Bully (2011)

8.0 Overall Score

Reminds parents what it is like to be a kid

Doesn't really provide solutions to the problem that are any different than what has been said for years

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Bully

Studio:  The Weinstein Company

Genre(s):   Documentary

Release Date(s): April 23, 2011 (Tribeca Film Festival)/March 20, 2012

MPAA Rating:  PG-13


The bus…always such a fun ride…

Boys will be boys, and girls will be girls. It is an old excuse for an age-old problem of bullying amongst children and teens. As the epidemic of bullying begins gaining national attention due to mass shootings and children committing suicide, a new approach is sought out. With the death of a child, parents and victims of bullying talk about the pressures of growing up and what can be done to stop the problem.

Directed by Lee Hirsch, Bully is a documentary that gained a lot of attention before its release due to a debate about its rating. With positive reviews, Bully became a rather big hit for a documentary and played on multiple screens…also something unusual.


Bullied for being a lesbian

The reason Bully gained so much attention was criticism of the ratings board. The movie was initially Rated-R for the language in the film, and filmmakers worried that it meant it wouldn’t reach the intended audience…aka the bullies and victims of bullies. When a national debate rose up, pressure got the film released as Unrated.  After a few cuts, the movie was finally released with a PG-13 rating…the criticism was language…used by bullies.  It illustrates the adult perception problem since this is language that kids are exposed to daily but aren’t “allowed” to hear in a movie…It is rather ridiculous.  You can blow someone away with a gun in a movie but swearing is a no-no (a great documentary on this subject is Kirby Dick’s This Film Is Not Yet Rated).

Bully is a rather sad film to watch. The movie has a parents dealing with the death of their children who committed suicide due to bullying, a woman whose daughter is facing jail for taking a gun to school, a girl facing threats due to her sexuality, and a boy who just can’t seem to fit in. The filmmakers did a nice job getting a wide range of problems for their film and do a rather through job exploring them.


The parents of a child who committed suicide

The problem with the movie is that it doesn’t really provide many solutions to the problem…because there aren’t many solutions. Even within the movie, the parents point at the school and the school points at the parents. Who should be responsible? The easy answer is “society”but that doesn’t really change things and is a non-answer.

Everyone deals with bullying at some time or another in school. The level varies and now victims also have deal with cyberbullying…something that wasn’t around when I was young. The out-of-touch nature of the adults in the movie is in my opinion exemplified by the one very involved counselor forcing a bully to apologize to his victim…the bully apologizes immediately and then the counselor criticizes the victim for not accepting it. You can tell by how the bully apologizes that he doesn’t mean it, and it will continue…the adult can’t see it is fake or realizes she did her part of the situation.  Adults can’t believe that they be “got” by kids of any age even youth.  Kids are good liars, both about being victims and victimizing.


Says the movie made him stronger

The concern I have with this movie is that it really puts a target on the subjects. By going to the filmmakers and saying they are a target of bullying, the cameras might stop the bullying for a moment, but it will pick up again after the cameras leave. Fortunately, a post script on the DVD shows that the main boy focused on has changed schools and is finding some popularity instead of infamy…and he says the movie made him stronger, but I could have easily seen it going the other way.

Bully isn’t the best documentary you’ll see and doesn’t really give many solutions to the problem that you haven’t heard before. Talking about bullying doesn’t seem to solve the problem and the “kids will be kids” theory does have merit since all adults were children at some time, they should know better. Still, watch Bully…it is a good reminder of what childhood is like and the new struggles facing kids along with the ones that never seem to go away.

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Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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