Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

‘Bully’: Such An Important Movie

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on April 16, 2012

‘Bully’ makes us aware that “boys will be boys” is a lazy excuse for allowing psychological and physical torture to occur at school. The movie also reminds us that the “victim” is not just the child who is isolated and picked on, but their family who feel helpless and inadequate to cope with the issues. As one father who lost his son to suicide, presumably secondary to bullying, says “I am nobody. I love my wife, and I loved my son, but I am nobody.” That sentiment, perhaps because it was expressed by a father and not a mother, was so moving, because he conveyed how helpless he felt, thereby suggesting how helpless his son felt. How do some people feel like “somebodies” and others feel like “nobodies,” I began to wonder. Does the social dynamics of elementary, middle and high school, set down the identity of nobodies versus somebodies? The film made me think.

The administrators in this film were portrayed as shockingly insensitive, perhaps as the result of their defensiveness. They were confronted with kids who felt victimized by bullies, and hence by the school system who did not protect them. Predictably, the administrators gave the first shot at parental responsibility-an old trick. In the movie, this was so obviously a cheap shot. The parents cannot control what happens at school. They can help their child defend themselves, but that presumes that the child conveys to the parent what is going on, and as one very insightful mother said in this movie, it is humiliating for a child to confess to what they perceive to be a strong parent, that they are the target of human cruelty. Then, the administrators tried to deal with it on a case by case basis, and not as a systemwide problem. That also, came across as lame. The problem is not that one child is being bullied, the problem is the lack of adult supervision in hallways, school buses and recess yards. More staff, along with a more highly trained personnel, would help, but the cost implications seem to be the clear barrier to intervention. I surmise.

To see a movie where you see the parents who have not only had the unspeakable tragedy of losing their child, but they have had this tragedy as a result of suicide, is to see massive suffering and sadness. One might think that to see this kind of suffering would make this movie unbearable. I thought that. Surprisingly, the movie pointed our attention towards the children, who were so neglected at school that I actually felt positive that when we expose the playground, we can make an argument for highly trained people to monitor these kids so that when they grow up they learn to be respectful and kind human beings. I am reminded of a time when a young child was learning to ice skate and he accidentally hit me. His skating teacher told him “you go apologize to that nice lady,” and so he did. Such simple interventions, I feel, are going to create a respectful society. Watching the movie drove that point home. If the bus driver, as one articulate mom said, could pull over and talk to those kids and set out her expectations for a respectful and cooperative bus ride, then most of those kids would behave nicely. The problem, as this movie so clearly shows, is that no one is paying attention and if they are paying attention, no one is talking to the kids in a meaningful and kind way. Most kids listen to adults. In this film, the adults either were not intervening or they would say things which revealed their lack of understanding of the dynamics on that playground. Psychological sophistication could have made a huge difference in those kids’ lives. Knowing that, I felt hope.

 

 

See also…http://movies.nytimes.com/2012/03/30/movies/bully-a-documentary-by-lee-hirsch.html?ref=movies

2 Responses to “‘Bully’: Such An Important Movie”

  1. Shelly said

    As expected, when our older son was horribly bullied in school, the administration blamed his disabilities as the reason for the bullying and demanded we take care of them outside of the school framework and then the bullying would stop. Of course, when we held up to our part of the bargain and the bullying didn’t cease, we thought to bring in the child psychiatrist to speak to the class about Aspergers and the school refused. One particular boy continuously picked on our son and when I insisted that the school speak to him and his parents, the scoop refused. The bullying continued between periods at the lockers, in the classroom when of couse no supervision was to be found. Their constant refrain to us was, “Be glad we accept your special-needs son in our school at all,” when he finally hit back. Our younger son is bullied in his school because he’s in a special ed class and the principal says that (the entire class) they need to “toughen up.” When will administration ever learn not to blame the victim? Is this something they learn in their education classes?

  2. Hi Shelly,
    Thank you for sharing your VERY painful experiences of a parent of children who have been bullied. The agony in your comment is very apparent and I am sorry that you have had to go through it and that you are still going through that. It is my opinion that the schools are very defensive about this issue and as such, a higher authority needs to chime in and make sure that more highly trained personnel, along with greater numbers of staff on the playground, needs to happen in order to protect our children. These children, both the bullies and their victims grow up and live in our society. If we do not civilize them in school, there is little chance they will be civilized later on in their lives. Again, it is so helpful that you share your experiences as that is the first step towards making a change. The movie makes this point in a very poignant manner. Thank you.

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