With: Alex, Ja’Maya, Kelby, Tina Long, David Long, Kirk Smalley.
I was appalled to have a very young child seated next to me with her eyes glued to the violent images in a late night screening of the PG-13 rated “The Hunger Games.” Yet when I mentioned this to Dodd’s spokesperson, he claimed that “the child murders were shown they were only implied.” To which I say, rubbish! The murders of children are the murders of children implied or otherwise depicted! How stupid to justify this level of violence on any grounds. Plus, the aftermath of the murders is clearly shown. There is a grisly scene where a young teen’s whole face swells up and melts off from bee stings and another even younger child is seen dying after being shot through with an arrow. This character was about the same age as the little one next to me. “The Hunger Games” was too violent for my viewing, let alone a child’s! Yet this young stranger’s parents won’t be able to take her to see “Bully.” Because according to the Senator’s aide there are some “swear words”! To which, I again say, what rubbish! I couldn’t even remember any swearing! What I remember about “Bully” is that two children DIED and another was incarcerated because of bullying. I remember that five families onscreen and millions off-screen suffer the consequences of bullying EVERY DAY! I remember the tears that burst from both my eyes and the critic’s next to me as the Longs and the Smalleys mourned their dead sons. That is what children and their parents will remember about “Bully”, not the barely noticable swear words! With 13 million children’s lives at sake, NO ONE who “cares about children” could see “Bully” and not recognize the importance of making sure that it is easily accessible to every child and his family. It has forced me to conclude that, perhaps, Dodd and the other members of the shadowy organization, that is the MPAA, were all bullies themselves. Or perhaps they were all paid off by the producers of the far more offensive “Hunger Games”. Or maybe they just don’t care. Or maybe a combination of all of that! Honestly, what has this society come to when it is ok to let kids watch themselves depicted murdering each other but not to educate them against bullying? Has America really become that stupid? If so, God help this warped nation!
Ignore the ratings idiocy. If you have children or even know some children, plomp their lil’ asses in theater seats and make ’em watch “Bully”! Then have a long hard conversation with said children about bullying and why they should neither perpetrate it nor endure it. I, in fact, feel that the film should be required yearly viewing for every school age child. Because I believe in children. I think that if they SEE and hear the effects of their actions and are given other choices, they will generally choose the right one. Oh sure, there are the occasional sociopathic bully kids that will never stop and would be better off locked in a padded cell. But for the most part, bullying can be stopped if it is taken seriously and carries serious consequences for both the bullies and their enablers.
I cried my eyes out as the sad stories of Ja’Meya, Tyler, Alex, Kelbey, and Ty unfolded. What makes their stories so heartbreaking is the inaction of the ignorant supervising adults, who could have done something that might have changed and saved lives. Thus, I am calling for legislation to combat this crisis. I feel that if you are a Teacher, Principal, Vice Principal, Counselor, Bus Driver, or anyone else in the school system that is responsible for the well-being of kids during their time at school, which includes on the buses, and you do nothing about bullying; you need to face jail time. Because tolerating bullying is child abuse. In some cases, we have even heard of school administrators encouraging bullying. It is well past time for accountability on this issue.
“Bully “ is, indeed, hard viewing. It is never easy to see victimization and its results. But we have to look at this. Because this is a Life or death issue. Because children are suffering and dying and because, even those that survive bullying, can end up as very fractured adults. Bullied kids and bullies disproportionately become alcoholics and suffer from a plethora of addictions in their adult years. In addition, suicidal thoughts are rampant in adults, who were bullied as children. Conversely, adults who were bullies often abuse their families and commit crimes. We can and will stop this craziness. Seeing this very important film and supporting the families and organizations, it highlights, is the first step.
It is important to realize that any child can be pegged for bullying, or alternatively, be a bully. I went to middle school at a time when the Maryland school system wrongly felt, that the best way to offer equal education to all children, was to bus children from less affluent neighborhoods into wealthier ones. But instead of helping the situation, this actually created a horrible one for me and a whole host of kids, who were bullied for having more. Those of us, who were local and from decent homes, were completely terrorized by some of the bussed in kids. These kids were facing all manner of poverty and issues at home, so they naturally struck out against the kids they deemed better off. In my case, I was targeted because I was light-skinned, top of the class, and played violin. I was called an“Oreo” and taunted continuously even in the classroom. It got so bad that by eighth grade, I regularly contemplated suicide. Fortunately, for me, I had an incredible Mom and got through it. Plus by high school, I never really saw those kids since many of them had dropped out and I was involved in activities, like student government, musical theater, and tennis, that would’ve been kryptonite to them.
In recent years, the It Gets Better Campaign has put somewhat of a spotlight on bullying. However, I disagree with the limited focus of their organization and the simplicity of the “It Gets Better” message. First off, while some kids are bullied for being LGBT, thousands more are bullied for other reasons. Often bullying is an early form of “hating on” rather than homophobia. Fifteen-year old, Phoebe Prince committed suicide because the other kids taunted her. Their beef with Phoebe? She was a beautiful new student who the boys liked! And secondly, sometimes it doesn’t get better. Sure, if you are a gay male, who was lucky enough to move to NYC and have a fabulous career in a fabulous field with a fabulously supportive community around you, it got better. But what of ordinary people, stuck in their small towns often living in the same neighborhood amongst the same people, they went to school with and were bullied by. And often, even if people do manage to get away from their small-minded hometowns, they are left with scars that are so deep that they don’t realize it till later. As the Buddhists once told me “When you leave, the problem often goes with you.” In my case, even though I was far from the people who had bullied me, and had a majorly fabulous Life living in Italy and London then settling in the greatest city of all NYC and even though I have experienced some amazing great things in each locale; there were major scars. The bullying I suffered led to years of alcohol abuse as I always wanted to be the Life of the party. In addition, I was a people hoarder, cultivating all manner of inappropriate frenemies and beaus, even if they were clearly either not on my level, hating on, or subtly abusing me. Because once I became popular, I maintained that over hyped status by being the hippest, coolest, most understanding chick I could be. And finally, because most people don’t change much from their high school years, if you are different, you encounter bullies all your Life. The bullies grow up too. On the NYC social scene, I still deal with haters. Just today there was some weird vibe from a blogger at a beauty event and last year some wingnuts even tried to cyberbully me high school style. Thus, I would stop telling people “It Gets Better.” A more realistic message is “Love yourself and know that God loves you. Then nothing else will matter!” IT doesn’t necessarily get better. YOU DO. As Henry David Thoreau once said “Things do not change; we change.”
I fell in Love with all of the children and their families in “Bully” and so will you. As Kirk Smalley, father of deceased 11-year old Ty Smalley states “they are just ordinary families who love each other”. Please support Stand for the Silent, the Smalley’s organization, which advocates for an end to bullying for all kids worldwide. And also please support this vital film and call both Senator Christopher Dodd‘s office at: 202-293-1966 and the MPAA on: 818 – 995-6600 and express your disapproval at this ridiculous ratings decision. Also sign the Change.org petition to change the rating at: http://chn.ge/zfZQhl
Update: On April 5th, the idiocy ended and the MPAA finally granted “Bully” a PG-13 rating. Fortunately, a large number of parents I spoke to, recognized the importance of the film and took their kids before the ratings change.