bullyNo Fun To Be A Kid

Interviewed: Alex, Ja’Maya and Kelby
Director: Lee Hirsch
Scriptwriters: Lee Hirsch and Cynthia Lowen
The Weinstein Company
Rating: no rating but could be PG 13 for language and themed material
Running Length: 106 minutes
Bully had a bit of controversy before being released. What rating to give? PG 13?  R? The Weinstein Company just decided to release it as is, period. With a title like Bully, people will know the world they are entering. This time, though, bullying is child against child, and set in a world of adults who seem to be clueless as to what is happening to their children or children in their care.
The camera follows students in middle schools in southern/western states of Oklahoma, Mississippi and Georgia. Against the backdrop of current bullying is the specter of two students who committed suicide because they just plain couldn't take it anymore---either because of their size (usually smaller than the average student), sexual orientation, speech impediment, a physical characteristic or just because some kid decides to be mean that day. As shown on sitcom television, a bully has bullies for brothers and parents who are bullies. We aren't privy to that information here. A bully is confronted by a school administrator and told not to do it again. Hello. Were these administrators ever kids themselves? When the parents of one child, in particular (Alex), finally come to the school because their middle-schooler has bruises, the administrator deftly turns the tables on them with “Don't you trust me?” After seeing this documentary in its entirety, one hopes the parents would transfer the child to a new school, which is what some do.
I saw bullying as a child. Living in a rural area, it was the city kids against the country kids. Even on a school bus (shown here as a den of brutality) riding to the city, rural kids would gang up against each other, only to form different packs once in the school. Ja’Maya takes her mother’s gun on the school bus and is sent to a psychiatric hospital for two months. No school bus there.
The filmmakers were granted a great deal of freedom in filming this documentary. The audience starts holding its collective breath while riding on a school bus with big boys (for middle school, that is) who punch and stab with pencils anyone they don't like. This is where ulcers and migraines start. A high school girl who quietly decides what her sexual preference is (Kelby), becomes a pariah in her town, much as someone in olden days with leprosy.
What is emotional are interviews with the parents of students who have committed suicide rather than face another day at school. One set of parents forms a group to hold a rally---with more across the country---against bullying. At the end of the film, there are names and names and names of these students. This is the tip of the iceberg, though and it makes you wonder about the educational system in the U. S. and the closeness of the family unit.
Copyright 2012 Marie Asner