One R-rated movie you might want your child to see
The new documentary, Bully, captures a wicked picture of what’s really going on in schools: rampant bullying and the utter failure of adults to stop it.
By Carol Lloyd
“The last couple days we heard that Tyler had his head shoved into a wall locker, they said he was a geek.” We hear the voice of Tyler’s father speaking over home movies of a sandy-haired boy clowning around in the living room. “Some kids had told him that he was worthless, to go hang himself, and I think he got to a point to where enough was enough.” Suddenly we’re at a fresh gravesite and we understand that the worst has occurred: Tyler killed himself.
It’s only moments into the staggering new documentary called Bully,
but already a number of us are hiding our faces as we frankly lose it in the banal setting of the GreatSchools conference room. It’s a workday, after all, and the morning screening has taken us by surprise.
Last summer, GreatSchools got a chance to preview the new Lee Hirsch film set to be released under a storm of controversy on March 30th. Its message is urgent. Every year 13 million kids are bullied, as the movie tells us, making it the most common form of violence against children in America. It’s equally clear who needs to see this movie: many children (children who have been bullied, who have bullied others, or who have witnessed bullying) as well as every educator and parent in America.
The film, which follows the experience of five children whose lives have been forever changed by bullying, isn’t for the faint of heart. Watching it feels like having your chest opened with a can opener then sprinkled with rock salt. The music is haunting, the voices of parents who have lost their children are unspeakably sad, and the language is raw: apparently many kids swear like truck drivers when not in the presence of adults.
We meet Ja’Meya, an African American middle schooler, whose good grades and quiet demeanor earned her years of abuse for being a Goody Two-shoes. One day she snapped. Taking matters into her own hands, she brought her mother’s loaded gun onto the school bus to protect herself from relentless tormenters. She waved it around to show them she wasn’t taking any more, but no shots were fired and no one was hurt. After being arrested and charged with multiple felony counts, she was sent to juvie, where, if her heavy lids and listlessness offer any indication, it’s evident that she was heavily medicated. Though no one could condone her behavior, it’s painfully obvious that this little girl, who had never displayed any behavioral problems before, has been pushed to the brink of insanity by bullying.