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Review of Bully

April 27, 2012

I posted this on my own blog as well, but felt like it was appropriate for both places and a fairly important rant considering the number one form of bullying in the US is weight bullying and this is a movie about bullying.

I was excited when I saw that Bully was showing at a nearby theater for less than one week only and, luckily, I was free and could go see it.

Right from the beginning I was in tears as a father shared the story of his son who committed suicide at 17 years old as a direct result of abuse from his peers. As the movie went on, however, I became more and more disappointed. Firstly, there was a very obvious lack of diversity. Of the six students portrayed, 5 were white, 4 were boys, and 5 were straight. They had an opportunity to look at the unique types of bullying that girls face, such as sexual bullying, which the film failed to even mention.

I was happy to see one kid, Kelby, who was gay (although I wasn’t too thrilled with her girlfriend’s assertion that she used to be straight). Bullying over sexual orientation is the second most common form of bullying in the US. That being said, it should have been covered more and I’d have liked to have seen an LGBT student that was male.

What I found really disappointing, however, was that the entire movie (all two and a half hours of it) completely skipped over the most common form of bullying in the country: that’s right, weight bullying. Not only was not a single victim fat, or even chubby, but weight bullying wasn’t even mentioned. In fact, the only time weight was mentioned was when Ja’Maya’s mother tells her that she doesn’t want to get too big after commenting on how her thighs looked thick as though she’d gained some weight.

She was the only black student and the only featured student who retaliated by pulling a gun on a bus full of kids and was sent to juvenile detention. Do I really need to point out why portraying the only racial minority this way is a problem?? I’m positive they could have found a white kid who did this or a black kid who didn’t. It may be unintentionally racist, but it comes across that way just the same.

The movie seemed to focus on how school administrators and other authority figures were failing our children, but I found it disturbing to see that the parents weren’t doing that great of a job either. There were several scenes where parents blamed the children for not standing up for themselves or for not talking to them about it enough — even after the kids point out that they’ve tried talking about it to no avail.

I was disappointed enough with this movie that I contacted them to complain about the diversity, and other, issues, such as not covering weight bullying, race bullying, ableism bullying, etc.

Please see the movie, tell me your thoughts, and contact them as well if you feel the same (you can email them at or through their Twitter account). Also, please submit your stories to Collateral Damage; Survivors of The War on Fat if you want people to know what those of us who were weight bullied (read: abused) have gone through. (You can submit anonymously by emailing me or by using the fan mail button).

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Fab@54 permalink
    April 27, 2012 12:39 pm

    So, what were these kids in the movie bullied over? Was it outward appearances? Was it “nerdiness” or perceived intelligence? Were they poor kids? What were the reasons for bullying?
    I can’t believe the makers of this documentary would intentionally pass up one of the most common reasons for bullying – bullying from adults as well as kids – weight! WOW.
    Either they intentionally decided not to touch that with a ten foot pole, or it honestly didn’t occur to them that they were leaving weight bullying out. Either way, it severely detracts from the credibility of this “documentary” and it’s relevancy — at least in my eyes.

    • hlkolaya permalink
      April 27, 2012 2:57 pm

      one was bullied for being gay and the others were bullied just for being kind of different. the main kid was kind of tall, lanky, and geeky. Sometimes they didn’t mention what the kids were bullied for but none of the kids were fat (the gay girl was a little fat, but she wasn’t bullied for that)

  2. vesta44 permalink
    April 27, 2012 1:38 pm

    Most of the bullying I got was about being fat and being a bookworm – it doesn’t pay to read in study hall and get so into a book that you laugh out loud at the funny parts or cry over the sad ones, both of which happened with me when I was in school, and still do now when I read books. I can’t believe that this movie would overlook that kind of bullying. Well, yes, I guess I can, seeing the stigma that’s attached to being fat and how it’s always the fault of the fat person that they’re fat and the bullying is just done “for your own good” so the fat person will just put down the junk food, get up off their ass and exercise and get thin already.(sarcasm) So you see, it’s not really bullying, it’s motivation (/sarcasm).

