Bullied by Bully


Bully

A documentary about the tragic and painful effects of grade school bullying; directed by Lee Hirsch

I was bullied by the film Bully.

It gave me pink belly until I got nauseous with its unceasing jittery camera movements, as if it were filmed on an iPhone.

It rubbed sand in my eyes making the images blurry, off-center and ill-focused, which is what can happen when filming with an iPhone.

It swung me around until I got dizzy with its ceaseless wanderings as it observed — passively, wordlessly and aimlessly — kids occupying their homes, their neighborhoods, school busses and yards, and watching trains go by.

It gave me noogies making me wonder what all of this geographic meandering had to do with the topic of bullying other than some conception of pseudo-meaningful “artiness” by the filmmaker.

It made me feel like I got a wedgie as I pondered what causes bullying in the first place since the film paid no attention to the actual bullies, their parents, their feelings and motivations.

It felt like I was pelted with spit wads as I watched the victims of bullying struggle to get attention and help from their parents, their siblings, their teachers, their school administrators, the police, and their communities to address the problem and provide them with the support they needed.

It pinched me until I cried as it had me witness how the kids profiled in the film — who are seen as different, nerdy, awkward, shy, quiet, sensitive, differently sexually oriented, smart — are shunned, harassed, abused, ignored, battered, and verbally trashed.

It felt like my arm was being twisted behind my back at the ineptitude of a school administrator who chastised a bullying victim for not happily reconciling with his abuser.

It felt like my head was being pressed into the ground by a boot at the way that some of the kids’ parents seemed to regard their bullied kids with dejection and distance as if they could not understand why they are not like “normal” kids.

Scene from the movie Bully.
© 2011 - The Weinstein Co.

It stole my homework and made me scratch my head wondering why other kids — seen in the periphery of the handful of kids who are the central focus of the film — are also taunted and harassed, but are not given any attention, nor, as the film seems to suggest, are seen as victims of bullying; instead, the treatment endured is seen as typical rowdy playfulness that every kid is subjected to growing up.

It made me feel helpless as the film fails to provide any solutions and instead shows the adults as being largely ineffective at reforming school policies to address the problem.

It gave me a headache trying to wonder why some kids are especially susceptible to bullying — and the personal turmoil that causes — while other kids also subjected to bullying-like treatment are able to endure it and survive and thrive.

It pounded me over the head until I cried uncle with its single-minded theory that bulling was the sole cause of these kids’ suffering — and the eventual suicide of two of them; it may be the bullying was a major cause, but the film’s “arty,” moody treatment resulted in it just scratching the surface instead of delving deeper.

It felt like my head was slammed into a locker and resulting delirium in the way that it failed to fully explicate the way our society is tolerant of bulling through our confused and impotent response to it and cultural influences of the importance of popularity and pulling oneself up by the bootstraps.

It played keep-away with my musical instrument and had me frustrated as it could have been a much better film had it not focused on sloppy technique, provided no “expert” talking heads, and flagrantly pulled on heartstrings.
It made fun of my critiques and made me feel ashamed that I had to list these flaws and thereby make me sound like an uncaring bully myself.

And yet it gave me courage to stand up for myself and call it like I see it.

Doug Young, an environmental advisor in the Hickenlooper administration, is The Statesman’s award-winning film critic.