Analysis / The Bully

  • It should be noted that a lot of social stereotypes that are not necessarily true in Real Life are commonly associated with fictional bullies: the bully, as a stock evildoer, is typically a Dirty Coward in the face of real danger, always dumb, and comes from an unhappy and problem-ridden family background. (Real life will tell you that, in many cases, the opposite of these is true.) Also, in real life, school bullying is not a Rite of Passage. Lastly, while many movies and television shows portray bullies as being enormous in size and physical strength (probably so that we feel more sympathy for their victims), bullies in real life come in all shapes and sizes. So the giant football player who sits to your left in homeroom probably isn't much more likely to be a bully than the scrawny kid that sits to your right.
    • Indeed, popular media will tell you that most bullies are just jealous or suffer from low self-esteem; it's often the opposite, too high self-esteem. Many bullies in real life think they're king of the school, reveling in their power and popularity.

  • Often, bullies in movies will do things like steal lunch money even though that is rare in Real Life — outright mugging a kid is a step too far for most places. This is because "stealing lunch money" (and other similar crimes), from a writing standpoint, is perfect.
    • A: It's fast. A two and a half seconds of screentime for a kid to say "Gimme your lunch money or else" and bang, we instantly know a ton about this character. He's mean, rough, not afraid to be violent to get what he wants, and has questionable morals. Plus, there's the two simple words: "lunch money". It's money for lunch. Even if it's not how their school works, pretty much all kids understand that you can exchange money for food, and without it, this kid doesn't eat today.
    • B: From a filming standpoint, it's extremely practical. Let's say your bully steals a Nerd's lunch instead. A tray is actually kind of an awkward instrument. What if. during the shot, the bullied kid drops the tray on accident? Or if when he's stealing the tray, the bully drops it on accident? If we used real food, there's a risk of ruining the prop, and either way, between each shot, the crew would have to clean up and rearrange. Say the actors need to do twenty takes of this shot: the kid might get tired from holding the tray, or he'll start slouching instead of standing upright... lots of things could go wrong. Money, on the other hand? Perfect. No one's going to get tired from holding a couple of bills, the handoff is simple, you drop 'em who cares, pick it up and let's run it again.
    • C: It's non-violent, while still being thuggish. Mostly ties back into the first point, but it shows the bully is a thug-type, while not necessitating any actual violence, which some Networks would probably prefer to not display. It's an elegant solution to building a character for children's entertainment.

  • Strangely, many depictions of slacker bullies will show them as being actively involved in their school's extracurricular activities — they'll play sports, attend dances (and usually cause trouble at them), act in the school play, etc. Even though logic would suggest that, if they hate going to school and doing schoolwork, they also would want nothing to do with school activities.