Bully: Kids will be kids? Don’t give me that crap!

It’s funny how life works. Just at the time when a number of the shows I’m watching deal with bullying in some fashion, I had the chance to see a documentary about that very social problem. Bullying is something that I yet to see at its worst, though I’ve worked in a school in a country where its known to be highly problematic. For my own school life, going to a private girls school probably helped…although I know that girls can be vicious, and there were a few eyebrow raising incidents here and there. Nothing of the sort depicted in Bully, however.

Bully looks at five different individuals and families who’ve been affected by bullying in the US. From what I can tell – I have very little idea about any of those location names that flashed up on screen, after all – they all take place in small towns. It’s not a movie, it’s about real people, real children who have been subject to ill-treatment by their peers, some of whom have taken their lives as a result. And, as one would expect, there is no uplifting message that this problem will soon be solved, even with the beginnings of a movement for people to speak up about it.

I came away from watching this film with two major thoughts running through my head. The first thought is was how some students, to a certain extent, end up thinking that some of the less violent acts of bullying are ‘normal’ actions. They might take it as jokes, or something that happens in any friendship. The sobering thought here is that some bullied kids get so used to being bullied that what some of us would call unacceptable behaviour is simply accepted as a part of normal, everyday life to them. What can we do about that?

The second thought expands on the above: the frustration of hearing adults and people of authority say, with apparent conviction, that “kids will be kids”, that there is no excuse for retaliation, that things can be fixed with a simple handshake. More importantly, however, it hints at the sheer complexity of this problem, a complexity that many would prefer to be swept under the carpet. As some people have recognised, bullies themselves have often been bullied at some stage in their lives. In other words, there is something ‘going on’ in their lives.

But if that is the case, how does one ameliorate bullying, much less actually stop it? The film offers no answers, and certainly, the one thing I want to say to those administrators, teachers and parents who dismissed the claims:

It’s not that “kids will be kids”. Rather, it’s that kids are kids, because they are in in the process of learning how to behave.

Kids are individuals who start off knowing almost nothing of the world. They are constantly testing the the boundaries of what they can do, and if no reprimand comes when they go to far, if their own environment or situation is not conducive to learning distinguish between what they can do and what they should not do, it seems that they will only continue behaving in such a manner. Our responsibility as adults, as people who are part of the relevant communities, is to make sure that these children live in an environment that will help them learn how to live in a considerate way.

That’s not to say that there is a simple solution to this problem. As some experts on bullying have already observed, this documentary arguably oversimplifies the problem, particularly with regards to one case. I’m not trying to downplay the fact that some bullied children (adults too) commit suicide – nor is Emily Bazelon, the writer of that article – but it is important to highlight that there are often many interconnected factors that lead one to that final point. The good thing about Bully is that it has gotten people coming forward and talking about a problem that seems to have been swept under the carpet in some ways. But let’s not lose sight of the complexity of the issue, lest we think that there is a simple answer to the problem.

About karice
MAG fan, freelance translator and political scientist-in-training. I also love musicals, travel and figure skating!

One Response to Bully: Kids will be kids? Don’t give me that crap!

  1. Pingback: Your Lie in April: a classical love story | HOT CHOCOLATE IN A BOWL

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