The recent documentary Bully will break your heart. It effectively gives viewers an inside look at life for a child who is bullied. Stories come from all over the United States, and new locations are often identified against glowing pastoral landscapes that we connect with community pride, parades, and apple pie—the heartland.
The filmmakers interview several children who have been the victims of bullying. They follow one particular young man as he rides the bus to and from school, takes breaks between classes, and talks to administrators. Family interviews are also an important component.
The violence of the language from some of the bullies is shocking, and it is disturbing to see how the more defenseless are victimized. I’m not sure every child should see this film—for the reasons just mentioned, and because several parents are interviewed whose children have committed suicide. But any parent who thinks their child might have a tendency to bully might consider it.
Children who do see it should be prepared and should have an opportunity to talk about it afterward. At the showing I attended, an entire high school class was there with two teachers, and the teens were watching closely.
As a documentary, it’s not top notch. The stories are anecdotal; there isn’t much in the way of statistical analysis. It should flow more easily. At times I wondered exactly what I was seeing, but eventually it became clear. The value of this movie is the chance to address the topic of bullying, not necessarily in its artistic quality.
Many parents will find it worthwhile to watch this film. Living as we do in community, we need to be engaged in making schools safe places for everyone. While Bully affirms the need to recognize the problem and address it organizationally, Christians can take this opportunity to emphasize that every person is created in the image of God, and that we are to defend the weak and the helpless.
If it’s not playing in your town any more, look for it when it comes out on DVD. (Weinstein)