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'Bully': Behind Every Harassed Child? A Whole Lot of Clueless Adults

“Bully,” Lee Hirsch’s moving and troubling documentary about the misery some children inflict upon others, arrives at a moment when bullying, long tolerated as a fact of life, is being redefined as a social problem. “Just kids being kids” can no longer be an acceptable response to the kind of sustained physical and emotional abuse that damages the lives of young people whose only sin is appearing weak or weird to their peers.

And while the film focuses on the specific struggles of five families in four states, it is also about — and part of — the emergence of a movement. It documents a shift in consciousness of the kind that occurs when isolated, oppressed individuals discover that they are not alone and begin the difficult work of altering intolerable conditions widely regarded as normal.

The feeling of aloneness is one of the most painful consequences of bullying. It is also, in some ways, a cause of it, since it is almost always socially isolated children (the new kid, the fat kid, the gay kid, the strange kid) who are singled out for mistreatment. For some reason — for any number of reasons that hover unspoken around the edges of Mr. Hirsch’s inquiry — adults often fail to protect their vulnerable charges. […]

But while we are on the subject of adult failures, it should be noted that the Motion Picture Association of America’s ratings board, by insisting on an R rating for “Bully,” has made it harder for young audiences to see. The Weinstein Company, which is distributing the film, has released it without a rating after the association denied its appeal and after a widely publicized petition drive was unable to change the board’s mind.

There is a little swearing in the movie, and a lot of upsetting stuff, but while some of it may shock parents, very little of it is likely to surprise their school-age children. Whose sensitivity does the association suppose it is protecting? The answer is nobody’s: That organization, like the panicked educators in the film itself, holds fast to its rigid, myopic policies to preserve its own authority. The members of the ratings board perform a useful function, but this is not the first time they’ve politicianed us.


Must-Watch Interview of the Day: As promised, Nine Network’s A Current Affair sits down with bullying victim Casey Heynes, who became a hero to many after standing up to his tormentor in dramatic fashion.


Is he my hero? Is violence the answer when pushed to the limit? I remember getting bullied. It continued on through high school. There were some upperclassmen who were just assholes. I never got punched, though, but I got kicked and more when I was a frosh/soph whenever I was bending over to where my locker was. I got picked on during gym class and literally thrown into the lockers in the halls when the teachers turned their heads or weren’t around. I hated when they weren’t around, because the loud crash of being thrown into the lockers wouldn’t alert them. My protests wouldn’t alert them. And so these actions continued. Because I was small. Because I was an easy target. Because, like Casey, I did not retaliate. Instead, I learned to roll with it. I learned to take the hits, and use my small body to absorb the impact of the lockers and anything else that came my way. I learned how to fall. I did not fight back because I didn’t want to be like them. I did not want to stoop to their level, or I just wasn’t pushed enough in high school. Maybe I had grown since my last incident. I didn’t want to let my rage take over me again. 

I fucking hate bullies. I see that they feel the need to exert their superiority, but they do it in a very unhealthy way. I am not justifying what they do, merely analyzing from where their actions originate (prob low self-esteem, etc.). I don’t know what happened to the guys who bullied me. One of them tried facebook friending me recently (DELETE, and fuck off). Where were the professors here? I realize they cannot be everywhere, but where is the safe environment where kids can go to when in situations like this? Perhaps they were busy with something else; I do not wish to assume. 

Is violence the answer? In extreme cases like this? I still question praising violence. I am really proud of him for standing up for himself. He’s an inspiration in that respect. I hope lots of fights don’t start around schools because of this. I’m glad no one got hurt, and I’m glad Casey acknowledged that his attacker could have gotten seriously injured. Did he not feel safe telling councilors or his sister/family? I know. It’s far easier said than done. Teachers are seen as this authority figure, and you really don’t know how they’d react. You don’t want to seem weak; no one likes tattle-tails.. However, can I sympathize with his feelings? His utter Rage? Yes. 

Casey seems like a genuinely nice and patient kid, and I hope he goes far in life. Sometimes the best revenge is just doing well in life. 

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