It is not without irony that I viewed this insightful film by and about children and teens addressing this problem while the oval office is currently occupied by a bully, whose bully pulpit is Twitter and television; reality media that expose his total lack of empathy.
"Dear Bully" works on many levels. First there is humor. A music video of "Big Bad Butch the Bully Johnson" is a cartoon depicting a hulking monster with an evil eye who is so bad "that when he looks in the mirror he scares himself."
Ace is a leader and he organizes other victims to figure out how to fight bullies. He encourages the others to give vent to their anger and their natural desire to hit them back harder. But Ace tells them that "violence begets violence" so they must find another way. Since Ace is a good student, he is bullied into revealing his test paper for the bullies to copy. His vengeance is sweet and satisfying (no spoiler from me!)
In his dreams, Ace becomes president of the US and is about to sign an anti-bullying bill, having grasped the concept that when it comes to bullies vs. victims "we have the numbers." I couldn't help but think of the post I wrote last week, Putting Citizenship Back into the Curriculum where Dr. David Liu spoke of the enormous surge of civic engagement as a reaction to our Bully-in-Chief. Xposure kids are manifestly in the spirit of the times.
The live action is interspersed with fully-rendered music videos that are at times poignant, at times joyously uninhibited, and always full of youthful energy. Ray Thomas's fingerprints are all over every part of this production so it has the personal integrity that connects with humanity at large. The film's anti-bullying law requires that victims write their bullies a letter, which bullies are required to read before they enter mandatory "empathy training for bullies." Here's a sample of the verse: