Bully: a brave new film

Bullying is a very real, life-changing and potentially life-threatening experience that millions of kids go through every year. It has received more attention in recent years do to what seems like an epidemic of young children ending their lives because of it. I remember first feeling the outrage in 2009 when I heard that an 11 year old hung himself after enduring constant anti-gay bulling. Yes, an 11 year old.

Why are certain kids bullied? Because they are socially awkward, or (perceived to be) gay, or have an accent, or are smaller than others or have a learning disability. Sometimes it seems for no reason at all. Once a kid begins being bullied, he immediately falls into a ruthless pattern of repeated abuse. He becomes the pariah.

How do we communicate to our children–both the bullies, the victims, and the bystanders–that this behavior is wrong? Also important, how do we communicate to adults that it is unacceptable to turn a blind eye and that action must be taken? I believe it will be very difficult to cultivate a just, civil society if we teach our children that violence is an acceptable form of expression towards those we dislike, that turning a blind eye to injustice is expected, and that society will provide no help for its victims. Additionally, the idea that it is natural to be dominated and to dominate others will interfere with their ability to form healthy relationships as adults. “Bullying” of one’s spouse is a type of marriage problem that is very serious and devastatingly common–in some cases we call is abuse. It should not be tolerated in children or adults.

There is an amazing new documentary coming out March 30th titled “Bully.” This film has the potential to reach both children and adults in a profound way. School administrators are considering screening it in middle and high schools across the country, and you can watch the trailer below. Recently, the film has hit a major road bump: the MPAA has given it an R rating. This means that no children under 17 can see it without a parent and it will not be allowed to be shown at schools. As far as I can tell, the movie was just one vote short of being approved as PG-13, and the objection was rough language used by some of the bullies. The producers appealed the decision and it was denied again.

Katy Butler is a high school student from Wisconson who has started an online petition to get the MPAA to downgrade the rating to PG-13. She herself is a victim of bullying. As Katy puts it, the MPAA’s decision “means that a film documenting the abuse that millions of kids experience through bullying won’t be seen by the audience that needs to see it the most.” As of this post, the petition had 115,604 signatures.

Watch the trailer, decide for yourself, and let me know what you think! How do you approach the topic of bullying with your child? Were you bullied or a bully in school?