Stirring documentary calls for action
Lee Hirsch, director
I had a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes within the first five minutes of Lee Hirsch’s well-executed documentary Bully. The anguish in the eyes of parents and their children is difficult but necessary to watch, I believe.
Bully follows the stories of five children and their families over the 2009–2010 school year in the context of their experiences with bullies. Two of the children committed suicide; the other three remain victims. The reasons for bullying are different in each case. However, the results are horrifyingly similar. Each child is left despondent, afraid, and floundering. Each parent feels helpless and – at times – hopeless. There seems to be little response from the schools or authorities. I left the film wondering when did we lose control? How should we respond as Christians? Will this cycle of violence ever change?
Although this movie is set in the U.S., the problem of bullying is not just an American one. According to Prevnet.ca, in a 2001/2002 World Health Organization survey of health behaviours in school-aged children, Canada ranked 26 and 27 out of 35 countries on measures of bullying and victimization, respectively. The prevalence of bullying and victimization has remained relatively unchanged from a 1993/1994 survey. The website states, “We are concerned because bullying is a relationship problem: the lessons of power and aggression can transfer to other relationships through sexual harassment, dating aggression, workplace harassment, as well as marital, child, and elder abuse.” The ongoing nature of bullying is the problem. If it is not addressed, what does our future hold?
Throughout Scripture, we are called to model compassion. As “holy and beloved” children of God, we are called to “put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other…” (Colossians 3:12–14, NASB). These qualities, springing from a relationship with Christ, must be present within families, churches, and neighbourhoods to season with grace a society moving away from God.
If you are a parent, teacher, aunt, uncle, or Sunday school teacher, I implore you to sit through this movie. Take a teen with you. There is some harsh language and disturbing reality (it’s rated PG 13), but young people already experience this everyday.
Bully can help you talk about the issues. If you have a child who is being bullied, it will show that you are not alone. If your child is a bully, this film will help you recognize that it’s not going to go away when he or she grows up. Both situations need to be addressed and we ALL need to address them. Go see this movie, and then ask Jesus what you’re supposed to do about it.