Documentary, Bully, Brings Up Topics in Dire Need of Attention
This year in the United States alone, thirteen million kids will be bullied and an additional three million students will be absent each month because they feel unsafe at school. Bullying is an important issue that has to be addressed. It is a serious topic that often gets pushed aside and ignored by the very people who should be responsible for preventing it. Additionally, parents do not know enough about what really goes on at school, on the school bus, and during daily walks home. The documentary Bully has finally addressed bullying in United States’ schools in a direct and effective manner. The film does not focus on the bullies, but instead the victims and what help (or lack thereof) they received from their schools.
One of the main subjects of the film, Tyler Long, took his own life when he was just seventeen, after years of bullying from his classmates. His parents, David and Tina Long, spoke up about the lack of adult support in schools for victims of bullying. They wanted the school to take accountability for their son’s death. David and Tina held a community meeting to rally support and take a stand against the school officials that looked the other way.
Kelby Johnson, another main character, came out to her small town in Oklahoma and her family when she was sixteen. Afterwards, the town simply stopped talking to Kelby and her family. Teachers hurled appalling epithets in her face, telling her that “fags should be burned.” Kelby was eventually forced to leave her softball and basketball teams after an onslaught of verbal abuse from her teammates. She attempted suicide numerous times, only surviving through the help of her small circle of friends. Kelby refused to leave her town because she believed that she could change a few minds and make a difference.
Kelby is an incredible example of someone who stood up for herself and did not give in just because people treated her with disrespect and contempt. Kelby proves that victims can fight back to bullying and that it doesn’t always have to end in tragedy when help and support is provided.
But for Tyler, help came too late. Ty committed suicide when he was 11. His parents, Kirk and Laura Smalley, founded the anti–bullying organization Stand For The Silent (SFTS) in the wake of his death. They hoped to prevent other bullying-related deaths. Since the founding of SFTS in 2010, almost 600,000 individuals have participated and been influenced across the country. Kirk and Laura hope that the organization will soon reach people worldwide as well.
Kirk and Laura did not want any other parents to go through losing their child, and they stepped forward to help in a moment of great loss and pain. Their organization helps countless people get the support they need.
The end of the film showed people all over the country joining together and taking part in bullying support groups. The movie was superb; through the following of these teens, it was possible to begin to understand how horrible and intense bullying can really be. Lee Hirsch, the film’s director, captures some of the bullying in action on film and in one case, had to show the victim’s parents because it was so violent and awful. Hirsch was also bullied as a child and he said that it was one of the reasons why he made the movie. He intended for the film to reach out to victims of bullying, but he also wanted to provide viewers with a clear understanding on how they can make a positive impact on bullying.
This was a heart wrenching movie that brings up really vital topics for not just our nation, but the world as a whole. Even being a student myself, I did not know how atrociously some kids are treated. I hope that this movie will help parents and teachers wake up and protect children from ever being treated this way ever again. However, this film does show some instances of violence and is slightly disturbing in general, so parents should make sure it is appropriate for young children. Please go see this movie and find ways to defend our community against bullying because no child, or person at that, should ever feel the way this movie portrayed victims to feel — worthless, abandoned, and alone.