Children's Violence on Film: 'Hunger Games' v. 'Bully'

Friday, March 30, 2012

'Bully' tells the stories of five children who were bullied on a daily basis, two of whom committed suicide.

If you follow the movies at all, you’ve probably heard a lot about child-on-child violence on the big screen over the past week. Last Friday, of course, was the release of the Hollywood blockbuster "The Hunger Games."

"The Hunger Games" tells the story of a post-apocalyptic future, in which children are forced to fight to the death for the amusement of the government and the control of the people.

And today, the new documentary called "Bully" hits theatres in very limited release. "Bully" tells the story of five real-life children who’ve been bullied; two of whom kill themselves.

In the cases of both films, there have been struggles over how they should be rated by the Motion Picture Association of America. In the end, "The Hunger Games" received a PG-13 rating, while "Bully" received an R rating. But not everyone thinks these ratings make sense.

David Long and his wife Tina Long appear in the film "Bully," in place of their son Tyler, who couldn't. After years of bullying, Tyler killed himself at the age of 17. Rafer Guzman is a film critic for Newsday and co-host of the Movie Date Podcast.


David Long and Tina Long

Produced by:

Zachary Dinerstein and Kristen Meinzer


Rafer Guzman

Comments [12]



Apr. 02 2012 12:04 PM
Peter M. Williams from Detroit

The Fountain with Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz. It's some sort of metaphor for something, although I couldn't figure out what. Near as I could figure Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz are soul mates and bounce from The Spanish Inquisition to the Present Day and a San Francisco pharmaceutical testing facility to becoming light-beings floating in Outer Space. It is stranger and harder to follow than 2001: A Space Oddessy.

Apr. 02 2012 09:57 AM
Wes from Kingsport, Tenn.

As far as I'm concerned, the worst movie ever is Joe vs. the Volcano. No contest really.

Apr. 02 2012 09:15 AM
Jessie Henshaw from way uptown

It's great that the subject of bullying is getting proper attention, as does come down to ignorant and prejudiced people interfering in the lives of others. In today's world life or death matter when ignorant people only pick on others for their pleasure. I think we're seeing new kinds of opportunities for that very old evil to emerge and hurt us badly.

Take the bullying in politics too, and in academics where it it is always rife. Bullying is a perennial theme of using social dominance to skillfully denigrate others for profit.

You even see its enormous success as a deceitful tactic in preventing even our sorely belated responses to saving the earth. It's in allowing our pursuit of profit to threaten the earth as a bountiful home for mankind, now undeniably rapidly happening, that the real ugliness of our ancient appetite for petty social manipulation for ignorant selfish purposes shows its true colors.

Take the healthcare debate too. The two sides are at each others throats over whether to protect the right of freeloaders to exploit society to avoid paying for the assurance that their emergency needs will be provided with no question. Hooray, hooray, the crowd roars.

If that's not evil, it's at least a very curiously distorted "great cause" if there ever was one, right? How dare we be so insanely unethical, to draw battle lines over such a clear case of public abuse by a small group of, ignorant people, not aware of their own mortality?

As a systems scientist I know the secret is to look for where the vulnerability comes from, allowing good people to become caught in this evil trap. It's worth discussion, but I think a hundred years ago health insurance providers would NEVER have based their business model on cherry picking vulnerable populations to obtain ever inflating health costs. Given a hundred years, the normal profit growth business model seems to have driven them to it.

What changed in our culture I see directly connected to the bullying of children to the point of suicide, I am now grateful to see coming out in discussion. As a scientist I think I understand a lot more of what's happening to us than I can say here.

I think we have a whole spectrum of old evils we thought we had overcome reasserting themselves, though, as a natural event. To skip the details one could say the real cause is simply "new circumstances", and so the only way through it is to face them... and win the same old battles yet again.

Mar. 31 2012 12:30 AM
Sarah from Rhode Island

I do love this show in general but I was very discontent with the manner the movie 'Hunger Games' was discussed, nearly attacked. The book (and somewhat the movie) brings to light many issues that many teens face and gives hope to those teens reading it. In my opinion, it would be an excellent book to analyze in an English course. 'Bully' is without a doubt a very serious and important documentary for all children and parents to watch. It is exactly that though, a documentary and therefore shouldn't be compared to a fictitious film. It is up to parents and school administrations to decide how to bring attention to this issue. Either to send a letter to all children's parents informing them about the film or the parents themselves going to view it with their children and discussing it with them afterward. It is unfortunate that it was rated this way but I'm sure people can figure out how to distribute the information to the appropriate audience, i.e. releasing a "clean" version or taking clips from it.

