Poi­sonous play­ground

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Movies - LEIGH PAATSCH

THE prin­ci­pal sub­jects of the Bully, an ex­traor­di­nar­ily mov­ing and of­ten heart­break­ing new Amer­i­can doc­u­men­tary, are five young peo­ple who have ex­pe­ri­enced the full brunt of re­lent­less vic­tim­i­sa­tion by their peers at school. Two of them are no longer with us. Enough said? Well, no. If there is any­thing to be gained from watch­ing Bully, it is re­al­is­ing the de­press­ingly daunt­ing scale of the prob­lem at hand.

What has been reg­u­larly passed off as a phase, or per­haps a rite of pas­sage to be en­dured, has now reached epi­demic pro­por­tions. Chil­dren as young as 10 years of age are pay­ing the ul­ti­mate price as it spreads. Enough said? Well, no. If there is a com­mon thread to the cases spot­lighted by Bully, it is that each young per­son has been tar­geted for tor­ment be­cause they are deemed to be dif­fer­ent from the norm.

They might look dif­fer­ent. Or their in­ter­ests are dif­fer­ent. Skin tone. Eth­nic­ity. Per­ceived sex­u­al­ity. Physique. Voice. The pos­si­bil­i­ties to pro­voke bul­ly­ing are end­less in their va­ri­ety.

The fi­nal out­comes, how­ever, are few, and nearly al­ways the same.

Put sim­ply, if you don’t fit the mould, you’re sim­ply beg­ging to be bro­ken.

Granted full ac­cess to the fam­i­lies and friends of the vic­tims, di­rec­tor Lee Hirsch and his small crew have gath­ered some dis­turb­ing ev­i­dence of how the youth of to­day are feed­ing on their own kind.

There is footage of those who can dish it out, al­most by re­flex.

In one scene, one 12- year- old as­saults an­other on a school bus. First with a fist. Then with a jabbed pen­cil to the chest.

Then there is footage of those who just can’t take it.

Un­able to de­fend them­selves. Left alone with thoughts of in­fe­ri­or­ity, and worse, that may ul­ti­mately de­stroy them.

Some view­ers of Bully will be taken aback by the fact the doc­u­men­tary can­not come up with any an­swers to the prob­lem.

Nev­er­the­less, the last­ing value of Bully is that it qui­etly frames a ques­tion that our so­ci­ety – it is not just an Amer­i­can phe­nom­e­non, you know – should be shout­ing out as one. Enough said? Only if a new con­ver­sa­tion starts right here, right now.

• Sup­port and in­for­ma­tion about sui­cide preven­tion is avail­able at Life­line on 131 114 or Sui­cide Call Back Ser­vice on 1300 659 467.

Now show­ing State Cinema and Vil­lage Cinema ( East­lands only)

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