DONKEY AND BULLYING: CAN ONE BECOME WHAT THEY ONCE HATED?
“Hee-haw, hee-haw”, although only a sound in the film, this verbal cue is the most impactful in the film Donkey. The film is one that remains open to interpretation, but what seemed to be the most consistent theme was the impact of bullying throughout the process of a lifetime. Bullying itself is so old and unoriginal, that if one wished to trace back its history it would be impossible. In fact, its commonness has led to many educational studies, documentaries, and forms of research being done on the topic. However, what many tend to dwell less on is the ultimate affect of not only being bullied, but being the bully. In other words, the victim of the bullying is often the focus of psychological studies, and the bully is not. Furthermore, how the bully becomes the perpetrator of bullying and what happens to the victim after being bullied is often forgotten. However, the film Donkey gives a short synopsis that seems to cover all of these grounds by going through the perpetrator’s (bully) life and circling back around to the victim’s (bullied) life. Ultimately, the film shows the process of a person becoming what he hates the most. The goal of this blog post is to explore the long term effect that bullying has on both the victim and the perpetrator by using research and the film Donkey to clarify various concepts.
Donkey made in the year 2011 shows a synopsis of the lives of two young men; starting in middle school and ending in what appears to be their late 20’s or early 30’s. The narrator begins the film by talking about himself being the taunter of a little boy around the school using the sound of a donkey, “hee-haw”. Some themes that are not shown in the film assume that the viewer has already made educated guesses. Perhaps that the main character who is bullying was maybe at one point bullied. In any case, this is certainly an idea that one cannot help, but to ponder as they watch the young boy taunt “hee-haw, hee-haw” and later watch him becoming what earlier he had taunted. In fact, the reality is that there is a percentage of youth that become bully’s after having been bullied previously. A 2008 study entitled, Bully Victims: Psychological and Somatic Aftermaths by Dr.’s Sansone and Sansone states that, “an additional three percent described themselves as both victims and bullies” (Sansone 2008). But what seems to be even more striking is that this film shows a reverse effect on the bully. For instance, instead of watching the progression of what caused him to become the bully, the film follows him through a stage of taunting, to him becoming what is was he once taunted, and finally to the point of him recognizing that he was what he once taunted. The later of which is revealed through the victim that he once bullied. Therefore, in a sense it appears that what is actually being seen is the bully coming to a point to where he recognizes that he is the bully. All of this, almost as if there was no sense of self-awareness and as if he did not even know he was being a bully.
While the majority of the film seems to focus on the bully himself and his life’s progress, it does not come to a close until we are introduced to the new and improved Stanley (who was the victim of bullying). In the beginning we know Stanley as the kid who was quiet, different and to himself. While we do not get the opportunity to see how he got through the rest of his childhood, teenage years, and early adulthood, we assume that he must have gone through some kind of therapeutic process that caused him to arrive at the victorious ending that the viewer gets to see. The viewer never sees Stanley fighting back, nor do they hear about Stanley crying, but what they do hear is that Stanley was eventually gone (although we are unsure how or where he went). One would imagine, however, that it was during this process that he went through whatever was necessary to make sure that his life did not reinvent the damage that he had gone through. Therefore the film arrives at the ending.
One might assume that the ending would be Stanley finally fighting back, but this is not the case. Instead, we watch as he is friendly to David (the main character) and even acts as though nothing ever happened. Then comes the moment of self-recognition for David. As his visit with Stanley ends, with a smile, Stanley calls out to David, “Hee-haw” as if to say, I remember, but I am not going to reciprocate. Yet, when one contrasts the film and reality, they might learn that this is not always the case. In fact, the long-lasting effects of bullying can lead to depression later into adulthood. An article from the Psychology & Psychotherapy: Theory, Research & Practice on Bullying, states that: “The nature of a patient’s personality vulnerability to depression may be better understood through a consideration of the patient’s relationships with their peers as well as with parents during adolescence”. (Kopala-Sibley, Zuroff, Leyman, Hope 2013). In other words, although it appears that Stanley ended up with a happy life, a well paid job, and a pretty wife, this is not necessarily the case. In fact, what appears to have happened in the film is that the David (the bully) experienced the effects of his own bullying versus Stanley actually having to experience them himself.
Ultimately, Donkey revealed bullying in a new light. The viewer was able to watch the effects of bullying, but instead of seeing its usual effects on the victim, it transferred them to the perpetrator. It is as though this film introduces a new strategy for dealing with bullying, by showing that really the bully and the bullied are the same: both human and capable of experiencing a life of happiness or unhappiness. Yet, the bully experiences what he had earlier perpetrated. Perhaps he saw the potential in Stanley. Thus, Donkey is the process of becoming what one hates the most.