Mar. 30 2012 03:39 PM
christine from randolph

Today's PG-13 most of the time means R. I have brought my 12 year old daughter and a friend to movies that are PG-13 and I also always regret it. I fear that the parents will not let me take their child to another movie. It's hard to know the content, sexual, or otherwise adult themes such as suicide just by the rating.

Mar. 30 2012 01:41 PM
No Jock Here from Albequerque

The movie "Dark Girls" has been out for a few months on the independent film circuit and is basically on the same topic of bullying, even though it focuses on dark-skinned women. I hope we're reaching an era of sensitivity to how we treat each other, whether as adults or children.

I can't tell from the trailor whether any of the subject children in "Bully" are African American or otherwise not white, but if so, I think that would be a major criticism of the movie. Children and adults of all racial and ethnic backgrounds need to understand the impact of bullying. Too often African Americans assume their insensitivity is a part of their culture or a result of racisim; but insensitivity is bullying, plain and simple. As soon as parents allow their kids or themselves to joke about someone else and then laugh, they've taught their kids how to bully. Parents can't blame ANYONE else for that ugliness.

I understand when a parent may bring baggage into their role as parents, maybe they were abused as a child or maybe they see the world as a war and it's their job to get their kids ready for battle. I'm hoping those parents see the movie moreso than the kids. I personally wouldn't be able to sleep at night if I knew one of my kids teased someone so badly the victim committed suicide. No parent should excuse bullying as a normal part of growing up. What the !-V(< are they thinking?

Mar. 30 2012 10:24 AM
Sasha Elias from NYC

When "Bowling for Columbine" was in the theaters, I was a high school English teacher. I organized a trip to see the film with my freshman class, but a teacher found out it was rated R (I didn't even consider that; I was 22 at the time), told the principal, and he cancelled the trip the day we were scheduled to go.

Mar. 30 2012 09:54 AM
Rob from Detroit, MI

My family got a VCR when I was 9. My dad thought the perfect double feature for me to watch with the new machine was Melvin Van Peebles's "Watermelon Man" and Stanley Kubrick's "A Clockwork Orange".

At the time, it was a bit much to take because of the issues of race in "Watermelon Man" and the violence/rape in "A Clockwork Orange". But, both have become two of my favorite films of all time.

The thing I'll always remember was when I was 6 my mom took me to see "Indiana Jones & the Temple of Doom" - a PG rated film. But, when the cult leader pulls the heart out of the guy being sacrificed, I screamed! My mom held me to her and told me "it's only a movie, it's only a movie" over and over until I calmed down. That's when I realized the difference between fiction and reality when it came to film... and I have never really been freaked out by a movie since.

In the case of "BULLY", I feel that it should be shown to kids and a conversation should have had. Much the way I feel that "Requiem for a Dream" should be shown to high school kids to let them know what addiction can do - the highs and the lows.

Mar. 30 2012 09:36 AM
Henry from Bay Ridge, Brooklyn

My nephew's mild mannered and bright son of fourteen, was bullied at the bus stop near his school virtually every day by three boys. He told his son to ignore their pranks, but the bullies began doing things like grabbing his books and papers, and literally harassed him to the point where he didn't want to go to school anymore.

Without his son's knowledge, his father drove to the bus stop to observe for himself, at a distance, the bullying that his son faced each day. When he saw the bullying taking place, the boy's father intervened. He quietly said to each of the boys, in an angry tone: "If you bother my son again, I'll find where you live, and burn your house down." The stunned bullies dispersed, and never bothered his son again.

My nephew is a gentle man, who didn't know what else to do. He made that threat in frustration, and it apparently worked.

Mar. 30 2012 09:29 AM
Henry from Brooklyn

I think this film is well suited for the R rating because patents will be forced to go with their kids. BTW I have taken my 10 yr old to Hunger games.

Mar. 30 2012 09:22 AM

The Hunger Games or The Running Man? Same story but they've replaced the bodybuilder with a cute girl, and creepy Richard Dawson with flamboyant Stanley Tucci. Sign of the times?

Mar. 30 2012 08:23 AM

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