Arts & Culture Editor
“Bully” begins by showing old home movies of Tyler Long. He trots around as a toddler barely able to walk, learns how to ride a bike, and plays with his dad. Tyler killed himself when he was 17, after years of bullying. He suffered from Asperger’s syndrome, so he was a target to most of his classmates. The film also spends time with several other families whose child is struggling to deal with bullying.
In Oklahoma, Kolby had come out as a lesbian. Her dad said that most people they knew cut off contact with them. People that he had coached with and spent time with weekends had completely disowned them. These people wouldn’t even wave to Kolby or her family on the street.
“The teacher was taking roll and she said boys, girls, and then Kolby.” It might be hard to believe that teachers would act this way, but with the way the bullying continues to occur it’s less a of a surprise. The most jarring part of the film was the way that teachers and faculty respond when kids and parents come asking for help.
“We’ve met with people from the school and they all give the same plastic smile…but nothing is ever done,” said Kolby’s father.
One girl brought a gun on the bus because of the amount of bullying that she endured. A student was able to wrestle the gun away from her and no one was harmed. The girl has has received treatment and is doing much better now.
Alex Libby was one of the central kids in the film. He was constantly picked on in school and was being punched on the bus. When he told his father he tried to say that the kid was just messing around with and rationalize that this was what friends do to each other. His father told him that friends do not behave that way.
Director Lee Hirsch spent a full year in Alex’s middle school. He followed around many students, so it was never clear who he was focusing on. Hirsch and the crew spent so much time hanging around the school the students started to forget they were there. Because of this they were able to capture bullies in the act, and the school even reviewed the tapes so they could talk to the bullies.
The most poignant part of the movie was when the Long family held a town meeting and they all talked openly about what goes on in the town. Many parents became emotional as did the children who talked about their experiences and how it took Tyler’s suicide for the town to wake up and realize what was going on.
“Then what friends do I have?” Asked Alex. His father could not answer him.
Hirsch summed up the film nicely, saying: “I felt that the hardest part of being bullied was communicating, and getting help. I couldn’t enroll people’s support. People would say things like ‘get over it,’ even my own father and mother. They weren’t with me. That was a big part of my wanting to make the film. It’s cathartic on a daily basis.”