There are two films being released this Friday. Mirror Mirror starring Julia Roberts, and clearly the underdog film, a documentary called Bully already causing huge controversy over the “R” rating the Motion Picture Association of America slapped on it. The Weinstein company are releasing it without rating in response, since the very teen audience the film is meant to target would not be allowed to see it without a parent otherwise.
It was the second week of first grade. I was a shy girl, who already stood much taller than anyone else, giving the kids plenty of fodder to ridicule me with – “hey, Jolly Green Giant”, “hey Amazon woman.” I was so relieved to finally make a friend when one of my classmates invited me over to her house to play after school. We soared as high as we could on the swings in her backyard, giggling and talking about all of our favorite things. Not long after her older sister and a friend joined us. They didn’t say much – just stared at me, until the sister’s friend said “you’re Jewish aren’t you?”
I was six, I didn’t really know there were any differences between religions, let alone the hatred of prejudice. I naively answered “yes, I think so.” The next day I was walking home from school alone when the two older girls jumped me, my knees stinging as they scraped the pavement, calling me a “dirty Jew you killed Christ – you killed Jesus” as they continued to kick and hit me. Tears streaming down my face, sobbing so hard I could barely iterate “I don’t know anyone called Jesus, and I would never kill anyone!” As a car came down the street, they ran off, and I limped home feeling ashamed of a phantom crime. Haunted by the incident for life.
I was lucky, I used my height, which also caused endless unkind remarks, coupled with a talent for acting fierce to make the kids afraid of me. No one ever jumped me again. That autumn afternoon changed me, and led me to a depth of understanding about what motivates people from a very early age. I’ve been fighting for the underdog ever since – deliberately befriending any other kid I saw bullied.
But what if you’re not tall, and don’t know how to put on a convincing front? What if you have to endure that terrifying behavior on a daily basis, and what if the adults in your world do nothing about it to protect you? Thirteen million children are bullied in the United States alone, and we are turning a blind eye to the abuse they endure. Abuse so painful it would eventually drive an 11 year old boy to suicide, and sadly he is not alone.
Regardless of rating or lack there of, I would actually urge parents to go see Bully with their children (teens included) anyway, and start the dialogue that needs to happen to bring about change. So look into the mirror and ask “mirror mirror on the wall, whose the fairest of them all?” It doesn’t matter if your children are being bullied, neutral, or doing the bullying – we all need our eyes opened, and to start taking responsibility. I say “bravo Harvey” for championing this film, and I hope all of you will see it.