Critics everywhere have hailed Bully as an important, engaging documentary. EW’s Owen Gleiberman calls it “sensitive and eye-opening”; the film has also earned a near-perfect 93 percent “Fresh” rating from the reviews aggregated by Rotten Tomatoes. But in an article posted late last week, Slate‘s Emily Bazelon alleged that some crucial parts of Bully are “utterly one-sided” and “factually questionable.” Her piece focused on Tyler Long, one of the doc’s featured subjects; when he was just 17, Long took his own life, apparently because he was bullied by his classmates.
But according to Bazelon, that isn’t the whole story. She wrote that Tyler also suffered from ADHD, bipolar disorder, and Asperger’s syndrome; additionally, his girlfriend broke up with him a few weeks before his suicide. It seems likely that these factors contributed to Tyler’s decision to commit suicide, Bazelon wrote. She asserted that by not mentioning them — and by possibly exaggerating the treatment Tyler received in school — director Lee Hirsch and producer Cynthia Lowen oversimplified and distorted the facts to create a smoother narrative.
Lowen responded to the allegations with an exclusive statement to EW:
When presented with Lowen’s statement, Slate deputy editor Julia Turner responded with one of her own:
Bully is currently showing in five theaters in New York and Los Angeles; TWC plans to expand that number to up to 150 theaters in the next few weeks.