The Bully Effect
What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Bully Effect is a follow-up to the gritty documentary Bully and follows the evolution of one of the original's subjects as a result of his decision to speak up about his victimization. Overall it's much lighter fare than you'll see and hear in the original -- especially when it comes to strong language, all of which is edited out in this one -- although it does revisit a few dramatic scenes of a 12-year-old boy being physically abused by his peers (they hit, punch, and terrorize him on the bus) and a brief clip from an interview in which he talks about the depression he suffered as a result of being bullied. This movie's message is hopeful and forward-thinking, as the now-teen and his family discuss the empowering experience of his speaking out against bullying in the public forum. There are numerous prompts during the movie that encourage viewers to visit the "Stop Bullying: Speak Up" initiative's website for further information and additional anti-bullying tools and discussion points.
What's the story?
THE BULLY EFFECT picks up three years after the filming of Bully with the continuing story of Alex Libby, a longtime victim of physical and emotional abuse by his peers whose life changed dramatically when he spoke out against their behavior in Lee Hirsch's tell-all documentary. After a recap of the struggles Alex endured at the hands of his classmates, the story skips ahead to his new life as an outspoken activist for bullying prevention. Once shy and reserved around other people, Alex now enjoys being the center of attention, and he uses his experiences to reach out to others who are struggling with the problem. The movie concludes with an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper, an activist in his own right, who weighs in on the current state of this issue.
Is it any good?
This vital documentary plays an integral role in encouraging dialogue among families and within schools about the bullying epidemic. Hearing Alex's story will first infuriate, then inspire you, and you'll never look at kids' relationships the same again. Alex's tale has a happy ending because of the willingness of an outsider to speak up on his behalf, and communicating this crucial message is the show's primary goal, since it's linked to a nationwide initiative to educate kids and adults about the unique nature of bullying in today's society.
Because The Bully Effect's focus is on Alex's new, happier life, the content isn't as heart-wrenching and raw as was the original's, so there's less concern about sharing it with your tweens. (And at 30 minutes long, it's more likely to keep their attention than Bully did.) It does replay a few scenes of kids physically abusing and tormenting him, but any strong language is edited, and these scenes are short-lived. Cooper also raises the issue of technology's role in modern bullying behavior, reminding viewers of all ages that their discussions must take into account the added vulnerability brought on by kids' constant social accessibility.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about people's responsibility to be aware of this issue. What should you do if you see bullying behavior? Why is it sometimes difficult to stand up, not stand by?
What measures do your schools have in place to deal with bullying? Do you think they go far enough? Where does their authority to handle these issues begin and end?
How does social media complicate the issue of bullying? Is it easier to say hurtful things in a virtual conversation than it is in person? What is the fallout of this kind of detached communication? Is cyberbullying as damaging as physical abuse can be?
Who do you consider to be your best advocates in this type of battle? Do your school administrators seem sympathetic to victims of this kind of behavior? Why or why not?