Cartoon Network is usually a place for kids to escape from the real world, letting them catch up with their favorite characters and fantastical adventures. But a new documentary airing this weekend takes on a tough issue many of them have to deal with every day — bullying.
Speak Up, premiering commercial-free at 5:30pm Sunday with an encore at 8pm, features several kids talking about their time being bullied and some who are still going through it. They list all the names they have heard — fat, stupid, ugly, dumb, etc. — and one little girl mentions how she would get in a bad mood come Sunday knowing that the torment of the school week was about to begin again. Heartbreaking stories to be sure, but ones that are vitally important to hear, especially as instances of bullying leading to victims’ suicides become more prevalent. One of the kids featured is Alye Pollack, a Connecticut eighth-grader whose heartfelt YouTube video “Words DO Hurt” has drawn hundreds of thousands of views, as well as inspired a popular Facebook page and Twitter feed.
President Obama lends his support to the effort with a special opening message to the half-hour film, following up the first-ever bullying prevention summit at the White House last year. Other celebrities who make appearances include tennis champ Venus Williams, former NBA star Chris Webber, USA soccer’s Hope Solo, pro BMX biker Matt Wilhelm, WNBA star Lisa Leslie, and NASCAR drivers Trevor Bayne, Jeff Burton and Joey Logano. Cartoon Network’s own CJ Manigo, Ali Sepasyar and Jackson Rogow of Dude, What Would Happen also contribute. Some of the stars even admit to having been a bully themselves, and share how they still feel guilty about it.
Speak Up is an extension of Cartoon Network’s renown initiative “Stop Bullying: Speak Up,” which is working to bring an end to bullying and continue to show how serious a problem it is and far from the rite of passage it’s often made out to be.