“Bully” Stands for the Silent
Reviewed by Jason Gregg
Alex, Ja’Meya, Tyler, and Kelby. All victims of bullying. These are the adolescents in Lee Hirsch’s “Bully” who represent the 13 million children who are bullied in America every year. Let that number sink in for a bit….
The film follows a year in the life of students in Iowa, Oklahoma and Mississippi. Students whose only fault is being different from the packs of kids who pick on them.
We begin in Georgia with family of Tyler Long who is visiting his grave site after constant bullying drove him to suicide. We move on to Iowa to see Alex, a 12 year old, who is socially awkward compared to the other kids in his Sioux City school. These are the kids that call him “Fish Face.” We then meet Kelby, a confident 16-year-old lesbian living in the Bible belt of Oklahoma. She is an outcast, labeled not only by the students but by the teachers of her school as well. And, finally there is 14-year-old Ja’Meya, whose bullying by her 10 tormentors drove her to bring a gun to the school bus to put an end to her pain.
Through the film Hirsch jumps back and forth between these stories bringing the audience on emotional roller coaster trying make sense of this serious issue. Tyler’s parents go as far as organizing a town hall meeting to help address this issue. The school board from his own school where the bullying took place was invited but none were in attendance.
As an audience we keep asking ourselves that single word question over and over again with each story. Why isn’t enough being done to stop any of this? We know this has been going on for years in our schools, in school bathrooms, behind teachers’ backs, or on the bus. But how did this problem become so severe that children are killing themselves to escape the pain?
The school administrators in Sioux City, Iowa know of the bullying but have limited expertise to deal with the situation. After one scuffle, a school official gently forces the bully and his victim to shake hands after the threat of violence has been made. Let that sink in, your aggressor just threatened you with violence and your teacher tells you to shake his hand. He walks free with no recourse.
Lastly, we see Kirk and Laura Smalley whose son committed suicide after constant bullying. Kirk convinces himself that if he were a politician instead of a nobody that laws would be passed to stop this. You see so much hurt in this man. There is rejoicing when you see his confidence come through to start a rally and an organization called “Stand for the Silent” to help end these terrible actions.
Should you see this movie? Definitely, yes. As a student, as a parent of a student, as a teacher, see this movie.
It’s sad, though, this movie will have a nationwide release and at the time it is released “The Hunger Games” will likely be number one at the box office (a film containing fictionalized violence of kids killing kids). While this important film covering a subject matter that drives kids to suicide will not be seen by the same audience. The difference between the two films will be the discussions that “Bully” will generate among students, teachers, school administrators and parents. This will not solve the problem of aggressive behavior in kids in 90 minutes. But it will be a starting point.