I just saw the documentary Bully. It is very powerful, and worth seeing. I took my ten-year old daughter. I was uncertain as to whether the content would be too much for her. The Weinstein company rejected the R rating the movie was given, and it is listed in theatres as unrated. Common Sense Media gave it a “Pause for kids under 13.” So I was torn. Yet, I reasoned to myself that last week my daughter saw the Hunger Games with my husband. (Our deal with the Hunger Games which she was begging to see was that she could only see it if she read the book first.) So we went.
Bully was hard to watch not because of any graphic violence, or profanity –(and there is profanity) but more for the gravity and tragic nature of the subject matter. The film follows several families whose children have taken their own lives after having been continually bullied. My daughter and I had a lengthy discussion after the movie to talk about bullying and the subjects of the film. It brought up the issue of suicide, which we had never discussed. It also brought up the issue of homophobia, as it follows a gay teen girl who is bullied. We talked about that too. We both cried about the film as we talked together. It was an intense experience, and yet, I am glad I took her.
Bullying seems to have been around as long as there have been children. My eighty four year old father told of being shoved in a locker or garbage can in high school, for not being “cool enough.” And this was at an elite private school seventy years ago. So what can we, as parents, do to help prevent our kids from being bullied? As most likely they are going to face bullying at a time where we are not there.
I was very encouraged last year that my children’s elementary school invited a Los Angeles based group called the The Bully Dudes to perform an assembly for the children. I heard about the performance from my kids at dinner that evening. I asked them what the performance and bullying was all about. My (then) six year old said, “Bullies don’t have enough love in their heart.” My (then) nine year old piped in, “Bullying is not about you, it is about the person doing the bullying.” I don’t know about the usual fare at your dinner table, but this was pretty profound conversation for ours. The kids took so much from The Bully Dudes’ performance, I decided I needed to see them for myself, so I did.
The Bully Dudes are two mimes, Keith Berger and David Prather. Their interactive, entertaining show about bullying is funny, and engaging. What was so particularly powerful is that watching them, I realized that the real way to combat bullying is to create a culture where bullying is not simply unacceptable, but also “un-cool.” The Bully Dudes’ show inspires kids to speak up, band together and not to tolerate or be a part of bullying. After I saw it, I had a chance to ask Keith a few questions about the show. Here are his replies.
How did the show come about?
A few years ago, David Prather and I were asked by the Orange county Performing Arts Center to create an anti-bullying program. David and I had worked together on some smaller projects, and we were encouraged to one day work on something much bigger. At first I was reluctant to tackle this subject, but as I researched it, I became emotionally “fired up” and inspired to team up with David and create a show that would get the message across to youngsters through a combination of humor, empathy, and finally some viable strategies to deal with bullying.
Were either of you bullied as a kid?
Yes both of us were bullied as kids. But not nearly as severely as many of the stories we hear from people on a regular basis. Most people we’ve met have been bullied, and perhaps one time or more have bullied someone else.
What do you think is the single most important message in your show?
The most important message in the show is that we all need to actively watch out for each other. And when we see someone being bullied, we need to either summon the courage to stop it, or report the incident to a teacher or administrator.’’
So if you are worried about bullying, there are a few things you can do. First, talk to your kids about bullying. Then, see the movie if you think your kids are ready for it. If you are concerned about bullying at your school, I strongly encourage you ask your school administrators to book the Bully Dudes to perform. Although they are based in Los Angeles, they can also take the show on the road to help spread the word.
Also the filmmakers have helped establish The Bully Project, which has a lot of great information.