It must have been a couple of weeks ago now, I was watching Ellen on TV and she had a guest family on that had been victim of bullying. Their son committed suicide due to the depression caused by bullying and the inability to deal with it all. That family is a part of the upcoming documentary Bully. At the end of the segment Ellen is in tears as she argues as to why the documentary should not be rated “R” and why everyone should see it. Seeing Ellen cry puts many things into perspective.
Now the rating has been changed to PG-13 and the Parent Television Council is having a fit. Clearly the PTC doesn’t understand the true impact bullying has on youth these days.
When I first heard about kids and teens taking their lives due to bullying, I was truly shocked. Suicide is so permanent. Working in a field where you are a primary responder to crisis situations, you learn that suicide is a permanent solution to temporary problems, however temporary they may be. And somebody threatening suicide is somebody crying for help. For somebody so young with so much ahead of him or her, to choose death over the future seems so, well, permanent and final. Couldn’t we have done something? Didn’t somebody see this coming? Where were we?
And then I kept hearing new reports. More kids and teens were battling bullying in a whole new way and so many were losing this battle. The idea was, and in so many ways still is, so foreign to me. How can parents want to hide this from their children? When did censorship ever help to solve a problem?
I am all for using this type of documentary as a teaching tool. Perhaps it is earth shattering for some people. Perhaps it is hard for some people to handle. Perhaps you don’t want to admit this happens in your happy little world. But sometimes you need to pop that little bubble in order to show what needs to change and create that change. How did we have a Civil Rights movement? By pretending we’re all one color and happy-go-lucky? I’m pretty sure we saw some nasty things in history class. Ignorance is only bliss for the unaffected.
I was bullied as a child. I was pudgier than the others. I was shy. I was an easy target. All through elementary school, high school, and even college I was bullied to a certain extent. I remember many times I’d go home and cry, my mother’s arms around me, because somebody called me fat or ugly. I’ll always be bigger-boned and curvier than a lot of women, but I eventually grew into my gut. That doesn’t mean I’m not self-conscious. People poking fun stays with you. I’ll always wonder if my butt sticks out, if my stomach hangs over, if my arms are too flabby. I’ll always wonder if guys see me as curvy or chubby.
What is different about the kids of today and me years ago? I attribute it in part to amazing parents, friends, and family. I always had my parents to tell me how beautiful I am, that everyone has their years to be beautiful, that everyone’s body is different. I had my family to support me and love me no matter what. I had my close friends that truly mattered regardless of my weight because it is what is inside that counts and real friends know that. And honestly, I wasn’t that fat. I was a little chubby and I grew into it.
And the other difference? When I grew up not every family had a personal computer let alone a smart phone for every kid, Facebook, MySpace, and all the other social media out there. When I grew up, bullying was isolated to your classroom, your grade, your small social group or even just a few people. Bullying was contained. Today bullying goes viral. If you want to hurt somebody, you can take it to YouTube and people you and the victim have never even heard of can see and laugh along. You can post something nasty on Facebook and the entire school however large or small will be able to see. Bullying is now like a nasty virus, an epidemic. No wonder these poor kids feel so trapped and helpless. How do you flee something that spreads faster than you can blink?
So I ask you, with those we have lost to this senselessness in my mind and heart, what does censoring the truth of bullying do to benefit our children who are the ones who are affected the most?
Please go see this movie, and if your kids are of an age to understand what bullying is and learn from this, bring them along.
Bully (imdb.com’s Bully website)