The film focuses on one family whose son hung himself in the closet after being unable to emotionally endure the incessant bullying from his peers. One young woman refused to accept the vicious and taunting remarks emanating from fellow students. Consequently, she brought a firearm onto a bus replete with fellow classmates. Subsequently, she faced multiple criminal counts of attempted assault. One prematurely born young man continues to grow up in an environment where he is an outcast. The young man is a wanderer amidst a sea of hatred and disgust. Students resent his awkward physical appearance (often he is labeled as "fish face") and the more he is separated from the group, the worse the problem becomes as his social ineptitude is magnified. Many of the students presented have been beaten, attacked, strangled, and relentlessly verbally and emotionally abused.
Growing up, I faced down dozens of bullies; both those that attempted to intimidate me, and those that sought to demean or injure my friends. This phenomenon did not stop until after I had begun attending college. That is not to argue that bullying stops there as it may become a lifetime concern. The effects are long-lasting and severe. The examples brought to life in Bully (movie) are completely normal and everyday occurrences. Granted, the impact on families and communities is severe, but that does not make the other millions of instances of bullying far better or worse. The problem exists and continues to enlarge along with the population. In fact, most teachers would readily testify that they have witnessed instances of bullying among their pupils.
Director Hirsch attempts to attack the touchy subject of bullying and violence prevention on school campi. Is the solution to generate better or stricter parental controls? Perhaps principals and school law enforcement officers should mandate more punitive measures to deter these "crimes". Maybe bullies should be permanently expelled from their school districts? Some might argue that the parents of those that are or have been bullied should seek to home school their children if and when it is feasible to do so. Then again, this issue of bullying is not new to American schools or to humanity at large. How can a pattern of verbal and physical abuse since time immemorial be stopped just because of some good Samaritan's new law or policy?
Bullying is disgusting. If it spirals out of control and is unchecked, lives can be ruined. In some horrifying cases, bullying has caused lunatics to go on shooting rampages. Some victims have been institutionalized while they cope with the trauma suffered from being degraded. At the very least, Bully (movie) has succeeded in raising awareness of this terrible practice in school systems virtually everywhere. Even worse, bullying often continues once the school day ends. Facebook and Twitter have inadvertently opened additional pathways through which bullies may defame, denigrate and harass their victims. Text messages can be used to bully another individual. In every school there are cliques. This rush to popularize oneself inherently leads to the exclusion of some in favor of others.
Ultimately, and if nothing else, Bully (movie) may be used as a tool for raising awareness among America's students. Perhaps it will cause a bully to think twice about hurting their victim(s). Maybe it will encourage bystanders to take action to prevent this horrible trend from continuing. Maybe school administrators and parents will feel emboldened to take steps to better prevent bullying. At least this documentary movie tries to begin to solve the problem. Often, a picture is worth a thousand words and a thousand words can make for quite a guilt trip for the bullies that actually have a conscience.
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