Have you been able to go see the new documentary ‘Bully’ yet? I’m sure many of you are familiar with this film and it’s initial controversial R-rating given by the MPPA. We covered this topic on MyKindnessCounts.com and the petition started by Michigan teen, Katy Butler, to get the MPAA to change the rating to PG-13. The petition went viral and with the help of numerous celebrities and news outlets supporting Katy, her petition, and ‘Bully’, the MPAA finally decided to change the rating to PG-13. Many considered this to be a huge victory because a PG-13 rating would enable the film’s important message to reach a wider audience and be shown in schools.
Personally, I can’t wait to see it. I recently spoke to a reader, Ivy Shih Leung, who had gone to see the film in NYC. I asked if she’d be willing to write up a summary of her thoughts on the film and what she took away from it. Ivy was kind enough to do a post for us and even included ways to get involved in anti-bullying efforts. Whether or not you’ve seen the film, Ivy’s piece is a honest and fantastic read. Thanks so much, Ivy!
My Reflections on “Bully”
-by Ivy Shih Leung
I am excited! Why? There is steadily growing support and realization that something must be done to stop the bullying that is so negatively impacting our youth. Bullying hurts. It hurts emotionally. It damages self esteem at a time when kids are at their most vulnerable…their teenage years. Bullying causes depression. Bullying has the potential to kill. There is a lot more dialogue now—in the news, in blogs, on Twitter, on Facebook, in schools—than ever before, and that is encouraging! As long as the public is willing to talk about bullying, it means we are more apt to deal with it than sweep it under the rug.
The blessing in disguise over all the hoopla regarding the R rating for Bully—a movie about teens and for teens—is that it has received more attention than it probably otherwise would have. And deservedly so. We needed a movie like this right now, and it needs to be seen by everyone aged 10 and older. Now, with the rating thankfully dropped to PG-13, that can now be possible!
I went to go see it in New York City on April 3rd, four days after its initial release as a non-rated movie. Though, as expected, I pretty much cried through the entire movie, I was at the same time a little disappointed in it. I was expecting to see a harsher look at a couple of real live cases of bullying. The movie showed a boy who was bullied for being different and an easy target, and his family having to deal with school officials. It showed a girl who was bullied for coming out as a lesbian in her community and her family and friends being behind her. It showed another girl who was pushed to the point of feeling the need to defend herself with a gun and paying the price by spending time in a juvenile facility for girls. It showed the families of two boys who were victims of bullycide (or suicide as a result of bullying). It showed the ineffectiveness and apathy of the school systems when it comes to handling the bullying that goes on within its walls each and every day.
I realize that this is a documentary on a very sensitive subject, with film crew having to follow the bullied kids and their families around for some time. As such, there are certain limitations and challenges in capturing raw footage of REAL people, not fictional characters, bullying others. I’m not even sure how they were able to capture all the footage of the bus scenes, and the parents didn’t go ahead and insist that all their kids’ faces be blotted out to hide their identities. I am glad they didn’t do that or the film would have lost another degree of realism. I believe, however, that there could have been a whole lot more to the movie. First of all, I noticed, to my dismay, that these were all stories of bullying in small towns in the Midwest and South. I was waiting for the film to take us to a big city, like New York City, and wealthy areas of Connecticut and even Beverly Hills. After all, bullying isn’t just a rural issue. It happens in big cities and wealthy areas too. There could have been statistics thrown in to focus a brighter spotlight on the fact that bullying is an epidemic that needs to be stopped dead in its tracks. I also found that it was a bit challenging at times to follow the movie because it kept jumping from one story to another. There are the extremely poignant and tear jerker scenes of the parents of a victim of bully who had committed suicide talking about how they’ve had to cope with the devastating loss of their child. While it’s good that the film makers captured the impact bullying has not just on the victim but on their families both while it is occurring and in the aftermath of a suicide as a result of bullying, I’ve already seen parents who have had to do the same thing on national television—like Dr. Phil and Ellen—and in the news.
That said, I’d like to acknowledge and thank Harvey Weinstein for putting a spotlight on such an important issue! I see this as the beginning of an anti-bullying movement. I love analogies and the one I’d like to use right now is “Bully” being the first baton pass in a track relay race. The race has only just begun. We must never let that baton drop! Let’s keep the fervor of the movement going strong, and with each step of the participants, the desire to win grows stronger!
What I’d like to ask you to do is to join me in the anti-bullying movement today. Here are some of the ways in which you can do so:
1. Click here to find out more about the movie and to watch the trailer. Go see it, if it comes to a theater near you! The PG-13 version of “Bully” will expand from three to 55 markets on April 13th and to around 100 on April 20th.
2. Become familiar with your state’s anti-bullying laws. Participate in your school district’s anti-bullying initiatives. States like New Jersey are trying to keep bullying at bay with legislation. But what I see happening here in New Jersey is that our school systems are struggling with the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights. It really is a shame that laws need to be created to prevent bullying from destroying our children’s lives.
3. If you are either a student, parent or school staff are a bystander who is witnessing someone get bullied, do something. Join together with other bystanders. There is strength in numbers. Don’t just sit there with apathy and do nothing. How would you like it if you were bullied and no one stepped in to help you? Don’t just stand around and think it will pass, it’s no big deal, and the kid can take it. Doing nothing would support the already prevalent notion that bullying is acceptable and a normal part of growing up….when in fact it’s neither.
4. If you are either a parent or school staff, please do your part and teach our children empathy. Yes, I do believe empathy can be learned. I believe empathy is a component of behavior, and behavior is driven in part by genetics and the environment in which one is raised. I also believe that some people are born with the ability to be more empathetic than others. Parents, you need to serve as good role models of kindness and empathy. Click here for a recent article titled “Teaching Empathy to the ‘Me’ Generation” by Eric Leake.
5. Be in the know about bullying, and as concerned citizens, we should make sure every effort is being made within your school district to educate parents, students, and school staff on how to address bullying and the potentially irreversible consequences it can have on students and their families. We need to ensure there is at least one school assembly each school year in which experts on bullying are called in to speak to middle school and high school students in each and every school district. School staff must be properly trained to know how to spot and deal with the bullying situations as they arise.