out of four

Lee Hirsch's documentary opens up a lot of questions and discussions about a serious issue, but does nothing to give it any answers.  That would be fine if the movie at least tried to get some answers, but it doesn't do that either.  All I understood from the movie was that kids were being bullied to the point that they took their own life, and I basically got that point from the trailer already.

The movie opens up with a home videos of a cute kid and an interview with a grief stricken father who has recently lost his son due to a suicide that was a result of being abused by his peers.  At this point it's very easy to feel sympathy for this family and their fight to succeed in making a change.  After a great credit sequence of kids riding a bus while a children's choir sings "Teenage Dirtbag" by Wheatus.  The movie tells us about three more kids who are being bullied.   Alex is constantly teased at school and has kids stabbing him on the bus ride home.  Kelby is an openly gay women who lives in bible belt Utah (Or Oklahoma I forget)which has caused her and her family a lot of torment from the people who live there.   A sweet girl named Ja'Maya has been bullied and harassed for so long that she decides to bring  a gun on her bus to scare her abusers.   Although no one was hurt, she still ended up in a Juvenile detention center.  The movie also gives us stories from other families who have lost their kids due to bully related suicides.

The first thing I got from this doc is that the school that Alex attends really doesn't care about their students.  There is a moment when the parents go talk to the Principal about how their son was being abused on the bus.  All that person in charge does is just nod her head and smile,showing them pictures of her kids and say she will get right on it, but she never does.  All that happens is she just tells the bullies to stop otherwise it will go on their permanent school file.   She should have called the cops and gotten his parents involved.  Come to think of it.  Why didn't Director Lee Hirsch talk to any of these bullies or gotten some insight into their lives. It would have been great if we could have seen interviews with their parents too.  In order for this to be a complete documentary,you need to show two sides.   The only reason I can think of why this was not done is because no one wants to be sued.  No one will want to admit that they have a problem child because they might be perceived to be the actual  problem. 

The story of Kelby and her parents fighting discrimination is very good one but it never shows us the fight.  You never see them speak with government officials about the harassment she gets not only from classmates but teachers. It doesn't even show you any scenes of her in class or other social settings, because it's afraid to show you anything that might get them sued. All you get is just her and her family talking.  The only confrontation you do see is when Ja'Maya pulls a gun at her bullies on the bus.

 In order to stop this sort of behavior from happening again and to stop more suicides.  You can't just simply have a town hall meeting or a peaceful demonstration where everyone just holds hands.   You really need to get involved not only with the victims but with the bullies themselves too.  Find more about what schools are doing to prevent this from happening.  I know at my high school if you were caught fighting and were the one that started it, you got expelled. All parents had to sign the form they would not sue before their kids could even attend.  Something like that needs to be done, because although I do appreciate the effort this film strives for.  The result is less than rewarding.


  1. Being someone who had endured the abuse of bullies in middle school, I was wary about this film. I was more uncomfortable about the anti-bullying campaigns as I feel like there's a whole lot more that needs to be explored.

    I would've much prefer getting the interest of the perspective of the actual bullies just to know why do they do this. NO, they just want to focus on the kids who are victimized.

    Plus, I find it ironic that the people who are trying to get this film out are bullies themselves. The Weinsteins are a bunch of assholes.

    1. Thanks for commenting Yeah I agree with your thoughts about the filmmakers being bullies themselves. It wants to think of itself as important, but it isn't. The best movie about being a teenager for me is "Welcome To The Dollhouse".

    2. I can agree with that. As harsh and as depressing as that film was, it felt true to the experiences I went through in middle school.

  2. I think your points against the movie are valid. There wasn't enough exploration into the bullies themselves. As someone that was also bullied in middle school it is something I would like to know. But it becomes obvious that some adults in the movie don't fully understand the full psychological effects of bullying or they think bullying is only when a physical altercation occurs. One can only assume these people were bullies when they were young otherwise they would know the effects of verbal abuse.
    To me the movie is important as a way to get the conversation started and bring awareness to a problem that apparently people don't fully understand.

    1. I wish you would have made this movie, because your thoughts about the issue made more sense then the actual movie. I was bullied too emotionally for the first part of high school until I made fun of my tormenter. He then turned to violence and got his friends to fight me. Every day since then when he didn't like what I did. He said he is gonna to beat me up. I remember asking him if he is going to do the ass kicking or is it going to be one of his friends. Everyone in class laughed but he did not and I got my ass kicked again by having a group of kids jump me. I could dwell more on it, but it was a time that has now passed. I wish those kids that did kill themselves felt more loved. High school is such a small part of your life.