Kim Longwood may be the most hated school administrator in Sioux City, Iowa, if not America, after her inclusion in the movie “Bully.” It’s a well deserved sobriquet as she victimizes the victim in a schoolyard pattern of abuse. She goes on to shower concerned parents with platitudes and pictures of her new grandchild, ignoring their pleas for something to change, to protect their son Alex who is being mercilessly abused on a school bus.
Watching “Bully” in Century City this weekend was painful. The movie opens with a father talking about his son who has committed suicide because he couldn’t suppress the pain from the bullying he was subjected to. It takes us on a journey into the heart of our country and we see how heartless the heartland really is about some issues.
There’s the black girl; she’s a good student and athlete whose abuse leads her to make a bad decision. Her story is painful, and the cold-hearted sheriff drew gasps from the audience around me as he spoke words that dripped with a lack of understanding of human nature.
One character who is never seen is a young man who killed himself and we see the parents as they go through the funeral, and on to start a nonprofit called Stand for the Silent. We see them strive for some meaning out of the madness of a young man’s death.
Kelby is a bright, one time athlete who had a shot at a scholarship until her future was cut short by the bullying she received for being a lesbian. Her family became pariahs in a town that once loved them — for no reason other than who their daughter loves. In one scene Kelby is seen wearing a Santa Monica Beach T-shirt and I couldn’t help but think that she looked like so many of the young girls that I drive by every day at the corner of Pico and Lincoln boulevards.
The movie was beautifully done and it has a tremendous message. It really should be mandatory watching in schools for the teachers, the administrators and the students. I think it should be the “Red Asphalt” of today.
The point of the movie is that words matter. Words can do damage and harm. Words can destroy self-esteem, egos, turn happy children into morose suicidal time bombs.
Ironically, most of America is not going to see it. Not because it is some little independent film. No, this was put out by the Weinstein Company, and they know how to get distribution deals. It will not be seen because most theaters wont run it without a rating from the Motion Picture Association of America. The MPAA wanted to give it an R rating based on language. However, if the movie had murders and amputations that would be fine for someone under 17 to see. The Weinstein Company decided to release the movie unrated rather than take the R rating, which is why many theater chains will refuse to carry the movie.
The irony of the MPAA’s ruling is astounding. But hardly shocking. They are the Kim Longwoods in this story of the motion picture industry’s hypocrisy and isolation. They are so out of touch with America that they really believe that the children of America will be so damaged by hearing a few words in a movie that they require a warning. I guess dismemberment is not damaging but hearing a kid being called a fag is. Imagine what it must be like to be the kid.
It was reported that at the premiere of “Bully” the audience gave a standing ovation to the movie. If I was there I would have been on my feet, and based on the comments I heard in the audience this weekend, I imagine most of them would have been also. To be fair to Ms. Longwood, she evidently did apologize in public at the premiere for her comments in the movie. But based on my personal experience of people who are insensitive to others, the apology is the beginning, not the end, of a long road.
Maybe her apology made the parents of Alex feel better, but I doubt it. For the parents who lost their children, no apology could ever be satisfying.
David Pisarra is a family law attorney focusing on father’s rights and men’s Issues in the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (310) 664-9969.