‘Bully’ captures real-life issues

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Laura Mahony  Journal Staff


With passion as an essential to a great film, in social documentaries, it is the glue binding the powerful message to make it captivating to the audience. This sense of passion is present in every second of Lee Hirsch’s Bully. Not only is it intensely moving, but it will most likely hit home for a lot of its viewers.
This documentary follows the lives of five families in four states who encounter bullying on a daily basis, with some ending in great tragedy. Bully places each audience member in each family, one by one, and through that there is no doubt that it will change the way one thinks when leaving the theater.

Bully invokes the political activist in oneself with enouragement to get involved. To see these families in this state of emotional and physical peril is heart wrenching and it makes you want to help the movement for change. As you watch this film you find yourself internally asking, “How are these bullying atrocities a part of normal culture, and why aren’t they finding any escape through their adults?” These kids are bullied on a daily basis in very harsh degrees and they’re left feeling unbearably desolate, with no one to rely on or take refuge in but themselves. Desolation is a terrible feeling, and that’s what the kids in these families are dealing with. One of the most horrifying aspects of this bullying film is that those in charge are not taking it seriously, and they even play it off as just kids being kids. This attitude toward bullying is what costs some kids their lives through ways like suicide and violence. This observation awakens the desire for change as well.

One character, Alex, is a 14-year-old boy from Iowa. Alex endures daily bullying at school and on the bus. He is constantly insulted, demeaned, humiliated, and assaulted by other students for simply being himself, and no one is there for him. That’s where Hirsch comes in. Bully is presented to show the truth to the world and to make people realize this has gone too far and too long without positive results. This film encourages you to take a stand for the quiet ones, the weird ones, and to make sure this doesn’t keep happening. Families shouldn’t lose their children because of the torment of bullying.

There is great controversy surrounding this documentary in regard to its rating and target audience, as The Motion Picture Association of America’s rating board is insistent on putting an R rating on Bully. There are middle school-age kids starring in this documentary, so why shouldn’t they be able to watch this? Many of them are probably experiencing similar things in their lives. Those who are affected can find solace in this film, while others can open our eyes to the harsh realities our youth faces. Knowledge certainly does empower us, and that is exactly what Bully provides.