Movie Mom

Movie Mom


Bully

posted by Nell Minow
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for language
Profanity:Some strong and ugly teenage insults including profanity
Nudity/Sex:Gay teens
Alcohol/Drugs:None
Violence/Scariness:Brutal bullying with verbal and physical abuse, characters commit suicide, sad deaths
Diversity Issues:A theme of the movie
Movie Release Date:March 30, 2012
DVD Release Date:February 12, 2013

This is a message for Alex.  You are a great kid.  You will be a great, happy, successful adult.  And those high school boys who torture you so brutally on the school bus every day will spend their adult lives either clueless about why they will never feel as big and tough as they did in high school or horrified by the way they treated you.

This is a message for the school system.  Do not put high schoolers and middle schoolers on the same bus.  Do not tell two boys who are fighting to shake hands and apologize and send them on their way.  Do not show parents who are agonized by seeing footage of their son being tortured on the school bus a picture of your new grandchild.  And for the love of Pete, start teaching your students that neither inflicting nor tolerating abuse will be permitted in your school.  If students cannot feel safe, they cannot learn.

This searing documentary tells five stories.  Two of its subjects have already committed suicide, one only 11 years old.  Another, overcome by the pain of continual abuse and feeling she had no other option, brought a gun on the school bus and found herself trapped by a judicial system that has zero tolerance for firearms but is helpless to combat sustained physical and emotional torture.  Then there is Kelby, a confident young lesbian who has a few close friends but is otherwise an outcast.  And Alex, who is what pediatricians call an FLK (funny-looking kid).  He has a great heart (watch him with his mother and his little sister).  But he was born prematurely and has a bit more than the usual middle school awkwardness.  It is wrenching to see him come home every day and answer his mother’s anxious question about how things went with a noncommittal, “fine.”

I once heard a principal say that a lot of upset parents came through his office, parents who were concerned about their children’s academic or behavior problems.  But, he said, the ones who put their heads down on his desk and sobbed were the ones who felt hopeless about their children’s sense of isolation and lack of friends.  One of the most touching moments of the film is when Kelby’s father, a  conservative Christian who had been anti-gay until his daughter came out says soberly that if you want to find out how little you understood about your life, have a gay child.  His own friends had stopped talking to them.  All of the parents in this movie are devoted, loving, supportive, and devastated.

Anyone who has survived adolescence knows what it feels like to be excluded or different.  But as adults, until our children remind us, we sometimes forget how devastating those feelings are when you are too young to know that for the rest of your life it will not be as hard to find safe places and good friends.

The movie also made me think about the way we seem to perpetuate a bully culture.  Whether it is the real housewives or politicians and commentators, we have enabled a culture of disrespect and partisanship that sets a bad example.  I hope all middle schoolers and high schoolers will see this movie and begin some conversations about what all of us can do to bring us closer to a culture of civility and respect, or just to bring us closer.

 

Parents should know that this film has disturbing themes of bullying and abuse in middle school and high school.  A bullied teen uses a gun and two kids commit suicide (off camera).  There is some strong language, poking, and hitting.

Family discussion:  Why couldn’t Alex and some of the others tell their parents what was going on?  Why are some kids bullies?  Why do other kids let it happen?  What should the school do?  What can you do?

If you like this, try: The movie’s website: http://action.thebullyproject.com/ for more information and resources



  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Nancy Spady

    Thanks for being a strong voice in support of the new rating for this film so that more students can see it. My daughter is a little different and has been bullied over time, but our school leadership is as supportive as it can be. However, until the bystanders get involved and speak up to stop it, we can’t make progress because caring adults can’t always be around.

    • Nell Minow

      Thank you, Nancy. As you can see in my interview with director Lee Hirsch, he directed the movie to the “bystanders who should be upstanders.” I am glad to see this movie has started some important conversations.

Previous Posts

Movies' Greatest Mirror Scenes
Anne Billson has a great piece in The Telegraph on mirror scenes in movies, from the Marx brothers clowning in "Duck Soup" and the shootout in "The Lady from Shanghai" to Elizabeth Taylor scrawling on the mirror with lipstick in "Butterfield 8." [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VKTT-sy0aLg

posted 8:00:51am Jul. 23, 2014 | read full post »

How Do Movies Show Time Passing?
Someone once said that movies are "pieces of time." A few take place in "real time." Alfred Hitchcock's experiment, "Rope," unfolds in just the time it takes us to watch it, all in what appears to be one seamless shot. But others take place over days, weeks, years, even generations. Slavko Vorkap

posted 8:00:40am Jul. 22, 2014 | read full post »

Boring TV Makes You Fat
A new study finds that boring television leads to mindless snacking and that leads to putting on pounds. So, watch programs that excite and engage you. Or, if the show is boring, turn off the television.

posted 8:00:05am Jul. 22, 2014 | read full post »

Switched at Birth and the End of Life
I'm a big fan of ABC Family's Switched at Birth and have appreciated its complicated characters, honest and heartfelt relationships, and compelling storylines, as well as its unprecedented, in-depth portrayal of the deaf community. Last week's episode may have been the all-time best (SPOILER ALERT)

posted 3:59:49pm Jul. 21, 2014 | read full post »

Comic-Con 2014
It's here!  San Diego Comic-Con begins Wednesday night in San Diego and I'll be there.  This is my favorite event of the year, a chance to find out what everyone will be watching, listening to, playing, and otherwise enjoying over the next few years.  As I always say, this is the Iowa caucuses of

posted 8:00:20am Jul. 21, 2014 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.