The award-winning documentary “Bully,” which opened in limited release in March 2012, opened a window onto the pained and often endangered lives of bullied kids. Filmed over the course of the 2009-2010 school year, the movie captured a growing movement among parents and youth to change how bullying is handled in schools and communities.
The film, a product of Director/Producer/Cinematographer/Writer Lee Hirsch and Producer/Writer Cynthia Lowen, is part of the Bully Project, a campaign bringing together many partner organizations that share a commitment to ending bullying. Some of these include the Anti-Defamation League, Cartoon Network, America’s Promise Alliance, United Federation of Teachers, Harvard Graduate School of Education and the National Center for Learning Disabilities.
From "New Girl" star Zooey Deschanel to pop star Katy Perry and comedian Joel McHale, stars and media outlets alike participated in the Bully Project campaign. Thanks to these famous faces and many other participants, #Bully and #BullyMovie are still being shared across Twitter.
One of the stories captured in the documentary is that of 17-year-old student Tyler Long, who ended his life after enduring years of bullying. Tyler’s parents organized a meeting in their GA hometown to open discussion about bullying. Twenty administrators from the county school system were invited to the meeting, but none attended.
Attracting attention for its gritty content, the movie initially earned an “R” rating. Wanting the film to be viewable by youth, the film’s production company chose not to accept that rating, leaving “Bully” classified as “unrated.” A review by CommonSenseMedia states, “While it's often heartbreaking and deals with tough issues like suicide, [“Bully”] addresses an incredibly important, timely topic in a frank, relatable way that's age appropriate for teens and relevant for middle-schoolers if an adult is present to guide discussion.”
Despite the movie’s mature content, “Bully’s” production company recommends that schools use the documentary as a teaching tool. Educators are encouraged to download a free Viewing Guide.
“Bully” reflects challenges faced by all members of the school community, from bus drivers to teachers to administrators, when it comes to handling bullying. Many educators are still learning how to recognize and effectively respond to bullying in school, online and in our communities. They may think their actions won’t make a difference, particularly in schools where bullying is pervasive or the attitude is “it’s just kids being kids.” The movie and associated campaign aim to spur action at the grassroots level in order to address these challenges.