(this is part 2 of a week-long series about the movie “Bully,” which opens this Friday nationwide. Part 1 is here.)
IT FEELS LIKE EVERYBODY JUST TURNED AGAINST ME
In Yazoo, Mississippi, you’ll meet Ja’Meya Jackson, age 14. Ja’Meya’s story is unique among the five young people in “Bully“; she lashes out at her bullies in a dangerous way with negative repercussions.
Her actions surprise everyone. She is a quiet, unassuming teenage girl who, for reasons not readily apparent to me, became the target of condemnation and ridicule of everyone on the bus. Ja’Meya says:
“It feels like everybody just turned against me. Nine or ten of ’em just calling me stupid, and dumb, and they started throwing things at me. One of the guys said what he was going to do to me, and everybody would laugh, and I tell him to be quiet, and he kept talking, and that’s when I got up.”
Unfortunately for Ja’Meya, her school bus had a camera that recorded her actions and what she did was far more visual than the verbal harrassment she suffered. Ja’Meya took her mother’s handgun and brought it on the bus with her. When she finally had enough, she stood and brandished it in front of everyone. All of this is caught on camera.
CUE THE CLUELESS ADULT
A local law enforcement official says:
“At the point she takes out the gun, that’s 22 counts of kidnapping. She has 22 counts of attempted aggravated assault. She’s got 45 total felony charges facing her. And for me, there’s nothing, no amount of bullying, or teasing, or picking on, or whatever, there’s nothing, unless someone was actually whipping on this girl every day, unless someone was hitting this young lady in the head and being physically brutal to her, there’s NOTHING to me that justifies her taking her gun on that bus, I don’t care what it is. … Even though things came out as best they possibly could have, if you added up all the years that she could get it, it would be hundreds of years.”
A thought that crossed my mind as I watched the Mississippi sheriff was, “If Ja’Meya had been ‘Jane,’ a pretty blond white girl driven the same action, would she have been arrested and incarcerated?” Perhaps. For waving a pistol around on a school bus, Jane might have been. And maybe it’s irresponsible of me to inject race into an issue where it’s not readily apparent it belongs. But the thought crossed my mind and it’s my blog.
You hear the other kids on the bus screaming as Ja’Meya brandishes her weapon as you hear the insensitivity of the sheriff; the disconnection between the problem and the awareness of the problem couldn’t be clearer. When Ja’Meya gets off the bus, the authorities are waiting for her. They handcuff her and put her in the car.
Ja’Meya’s family has a prayer meeting and we see the extension of the suffering – the cause and effect – of bullying. As Ja’Meya awaits her hearing before the judge, her relatives agonize that they didn’t do something sooner to help her. “Ja’Meya don’t mess with anybody,” a woman says. “It’s going on in our schools, it’s happening to our kids, and it’s a problem that needs to be stopped. And end needs to be put to it now. Children hurt themselves and hurt one another all the time because of bullying. ‘Cause parents don’t talk to their children about not bullying, teachers don’t do nothing about kids bullying, the board don’t do nothing, the principal don’t do nothing, nothing is done.”
At Ja’Meya’s hearing, the charges against her are dropped. The judge orders her to be hospitalized, but leaves it to the discretion of the doctors about sending her home. “You wasn’t thinking, you made a big mistake,” Ja’Meya’s mom tells her. She starts crying; she wants to go home now. But you know what a huge bullet she’s dodged. This could just as easily have gone the other way. Another judge, along the lines of the sheriff, could have given her a juvenile record.
In one of the most heartwarming scenes of the otherwise bleak film Ja’Meya comes home from the hospital. “It’s so pretty here!” she says to her mom, over and over.
Watch the trailer for “Bully” here. Parts 3 through 5 will be posted tomorrow, Thursday and Friday. “”Bully” opens this Friday in theaters nationwide.