There was a guilty verdict in the case of Dahrun Ravi where his secretly taping Tyler Clementi and broadcasting it on the Internet was decided to be an invasion of privacy and also a hate crime, especially since it led to Clementi’s suicide. All this happened at the same time as a new documentary called Bully is garnering an enormous amount of buzz due to both its vivid portrayal of bullying in schools but also because a student named Katy Butler launched a campaign to get the MPAA to change the film’s rating from an R to PG-13 so that middle and high school students could see it without parental supervision (and also, probably, so schools could screen the film without a problem).
I support Butler and her efforts. I haven’t had the opportunity to see the entire film yet but based on the trailer, I can tell that it aims to send a powerful message. I certainly felt something, especially during the portion where, following footage of a beatdown on a bus, an administrator tells a parent that she’s been on the bus and those kids were “just as good as gold.” And obviously, I felt a certain amount of anger and rage, so it’s definitely an effective trailer.
It’s also a film that should get the attention it’s getting, especially if it goes deep into the issue and doesn’t succumb to what so much media regarding bullying or so much of the anti-bullying movement succumbs to, and that’s painting with a broad brush and offering pat solutions. Your average news media story on bullying seems to have a pre-written narrative: they find a very extreme example of where someone was bullied and winds up committing some sort of violent act in response; they bring the bully and his/her clueless or enabling parent on the air to vilify him/her; and they make sure to portray the victim as sympathetic but not too sympathetic, almost daring you, the viewer, to say “Well, I can see why he/she was bullied.”
Your average anti-bullying speaker seems to do the same thing. You get some guy who knows “teen speak” very well to hold a multimedia-based assembly that shows pictures of victims and describes what happened to them in detail and how they felt, then leads the student body in a love-in, telling them that all they have to do is go out of their way to be nice to people and it will spread throughout the school and everyone will stop bullying. Read the rest of this entry »