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Bully is a tough, but important film

Paul Peterson

This week’s column is part review of a film and part review of a reaction. I’ll explain.
If you aren’t aware that there’s a problem with bullying in our society then congratulations for achieving a near perfect record of oblivion.
Kids are killing themselves because they don’t know what to do, or where to turn, and while some are going to be lost no matter what everyone does, there are things that can be done.
I watched Bully last week, a new film directed by Lee Hirsch and produced by Harvey Weinstein.
It’s the toughest watch I’ve had in a long time.
It opens with some charming footage of a young man who seems happy and full of life and let me warn you right now: anytime there’s home video footage on the screen it’s because that child is lost.
His dad’s voice-over talks about what a sweet kid he was and how they’re now trying to keep his memory alive by spreading the word.
Along with the building sense of dread I felt, was this raw, white anger.
There was always bullying.
I experienced it a few times and I was a big guy. But I wasn’t a fighter. So I remember getting punched in the head in Grade 7 by a guy who was a serial Grade 8 student. He wanted my lunch money. I got really good at motoring around the school, and every once in a while I’d either give him money or get punched. Eventually he found someone else to pound. Dude was big.
No Disney moment of confrontation, but also no totally disempowering scene for me either. It just was part of the day for a while.
I think it’s harder now. I’m not sure why. I know kids are pretty nasty these days. I know I’m older and less tolerant but I see it at the drive in. There’s an edge.
I saw it on the front lines of child care.
Kids are getting lost in the shuffle.
Bully looks at some that have been lost and some that are getting lost.
It’s terribly sad and incredibly moving and of course there is a need for everyone to self assess because we all can be bullies at times I’m sure.
What I know is, if the cool kids start treating the bullies like pariahs it will get better.
This film is not ambivalent. It puts a lot of responsibility on the school, and suggests that sometimes they don’t do enough, or anything at all. Even in one scene where a kid has been brutalized (my opinion) the teacher looks at the back of his head and says “Well I don’t see any holes”. His friend steps in and says “He got hit really hard!” For God’s sake she’s on camera and doesn’t have the good sense God gave geese to at least try to respond to him like a human being. She does pull it out at the end but you can’t help but wonder if it isn’t because she clues in that this is a big deal.
I’m just saying.
So here’s the thing. A lot of schools aren’t showing this film because it got a PG rating for swearing.
Are you kidding me?
Show some leadership.
We’ve been running discount screenings and have offered to bring the film to the shcools. Let kids see it, find themselves in either the victim or the bully, and talk about what it feels like.
Don’t stick your head in the sand. A zero tolerance policy only works if you’re catching the ones who start it.
There’s a scene where two kids have to shake and one refuses. The other is only too happy to put out his mitt.
Guess which one is the bully.
Now guess who got the lecture.
I know we sometimes treat kids like veal but there is a culture of indifference and meaness that can consume some of our youth and there ought to be a way to stop it.
Not showing this film because it sounds the way kids talk isn’t a solution.
I urge you to waatch this movie. Watch it with your kids. Talk to them about it and call your school principal and find out why they aren’t.
Things need to change.
As always, other opinions are welcome, but wrong. That’s it for this week. The cheque’s in the mail and I’m outta here. Paul.

Filed Under: News from Everywhere ElsePaul Peterson

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  1. Do NOT FORGET…Bully Movie at Regent Theatre tomorrow at 2PM and same on Saturday… The Edith Fox Life & Loss Centre will have a booth in lobby with some solutions to this vast problem…ASK about Camp Star… T 613 476 1128

  2. Paul, appreciate your comments, I have seen a change in the past 12 years of working with children in this area as a therapist. And not in the most positive ways… We will never have healthy productive adults if we do not deal with the primal wounds and this movie may be showing that aggression in a raw way which brings one’s fear to the for front…and we need to start talking and educating. KFM

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