Bully: The Documentary

Monday, January 11th, 2016

            In today’s society we often over look bullying and reduce it to just “kid’s being kid’s” but when you are the victim of relentless bullying for several years you begin to look at it as a social justice issue. Although on the surface it seems too trivial to label it social justice we have to remember that social justice is simply equality for all. In a world where we belittle the act of bullying is not creating equality for all.  We are in effect telling these victims that their feelings are not valid. Bullying tales many forms but in the United States we commonly see bullying happen because of a persons ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender. We see all of these manifested in the documentary entitled Bully. The tales of the children who bravely told their stories of the physical and emotional torment happening in schools, friend groups, and anywhere that would have large groups of children.

            The film focuses on five children and their families who deal with bullying on a daily basis. Alex who is a fourteen year old from Sioux City, Iowa comes face-to-face with his abusers on a daily basis who tease, humiliate, and assault him. Alex hasn’t told his parents about his encounters with his bullies. Kelby Johnson, a high-school student in Oklahoma was shunned and disowned by her “friends,” (I put friends in parentheses because they were never truly her friends in Kelby’s eyes.) neighbors, and even her family when she came out of the closet as a lesbian. Students and even the faculty of the school harassed Kelby.

Throughout the documentary the theme of dominance is repeated. After further research to find out if dominance is connected to any psychological perspectives or theories and what I found was really very interesting. Dominance is linked in a major way to the Ethological perspective of psychology. The framework of this perspective looks at the social problem of bullying and sees it in terms of the advantageousness of its nature. It looks at it through a lens that is similar to Darwinian evolution or natural selection. There are two behaviors that are crucial to this perspective, aggression (fighting and bullying) and affiliation (leadership). Both behaviors manifest in the early stages of peer group development. The major studies done on bullying show that bullying begins to become a major problem in the sixth to eight grades. The ethological perspective views bullying as something we do instinctually. Bullying is boiled down to a tool for dominance.

This film should just fascinate psychologists because these children bear their souls in this documentary. The look of fear and loneliness on their faces could move you. The stories of these kids are filled with psychological cries for help and the main mission of a psychologist worth their salt is to help. If anyone couldn’t sympathize with the victims of bullying or would belittle the feelings of children in this predicament this documentary can turn their perspectives to being an ally to the bullied.