Follow This Blog: RSS feed
Connect the Pop
Inside Connect the Pop

Giveaway: Blu-ray and DVD Combo Pack of BULLY

It’s one of those kid-focused, school-centered docs that even if you don’t have kids or haven’t set foot in a school since graduating, you know about it. I’m referring, of course, to Lee Hirsch’s Bully, which bowed to massive attention last year and is now (as of today, actually) available on home video. Both capitalizing on and further galvanizing today’s anti-bullying movement, Bully really is a film that’s perfect for screening to youth, either in clips or in its entirety, to stimulate discussion around the important issues it addresses.

Of course the film became such a huge story in the news media not only because of its topicality, but also because of this whole “stimulate discussion with youth” issue itself: how could one use as it as a springboard for dialogue—and action—if the MPAA’s initial “R” rating would place it out of reach of that same target audience?

You can read more about the controversy, and the eventual decision to re-cut and re-rate Bully here. It’s not that I don’t find the entire question of what we deem suitable for kids to watch a critical topic in the world of media, but rather that it deserves much more thought and time than I can provide in this post. Still, I feel that engaging students around the topic of is-it-okay-to-hear-profanity-in-the-service-of-a-great-cause? is the perfect way to begin discussing Bully from a media literacy perspective.

Does that mean I’m heartlessly dismissing the “content” of the film and its central purpose, which is to prevent bullying and help heal its victims? Nope. Because I believe that media literacy skills help all of us deal more deeply and more authentically with film texts and pop culture more generally–that’s the purpose of this blog. To be blunt, if young people can’t understand the way that media texts position them—even with, or perhaps especially with, those texts whose content they are sympathetic to—then we are doing them a greater disservice, one that extends beyond a particular TV series or magazine article or “activist doc.” We are essentially saying, “Use your critical thinking skills only on the media messages that you don’t like or agree with.” Well, I guess that approach is better than nothing, but in the end it really doesn’t get us past the mindset of partisan sniping that bashes either left- or right-wing “media bias” depending on who’s doing the bashing. The truth is, it’s all biased.

Okay, enough already. Here are some media literacy questions to supplement the content-based inquiry and conversational topics that may occur to you by previewing Bully or by exploring the resources on its robust companion website:

For younger students or those with little media literacy experience—are all documentaries “true” because they don’t feature actors and made-up lines of dialogue? In what ways are docs such as “Bully” creative constructions that involve choosing incidents/people to capture with the camera and then selectively editing the results?

One of the virtues of “Bully” is that its appeal extends across political lines vis-à-vis “ed reform” in the U.S.–teachers, administrators and parents are all portrayed as being both part of the problem and the solution. Is this balance intentional, or a happy byproduct of an issue that touches every part of the political spectrum? Whatever your answer may be, what is your evidence for it in the film?

Why do you think “Bully” starts with the tragic story of the teen suicide? How does the structured order of informational texts such as documentaries affect us emotionally, and thus our reception of the information that follows?

How does the portrayal of bullies here differ from that in feature films and TV shows? Do any similarities and differences indicate something about the relationship between fiction and nonfiction moving-image media more broadly?

Revenge is a popular theme in popular culture, especially movies. How does the depiction of revenge in “Bully” contrast with these, and how might it change your experience of “revenge stories” going forward?

In the case of the schoolbus bullying, the filmmakers eventually intervened, as an intertitle makes clear. Was this the right thing to do and/or the right time to do it? For example, why not intervene earlier, or with other subjects?

Debate this question: should documentarians, like news photographers and war correspondents, not extend a hand to help those whose suffering they are recording? What might be lost if they did? (If students are old enough, you may want to introduce the [very disturbing] recent controversy over the New York Post’s front page photo of a subway death.)

Do you think that anywhere in the U.S. there are schools or teachers who excel at preventing or stopping bullying–if so, why aren’t their methods mentioned or shown? Couldn’t the audience learn from them? Similarly, is there any way of knowing from the film alone how effective Asst. Principal Kim Lockwood has been in terms of countering bullying over the course of her career?

How is “Bully” like, and not like, a fictional “message movie”? See my tips here.

What does the title of the film signify–why was it chosen? Is the film really about any bully in particular, even in passing? How would one of the stories being about a bully add to the film’s impact (or diminished it)?

So… are you interested in winning a DVD/Blu-ray “Combo Pack” of Bully, courtesy of Anchor Bay and TWC? Maybe to give as a gift? Good. Here’s all you need to do:

1. Double-check that you live in the U.S. or Canada.

2. Leave a comment here (through 11:59 pm ET Feb 14) about your favorite or least favorite movie or TV series that has treated the subject of bullying, and be sure to explain the why behind your choice.

3. If you don’t see your comment, just contact me via email or Twitter (see below).

4. I’ll email the two winners, who’ll then be asked to provide (via me) their mailing addresses to the distributor’s publicist. If I don’t hear back from you within 48 hours of notification, I’ll simply draw another name.


About Peter Gutierrez


  1. Shemp DeYoung (@shempgames) says

    I haven’t seen it since I was a kid, but back then, I really liked My Bodyguard. I think I will look it up and show my kids.

