‘The Bully Project’ Finds Its Moment
The Bully Project follows stories of several kids who are being bullied or have been bullied.
Director Lee Hirsch started filming The Bully Project in 2009, about a year before bullying fully came of age as a high-profile crisis with the launch of what became the It Gets Better project. (That’s not to say that’s when bullying started, obviously — it’s when the current wave of popular media coverage swelled after several awful stories of suicides by bullied kids.)
What The Bully Project adds to the public conversation is an unflinching look at the stakes. At its center is the family of Tyler Long, a 17-year-old who had just recently hanged himself in a closet when filming started. It follows his anguished parents as they launch a community discussion of bullying in the wake of his death that it certainly appears the school doesn’t want to have (they organize a town hall meeting, and plenty of kids and parents show up, but nobody from the school or the district).
The film also follows Alex, a 14-year-old who can be funny and comfortable at home, but who has been so relentlessly brutalized at school (his special zone of torment seems to be the bus) that he walks around looking shell-shocked and a bit lost, which seems to isolate him even more.
There are other kids in the story: Kelby, a young lesbian from Oklahoma whose father explains that after she came out, people he’d known for years started refusing to acknowledge him on the street; Ja’meya, a 14-year-old whose very difficult path represents the dangers of and to bullied kids who get fed up and decide to fight back; and Ty Field-Smalley, whose suicide at 11 years old — 11 years old — drives his father, too, into activism.
At times, The Bully Project is a pretty grueling experience, but it probably wouldn’t be fair if it weren’t. And it isn’t only the bullying that’s frustrating: We see Alex’s parents try to take their concerns (which are amplified after the filmmakers conclude that they’re obligated to tell them what’s happening on the bus) to the school. There, they have a bizarre meeting with an administrator who gives them precisely the pacifying “we’ll take care of it” speech that many of the parents in the film say they hear all the time right before nothing happens.
Unfortunately, by that point in the film, we’ve already seen that same administrator intervene in what certainly smells like a bullying situation by forcing the two boys involved to shake hands and later telling the one who’s complaining of being bullied that if he doesn’t shake hands and make up and really mean it, he’s just as bad as the bully. (She really says this. It’s almost surreal.)
It gives you a sense of what these families feel like they’re up against, although in fairness, the schools are up against quite a lot themselves. There’s a point where a local official tells the Longs that it’s extraordinarily difficult for the school to single-handedly stop destructive behaviors by a kid whose parents are reinforcing those behaviors at home. To the Longs, it feels (very understandably) like blame-shifting and refusing to do anything, but I felt some sympathy for the school, too, because … it’s probably true.
There aren’t any suggestions of easy solutions in The Bully Project; it’s more about driving home the need for everybody to keep trying by just standing as a reminder of what’s at stake. Kelby’s father says at one point that he never understood the expression “you never know what someone’s been through until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes” until he had a gay child. The Bully Project can’t let you walk a mile in any of these people’s shoes, not by a longshot. But it can let you look at those shoes up close, maybe try them on. It’s not fun, but it’s well worth doing.
Note: The film has an online home at TheBullyProject.com, where there are extensive links to resources for kids and parents dealing with bullying and to the “grassroots movement” the film is intended to spur.
Tags: "boarder" "girl boarding school" "film", "carole middelton" daily mail, "ty long" suicide, "tyler long" suicide 2009, 1 in 4 kids bullied], 2 bullies, a bully being a bully, alex the kid from bully project, being bullied, being bullied for being pretty, bullied, bullied for being pretty, bullied kids, bullied kids stories, bully, bully being bullied, bully film, bully getting bullied, bully project alex: handicapped, bully project tyler, bully stories, bully tyler long, bullying kids, bullying stories, bullying stories in high school, bullying suicide ty smalley, bullying tyler long, bullyproject.com true story, bullysuisideproject.com, carole middleton's early life and high school photo, catherine middleton, child being bullied, childhood of kate midelton, four kids being bully, how is alex from the bully project doing, i went to school with kate middleton, images kids that hae been bullied, ja'meya bully project, jessica hay, jessica hay and kate middleton, email@example.com @aol.com in 2011 a usa text emails, kat midelton, kate midd, kate middelton drive, kate middelton teenager, kate middleton 2000, kate middleton año 2000, kate middleton as a teenager, kate middleton as teen, kate middleton at school, kate middleton before, kate middleton childhood, kate middleton high school, kate middleton high school pictures, kate middleton house in bucklebury, kate middleton in college, kate middleton in high school, kate middleton in school days, kate middleton party pieces, kate middleton pic at 2000, kate middleton school days, kate middleton skinny, kate middleton teased school, kate middleton teen, kate middleton teenage, kate middleton teenage pictures, kate middleton teenage years, kate middleton teenager, kate middleton too thin, kate middleton younger years, kate middletonteenager, kate midelton, kate midelton style, kate midlleton, kate milliton, kid being bullied, kid getting bullied, kids being bullied, kids being bullied at school, kids being bullied by kids, kids being bullied images, kids being bullied on a school bus, kids bully students, kids bullying, kids getting bullied, kids getting bullied at school, kids suicide stories, long suicide bullying, long tyler bullying, mr. sánchez-macouzet, olde kate middelton, oscar @sbcglobal.net @aol.com in 2011 a usa text emails, people getting bullied, people getting bullied at school, people who have been bullied, perry @sbcglobal.net @aol.com in 2011 a usa text emails, pics of bullies, pics of kids beeing bullied ao schools, pics of kids bully, picture of kids bullying, pictures of kate at her old school, pictures of kids being bullied, pictures of kids getting bullied, pictures of the bullying project, project on bullying in school, school bullying true stories videos, size shoes midleton kate, stop handicap person getting bullied, stories of kids being bullied to death, style kate midd, the bully project, the bully project tyler long, the bully project tyler smalley, the stories of the kids in the bully project, true stories on bullying, true story of people that has been bullied, ty and tyler bullied kids suicide?, ty field-smalley, ty long bully, ty smalley, ty smalley suicide the bully project, tyler bully project, tyler long and ty smalley, tyler long bullied, tyler long bully, tyler long bully film, tyler long bully pics, tyler long bullying, tyler long story, tyler long suicide, tyler long suicide age, tyler long suicide bullying, tyler long suicide story, tyler long the bully project, tyler long ty smalley, tyler long's suiside note, tyler longs suicide notes, tyler smalley bully movie, tyler suicide 2009 the bully project, very young catrine midelton, was was tyler long and ty smalley bullied, who are tyler long and ty smalley?