I went to see Bully hoping for an answer. I was hoping for a happy ending where bullying was solved, kids were happy, and there were consequences. I was looking for the way to raise my boys so that bullying wouldn’t exist in their lives.
That didn’t happen. It left me hanging.
An Iowa Assistant Principal, Kim Lockwood, seems exasperated by the problem. “Tell me how to fix this. I don’t have any magic,” she says after trying to resolve one conflict. Later in the film we find it is people like Lockwood who are part of the problem.
The movie follow different types of bullying victims. From parents whose kids committed suicide, to a girl who fought back and pulled a gun on her school bus, to kids going through it right now.
The one angle the movie misses is life through the eyes of a bully. You leave the movie and you’re still left asking, “why?” More often than not, the answer is “because they let them.”
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During a town hall scene, one parent is frustrated that angle will never be expressed. The parents of bullies were never be held accountable. The kids who bully, the ones who are part of the problem, go home to morally bankrupt homes where the parents don’t participate – at least that’s the assumption, we never see it.
Perhaps the saddest part of Bully, is the way the adults continue to let it happen by actually bullying the victims themselves.
Alex’s parents look at him and ask why he doesn’t fight back when he’s kicked, choked, and teased on the bus. They blame him for not backing down saying it will eventually lead to bullying of his younger sister.
And Lockwood, the Assistant Principal, is an active player in the mess. She looks at Alex’s parents and denies there are problems on his bus when she says those kids are “good as gold.”
Moments earlier, when trying to solve a schoolyard incident, Lockwood again berates a victim while allowing the bully to walk free. She brings the two boys together and asks them to shake hands. The bully puts his out immediately, the victim doesn’t want him to get off with a simple “sorry.”
Lockwood berates the boy for not wanting to make ammends and even says “I think you two might be friends one day,” before the boy shrugs and says “We were, until he started bullying me.” It breaks your heart.
The adults in Bully try to shrug things off with “kids will be kids”. That’s true, to a point. When you have those kinds of raging hormones stewing in a school environment, there is going to be some conflict. But where is the line? When does random horseplay cross over to harmful bullying? How often does a kid have to be warned before there are actual consequences?
You don’t want your kids to grow up in a plastic bubble, you want them to gain conflict resolution skills and how to look after themselves. So when do you step in?
I went to Bully hoping for some answers, but it’s just left me more confused.
Have you seen the movie yet? Do you have bullying in your school? How are administrators, parents, and kids handling it? Are there answers to these questions?
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Image Credit: Buzz Bishop