  2. Well, my favorite bullying story — the one that got me through high school and I carried with me for at least a couple months every day — is actually a comic book. New Mutants #45 in which a kid gets literally bullied into committing suicide because it seemed like the only way out for him. A terribly tragic story that left a powerful imprint on me.

    As for favorite TV show/movie, I suppose I’d go with “My Bodyguard”. There’s some bullying in “Real Genius” which I like more, but the movie doesn’t make it a big focus. I didn’t catch either until they were being shown on television after their original releases, and they came on with some degree of regularity. With “My Bodyguard” I suppose I liked the idea that even big tough guys can be afraid at times, and that standing up for your own battles is a much more powerful path than getting others to protect you.

    It probably also helped that I found these both in the mid-1980s when I had the biggest problems with bullying myself.

  3. My favorite movie that covers the subject of bullying is probably The Karate Kid. Daniel is bullied as the new kid, but Mr. Miyagi teaches him how to be a patient, better person and how to beat the bullies not through violence but through sport (granted its a somewhat violent sport). An uplifting film at the end.

    Another favorite is A Christmas Story–who doesn’t love it when Ralphie finally punches the bullies. I like that the reaction afterwards is not one of cheering, but of tears, as he finally lets all his emotions out.

  4. Mean Girls is one of the best movies I’ve seen that covers bullying. It was fairly accurate. Girls can be vicious!

  5. I like Muriel’s Wedding (but it’s not a kid movie). I like it because it’s quirky and funny while at the same time — a bit sad. Yes, Muriel is bullied in the movie. She has no self esteem and her life is rotten unitl she finds a true friend.

  6. The movie, Carrie, stands out to me. It was so real and so vivid. I watched it as a kid and couldn’t believe how horrible the kids were to her. Because I was so young and impressionable, that movie has really stayed with me. Very effective!

  7. Isaac Feldberg says

    I’d pick The Ant Bully, an animated flick that came out a few years ago. I remember watching (and identifying with) the frustrations of the main character, who was constantly a target of the neighborhood bully. And I winced (and identified) when I saw how his experience made him want to bully something smaller – an ant hill in his backyard. The ants shrink him down to their size and teach him some lessons about how working for a greater good is much more fulfilling than tormenting others. It was a cute, cool movie with an important message that didn’t come across as preachy but really made an impact on me.

  8. I just saw it again a few months ago, and I think “Little Darlings” with Kristy McNicol and Tatum O’Neal is a great example of bullying. I was around the same age that the main characters were in the film, and I really remember it making me feel good about the choices I was making at the time about a lot of the same issues of the main storyline. Teenagers (and adults) get a lot of peer pressure about sexuality and when is the “right” time to decide it’s time to become intimate with another person. Kristy McNichol’s character was heart-breaking, powerful, tough but tender, and I always cry whenever I watch that film. Although I wouldn’t necessarily call it bullying, I had a lot of the same type friends who kept pressuring me (through jokes about being left out, not knowing what I was missing, etc.) about making some adult choices when I was still basically a kid. On the other hand, I guess I was bullied. And I’m going to find out if I can get “Little Darlings” on dvd. Thanks for the great giveaway question. You always make me think.

  9. Penny Johnson says

    I find I am becoming more and more sensitive to bullying issues. Thus I find myself cringing whenever I watch Charlie Brown Christmas or any of the other Charlie Brown TV shows. Charlie’s peers treat him so poorly, and he is depressed about it. And, yes, at the end of the Christmas show Lucy declares he isn’t such a blockhead, but you know she is just going to pull that football away again in the fall. It bothers me that we find these shows so delightful when there is such an undercurrent of unkindness without a concerned adult in sight. Am I being over sensitive?

    On the other side, I really like Napoleon Dynamite. Wouldn’t you love to be able to go up to a student who is bullied and say “Pedro offers you his protection.”

  10. Mean Girls for movie
    Freaks and Geeks for TV

    these are the definition of what a truly bully is in high school.

  11. My favorite is probable Glee, at least the first season. I felt like it dealth with the subject of bullying with both compassion and humor, teaching us to empathize with both the perpetrator and the victim, and work towards a wholistic solution.

  12. I think Karate Kid brings up a lot of good/bad points on bullying but the one movie that hits home with me is My Bodyguard. It seems like a movie we can all relate to in our middle/high school years. A new kid in a new school system coming from a different background whether ethnically , lifestyle wise, or just being/looking unique dealing with the challenges of assimilating in the new environment. My Bodyguard took a look at the terrifying aspects of bullying but also opened up some great ideas on how to deal with them.

  13. My So Called Life was one of my favorite tv shows to deal with the subject of bullying. It was one of the first shows I’d seen to deal with an openly gay character and how he was bulled by others. It tackled a subject that most TV shows didn’t dare touch at the time and I found that inspirational :)

  14. My favorite film that deals with bullying is “Lucas”, this underrated film from 1986, starring the late, great Corey Haim, because deals with the usual topics of peer pressure, unrequited love, and being bullied because of being different, and it also deals with rising above it all to discover your true self, and to also be yourself.