'Bully' film sparks national dialogue with in-your-face reality of harmed students and families
Look for a feature article or commentary on bullying. Do reader letters or bloggers discuss the movie?
Now find coverage of another school-related topic in any section, including Sports. (College news is OK.)
Go to the Entertainment section and tell which current movie you want to see or watch again. Explain why.
A hard-hitting movie that just reached theaters shows daily school bullying in all its vivid meanness. Cruel behavior fills Bully, a documentary (nonfiction film) that shows the impact on five tormented students and their families in Georgia, Iowa, Texas, Mississippi and Oklahoma during the 2009-10 school year. Director Lee Hirsch, a childhood target of bullying, wanted to show victims' hidden lives. "The hardest part of being bullied was communicating and getting help," he recalls. "People would say things like 'get over it,' even my own father and mother. That was a big part of my wanting to make the film. We have to change hearts and minds in order to stop this epidemic, which has scarred countless lives."
His 94-minute movie sparks national discussions about responses by educators, parents and fellow students. The message is to recognize that bullying can cause serious harm, a lesson missed by an official shown saying "kids will be kids" at a town meeting. The school superintendent in Sioux City, Iowa, one of the five districts filmed, says in an online statement about the movie: "Solutions for bullying in the American school system must include parental engagement and community engagement."
The Motion Picture Association of America, which determines movie ratings based on content, insists on an R rating for Bully because of cursing -- which would keep viewers under 17 from seeing it without a parent. More than 475,000 people signed a 17-year-old Michigan high school student's online petition urging a lesser rating. "Whose sensitivity does the association suppose it is protecting?" asked New York Times reviewer A.O. Scott last Friday. "The answer is nobody's." The film's distributor released it without a rating, letting theaters decide who gets in. The AMC chain, America's second-biggest, allows minors to see the film if they show a permission note from a parent or guardian.
Student says: "We want it to be shown in theaters and we want kids to go see the movie in theaters instead of having it shown at schools." -- Katy Butler of Ann Arbor, Mich., who started a ratings protest petition at change.org
Parent says: "The only way I got away from bullying was by telling myself every day I was better than them and ultimately moving away from the area I lived in. My parents really did not know the extent of it because I hid it. . . . You never realize the extent of such damage until you get older and have children on your own and watch it first-hand." -– Jerry Grady, father of four in Northville, Mich.
Critic says: "There is a little swearing in the movie, and a lot of upsetting stuff. But while some of it may shock parents, very little of it is likely to surprise their school-age children." -- A.O. Scott, New York Times
Front Page Talking Points is written by
Alan Stamm for NIEonline.com, Copyright 2013
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