  3. April 27, 2012 2:11 pm

    Thanks for posting your important and much appreciated review, hlkolaya. I had been wondering which bullying subjects they would cover. I am absolutely disgusted with the demographics of those they chose to document. The harassment of females and sexist jeers/put-downs, racism, weight harassment, ableism, and lesbian bullying absent really make me sick.

    Thank you so much for contacting the company, and for giving us their email address: that is great activism on your part to share their email address and twitter account with us, and to tell us about an opportunity to share our stories in Collateral Damage. I will be sending out your review on Facebook and listserves, and emailing the company.

    Do you or anyone reading this have any stats on the incidence of weight-related bullying and resulting suicide, please?

    Has anyone created a comprehensive list of the types of bullying, with or without stats?

    Just seeing the list that you wrote, including sexual bullying, racist bullying, and ableist bullying reminded me (duh!) that those are all forms of bullying. The only specific category of bullying I ever hear about is bullying of gays (males).

    If a bulleted list of all the specific types of bullying were created and circulated widely, just by NAMING the different types of bullying, as you did, would probably turn on a lot of lightbulbs for people.

    One last note: please know, many people, especially among lesbian feminists, have the experience and opinion that sexual preference is not innate, and that people can become lesbian or gay, and in fact, can choose to do so. We disagree with (and are very unhappy about) the LGBT party line that sexual preference is an “orientation” since birth.

    It has long been asserted in the lesbian feminist community that any woman can be a lesbian (singer/songwriter Alix Dobkin has a song about this going back to the 1970s) and that heterosexuality is compulsory in our culture and a tool of men’s oppression of women. See Adrienne Rich’s classic feminist essay (available via Google), “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence.” There is an absolutely beautiful and deliciously brilliant feminist book by Vera Whisman (seriously, anyone who is lesbian or bi should read this, her analysis is amazing) called “Queer by Choice.” There is also a web site by the same name, though not started by or affiliated with Whisman, that doesn’t touch on almost any of her amazing feminist insights and examples (Whisman did a study on this subject.)

    The LGBT is doing profound harm and creating danger for homosexuals by choice to come out as homosexual by choice, or even as homosexual, by miseducating the public and denying that people can choose to stop repressing the natural human ability to be sexually attracted to people of their same sex, and may decide they prefer it, especially, logically, for women within a patriarchal society.

    Choosing to be with women is one of the most important arenas of feminist resistance, self-preservation and respect, and healing. It’s the most powerful antidote to patriarchy, and opportunity to create space for ourselves and each other to build a non-patriarchal, feminist world.

    The LGBT was founded by gays with the direct intent of silencing lesbian feminism. (The LGBT “coalition” was founded for the purpose of getting lesbians to drop our complaints of gays’ sexism toward us when gays wanted lesbians to help them with their AIDS crisis in the mid-1980s. Lesbians were told from the stage of SF Pride in 1986 to “set aside our differences” with gays for the time-being to help gays with AIDS, and told “to focus not on what divides us, but what unites us” which was a slick tactic to begin labeling feminism as divisive, when in fact, it had always been gay sexism that had been what’s “divisive” between us. Of course, any coalition founded on the silencing of the oppression of one of the coalition groups is not a true coalition. Feminism, along with anti-racism and other forms of oppression, would need to be central to a true coalition’s politics.)

    Of course, there is total silencing regarding this part of the herstory of the LGBT, and anti-feminist bashing of anyone who writes about it, so younger generations who weren’t there at the time (and those who were, most of whom didn’t notice the slick way in which feminism was being silenced), wouldn’t have heard about this.

