Have you ever been bullied? I think that I may have when I was a child, but I honestly don't remember details. If I was bullied, it was never an ongoing problem, although I was a prime target.
I was always overweight as a child. But I grew up in the Midwest where potatoes and anything cooked in grease was common, so I had plenty of company on that front. Maybe that saved me. I don't know. I also know that my sense of humor helped a lot. It defused many such dicey situations. For that, I am thankful.
Bullying in the 1950's was decidedly different than the phenomenon today. It's much more serious today. Children are dying because they can no longer handle the pressure of being bullied and that is unacceptable.
What brings this topic to light yet again is a new documentary that will hit theatres on March 30th entitled, "Bully." It's being released by the Weinstein company, the same film company that released "The Artist." But this film "is a no-frills collection of stories about everyday people aimed at raising awareness, not angling for Oscars."
Director Lee Hirsch, who himself was bullied as a kid, has found several kids who have been bullied and some who have snapped. He has put their experiences on film. "The finished product offers a harrowing portrait of the way children interact" and it carries it's own power in it's unspoken message: bullying is a problem that needs to be addressed now.
The biggest problem this film is having, even before it opens, is that, in spite of all efforts, the MPAA rating board has insisted the film carry an "R" rating for it's use of the "F" word by students in the film. This seriously limits it's potential audience. The very audience that needs to see it. Studio executive Harvey Weinstein has appealed to the board, citing that in a 2005 documentary entitled "Gunner Palace", about an artillery squad in wartorn Iraq that there were 42 examples of the "F" word; 36 more than in "Bully." The MPAA's weak response was that they felt kids needed to learn about war. So they don't need to learn how "bullying" affects others and how it destroys peoples' lives?
The bottom line here is that some children are afraid to go to school. Even when and if they attend classes, their stress levels make it very difficult for them to concentrate and be productive. In many cases, there's not even a trusted adult for them to go to. As a former teacher myself, I never ignored or allowed bullying when I saw it, but I know there are some educators who just don't want to get involved and I find that to be unfortunate.
This film could be an important impetus and staring point to open dialogues about bullying in our schools. Even the Rev, Jesse Jackson and Rep. Mike Honda (D-San Jose) have acknowledged the significance of this film. But if the kids who should be seeing it can't get in without an adult, the impact and the potential positive influence of the film could be lost. Let's hope that doesn't happen. Too many kids have fallen prey to bullying. It's time to take control of this problem and try to turn things around for the future security of our children.