Journalism: The Bully Project


Nominated for 25 awards and winner of 5 including the Zurich Film Festival, the film Bully is set for release on 30th March 2012.

This heart-wrenching documentary styled film follows five individual stories of isolation, pain and the feeling of worthlessness in an attempt to highlight the 13 million children who suffer bullying in America every year.

Although set on a different continent, the issues in the USA are universal and a proactive focus on issues which regularly cause trauma in schools at all ages, in all societies, are rightly being addressed with the impact they deserve.

Backed by huge organisations such as Harvard University, Cartoon Network and Bing, the website synopsis describes the films intention to bring ‘human scale to this startling statistic, offering an intimate, unflinching look at how bullying has touched five kids and their families’.

Perhaps the most striking aspect of this story is that the “characters” in fact “play” themselves, revealing their day-to-day life story; so what the audience may like to believe is fictional actually depicts the sharp truth behind millions of schoolchildren’s lives.

The official site outlines three vital signals which differentiate bullying from typical “messing around”:

  • Imbalance of power
  • Intent to cause harm
  • Repetition. state 67% children in the UK report being bullied, whilst the percentage of parents who report their child to have been bullied in the last 12 months soars to 87%. As a shocking 20,000 young people blame truancy on being bullied this means 1 in 3 who has experienced it will play truant.

Yet, perhaps this would have been the preferable option for two of the families featured in the Bully film who lost their children to suicide, whilst a 14 year old girl finally snapped, brandishing a gun at her taunting peers. This of course shifted blame entirely to her shoulders regardless of her years of silence.

The morals behind Bully are clear however the impact of this film may be limited as the American film rating association MPAA are considering it as an R rating – for viewers over age 17 due to bad language. This has caused much controversy, as what happens on the playground essentially serves to mould the young adults which will walk our streets. R rating will arguably prevent viewing for the vital audience this film is designed for. Of course it’s hard hitting – it needs to be to make a significant change to our society.

Director Lee Hirsch responded saying “the small amount of language in the film that’s responsible for the R rating is there because it’s real. It’s what the children who are victims of bullying face on most days. All of our supporters see that, and we’re grateful for the support we’ve received across the board. I know the kids will come, so it’s up to the theatres to let them in.”

Typical strategies such as role play and punishment can serve short term purposes but the only way to truly get through to children is to entirely alter their attitudes towards bullying. Learning from experience is not an ideal route to impose, however an emotive film about issues and an age group they can relate to is more than likely to hit their conscience harder by initiating a sense of reality; and through the medium of film which they are regularly responsive to.

Bully to me is a must-see film but this should also be the case for as many schools and communities centres as possible. Why wait until the damage is already done? Some may look back with regret whilst others with bitterness and resentment, all for a smattering of profanity which often lays the foundation for this growing issue. For this reason an online petition campaigning for a rating reduction to PG-13 is available on the official website and I urge you to take 2 minutes out to make a huge difference with absolute minimum effort. That and go see the film!


12 thoughts on “Journalism: The Bully Project

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