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Babies, Don't Grow Up to Be Bullies
by Tim Josephs

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I recently and somewhat inadvertently (I wasn't paying that close attention to my Netflix queue), watched two documentaries within a few days of each other about kids. They were both extremely well done and each sort of ran the gamut of eliciting emotions, from joy to sadness.

The first film I watched was BABIES, which followed four of the titular characters from their first breaths to their first steps. The babies were all over the world: Africa, Japan, Mongolia, and the good ol' USA.

It was fascinating to see how kids were raised in other parts of the world, both the similarities and differences. The American baby a little girl in San Francisco had semi-hippie-ish parents (though with money) who gave her all the toys and books she could want. The Japanese couple also looked rather well-off and did the same for their little girl.

The African and Mongolian families, however, lived in buildings that were little more than shacks and there weren't so many toys. While the Mongolian boy
entertained himself with the animals on their farm, the African girl played with rocks, bones, dirt, basically whatever she could get her hands on.

And I don't know if the filmmakers set out to do this, but they seemed to have revealed (in this small sample at least) that kids with less stuff seem to be happier. The American girl never seemed terribly unhappy, but she never seemed very happy either. There was one scene where the Japanese girl threw a very dramatic (and cute) tantrum because one of her many toys was frustrating her.

As for the other two, although the Mongolian boy often seemed perplexed with things (and annoyed with his bratty older brother), he seemed rather content most of the time. The happiest of the four appeared to be the African child. She perpetually had a smile on her face and, as mentioned, was easily and whole-heartedly amused and entertained by whatever she could get.

I'm not sure there's any commentary to be made about these observations, but it struck me as

The second movie I watched was the sad and frustrating BULLY. This film focuses on a few kids, as well as families, in different parts of America who have experienced bullying firsthand.

Without even mentioning social media, the film explores how big a problem bullying is and how it just seems to be getting worse.

The main focus is Alex, a teen in Iowa, who was born premature and is a little slow and looks a little different. This instantly makes him a target for bullies, and because he's desperate for a friend, he never fights back or gets terribly upset when he's taunted, picked on, or sometimes physically attacked.

There's the old adage "kids can be cruel" and that's never more evident in this film which is hard to watch at times.

The good news in Alex's case, you learn in the DVD extras, is that the movie made him somewhat of a celebrity and bullying doesn't seem to be a problem for him anymore. I couldn't help but think after seeing that, why couldn't every
awkward/shy/ nervous/different-looking kid be so lucky?

A couple of other kids featured include an openly gay girl whose life was made miserable, and another girl who, sick of being a victim, brings a gun to school. Fortunately, for everyone involved in that circumstance, no one was hurt, and charges were eventually dropped against the girl.

This movie makes you feel bad for everyone: the kids being bullied, the parents, the teachers and school administrators who have no idea how to change things.

The saddest part of the movie is at the end when we see speeches and demonstrations around the country about bullying and we learn about the alarming number of kids who've killed themselves as a result.

Though heartbreaking, this movie should be shown in every school around the country starting around the third grade. Awareness and dialogue seem to be the only way things will change.

Both of these movies were eye-opening and I highly recommend them to anyone who has a kid, plans to have a kid, or was once a kid.

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Jul 8, 2013 9:13 AM
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Good column. Thanks

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Movie Musings
Every other Tuesday

Thoughts, observations, conjectures, complaints about movies and mostly how they relate to me personally. If you're looking for something a little broader, try Ebert.

Other Columns
Other columns by Tim Josephs:

So Long 2013, and MatchFlickers!

The Season for Peace, Presents, & Puncture Wounds

Women are Once Again Kicking Ass

Chewing the Scenery

The Greatest President We Never Had

All Columns

Tim Josephs
Born to write (literally much to the displeasure of his mother, he emerged with a pencil clutched in one tiny fist), Tim spends most of his days crafting epic monosyllabic poems, new comical titles to his favorite Beatles' songs (Hey, Dude), and angry letters to local businesses that have wronged him in some way. He's really an okay guy once you get to know him.

If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Tim Josephs by clicking here.

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