Bully (2012)

bully-poster02The opening minutes of “Bully” are perhaps the best summary of the bullying dilemma you can imagine. It’s a moment so wrought with accuracy, victims of bullying will nod to themselves thinking “Happens to me all the time!” During one moment after school recess, the local school principal is trying to sort out a fight between two boys who had a fist fight. She demands they both shake hands. One boy sticks his hand out without hesitation and a blank expression, even leaning forward to shake. The other boy refuses, and has a stand off, angrily nodding his head near tears. The principal sends off the first boy, commending him for his kindness, and scolds the angry child for being defiant, chastising him for refusing to settle things. The boy explains that no matter how much he apologizes, he continues being tormented by the other child. The teacher refuses to allow any instance of continuing the conflict resolution and suggests “being friends.” Its small moments like this that continues furthering the idea that bullying as a whole, is a minor issue that really should be dealt with like any other child issue.

Children today have it much harder than most middle aged authority figures ever did, and worse more, they’re not being handed the tools to confront the issue of bullying beyond high school. The bullying epidemic hasn’t become worse, kids just now have a soap box upon which to stand up and voice their anger and misery. Now with the existence of the digital age, children can post videos of themselves complaining, bullying one another, and in many instances, posting their last video before committing suicide. Bullying is everywhere we turn, and sadly most of the children in the movie aren’t given an idea on how to endure and deal with the issue. Bullying as an entire concept has to be confronted and used as a form of coping with life, and not treated as a small problem between children. The most disturbing account in the film is of young Alex, a bespectacled young mild mannered boy who spends most of his days literally being physically abused at school.

While the documentary itself focuses on four other children, including the family of two that committed suicide, Alex’s experiences in his school provide the most unusual and nauseating footage of the film. Often times he spends moments on bus stops with kids who threaten to beat him up, and when on the bus, he’s pushes, literally strangled, and often times stabbed or punched non-stop. In one instance a heavy child proceeds to smash his head against the back of a seat. The question that remains is why isn’t anyone stopping this series of attacks, but Why is Alex so prone on enduring the attacks? Does he somewhat enjoy this torture as a means of garnering attention from someone, anyone? Or does he feel deep down he deserves this inhuman treatment? Eventually the directors take action and provide Alex’s mother and family with footage of the attacks, and when confronted, Alex doesn’t seem all too disturbed by the torture he absorbs day in and day out. But it seems a fall out of the treatment he receives at home from a father who insists he fight back, in spite of not knowing how, and a little sister who refuses to be seen with him since most of her friends find him “creepy.” Alex seems to take every bit of abuse and verbal beating with stride.

Or maybe he’s already been broken. Alex approaches every situation with a glower that seems to ponder “What am I doing that warrants this behavior against me?” And he doesn’t seem to express any agony or misery, or any sort of rage. He merely seems to be someone who believes he should be punished. Merely for existing. And that’s the tragedy of “Bully.” Not the ones who open fire in a crowded school, but the kids who take the abuse because they’ve been convinced they deserve nothing but inhuman abuse from random children on a crowded bus. “Bully” can’t answer the big questions or make big changes, so it doesn’t try. All it attempts is to show us how ugly we can be and hope to help kids endure their abusive school lives, and restore something in them that can help them believe that they’re worth something, someday. “Bully” is a difficult film with no real answers to the dilemmas it poses. While it does confront bullying as located in schools, bullying as a whole is a broader and more hard to pin down issue that we all have to face. In spite of that, “Bully” deserves to be shown everywhere, and to many people old and young; so maybe someone, somewhere can figure out to prevent another mass murder or tragic suicide.