    Thus, the LGBT did not, and still does not want lesbians to think, talk about, or be feminist, and this is the source of denying that lesbianism is something we can choose. How can it be safe for any lesbian by choice to come out anywhere if she then may have to explain that hers is by feminist choice to not be with men? That subjects her to the wrath of co-workers who never considered, and are then shocked by and disapproving, of her powerful stance that is not only a threat to their understanding of homosexuality as the LGBT has framed it, but to compulsory heterosexuality and the straight-dominated, male-dominated social order. It immediately makes her perceived as a feminist “man-hater,” and totally different than all other lesbians, many of whom may in fact be very feminist and not like to be around men much, and certainly not want to be with a man on feminist grounds. So she can lose her job and standing in the community, while all the other lesbians and gays are free to come out with the non-threatening “born this way” line. This anti-feminist LGBT claim for all lesbians and gays is doing incredible damage to choice lesbians (in terms of health, safety, jobs, economic survival), and to lesbian-feminist communities.

    Sorry to go on so long here, but this LGBT claim subjects choice lesbians to very dangerous bullying, and needs to be stopped. Just the term “sexual orientation” is a reference to the “born this way” belief, that has now been codified in law all over the place, further erasing and not offering protection based on “sexual preference” (which should also be included in all anti-discrimination laws and policies, so as to not keep perpetuating the myth that heterosexuality and homosexuality is only believed to be innate.)

    We should be asserting that people can choose their sexual preference, and that everyone has a right to do so. It would be a much more politically powerful and safe message (rather than saying, basically, “We can’t help it, we’re genetically different” which has been used against us to deem us genetically inferior and expendable. (Hitler successfully used this rationale, even after a period of openness and acceptance of homosexuals in Germany prior to his rise to power). This thinking could very well be used against us, again.

    Sexual preference (preference regarding the sex of the person one is with) should be considered an inalienable human right.

    That said, thank you again for your very important and sincerely appreciated article!

  4. April 27, 2012 8:38 pm

    To be honest, none of this is a surprise to me. People congratulate the abuse and humiliation of fat people on the regular basis if they are not perpetrating it themselves. We have national television dedicated to just that (i.e. Biggest Loser). After all, if they abuse us badly enough, we might finally lose weight, amirite?

    • April 27, 2012 9:12 pm

      I agree with you Joanna. I think they must have felt the movie already was creating enough controversy, without the notion that it’s okay for children to be fat. It’s just one step as far as awareness goes, at least they’re moving in the right direction. I saw a clip where a parent talked about how the teachers absolutely lied about their child being bullied, this happened to me. I think it’s important to let the schools know, that it’s not alright for teachers to take sides, or act as if the bully is a poor little baby anymore.

      It’s like What About Bob? With baby steps, this is just the first baby step. Then it’s a baby step to weight bullying being discussed, LGBT bullying discussed. It’s opening doors, we just have to walk through them.

  5. April 28, 2012 12:05 pm

    I saw the movie last week and agree with everything being said. YES the movie didn’t cover enough and YES I’m glad they opened the door. Having worked with special ed kids for a long time, the main kid who was bullied seems to have asperger’s or some kind of “on the spectrum” disability and those kids are brutalized mercilessly. I cried during the entire movie and was enraged at the ignorance of the parents and the school administrators who just were not advocating for the kids. But they did miss a wonderful opportunity to portray the full spectrum of kids who are targets. I did email them and mentioned that. My hunch is the response could be, “we did what we did, now you can make your own movie about what you want to make the movie about.”

  6. The Real Cie permalink
    April 30, 2012 11:14 pm

    I was bullied for being shy and awkward. Mercilessly bullied. I had rumors spread that I was a slut who had 8 abortions by the time I was 14 (I always wondered when this rampant sexual activity occurred, seeing as I was a virgin.) I was bullied for being flat-chested and having a big butt. Conversely to the slut rumor, I was bullied for being a prude who didn’t put out. I loved the “satan worshiper” rumor that went around when I was in high school the best of all, because I really messed with them then. All I had to do was give an evil grin and throw ’em the devil horns to get them running. That was fun.
    When I look back on it, it’s all so ridiculous that I can’t believe it was real. But it certainly wasn’t all fun and games. I attempted suicide the first time at fourteen when I swallowed a bottle of aspirin. I started cutting myself at sixteen. I was undiagnosed bipolar. I hated myself. I drank a lot and did a lot of drugs. I sometimes wonder why I’m alive today.

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