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)