Attending school is one of the most important portions of our lives. Not just because it is here you’ll learn about all manner of subjects, but because it can really shape the kind of person you’ll be. It’s over a decade and a half of navigating a minefield of friendships, acquaintances, bullies, and your own changes in a place where one wrong step can turn you from popular to loner, or vice versa. It’s this journey that the protagonist of Bully, aka Canis Canem Edit, Jimmy Hopkins takes and it affects many people’s lives.
Let’s start with Jimmy’s mother and step-father who, though only briefly appearing in the game, are presented as selfish people dumping Jimmy at Bullworth. We’re told by Jimmy that they’re leaving him here while they go on a year-long cruise, and when put that way they do seem to be inconsiderate.
However, why have they taken the drastic action in the first place? It’s likely because Jimmy is a huge troublemaker that has been expelled from every school he has ever been in, and that would take a huge mental toll on his mother. For all we know she may be on the verge of a mental breakdown and needs to be away from her son, who is her main source of anguish, so she can have time to recover. His step-father may have made the decision to place him at Bullworth because he loves his wife and wants her to get better, while his step-son has another chance at education.
Of course Jimmy’s actions don’t just cause some anguish on his parents, but on his classmates and his headteacher. The first character Jimmy befriends is a kid called Gary, who later betrays Jimmy in an effort to gain power. Betrayal is generally a despicable act so why does he do it? It’s because he sees Jimmy as a threat to his own school plan and stability of the groups.
Gary has been working the groups for a long time, manoeuvring them so he can gain control. At first he sees Jimmy as someone who can help him reach the top, but when Jimmy proves unpredictable he has to abandon this plan otherwise his own standing would suffer. In a way he is self centred but that’s one way people learn to cope with the pressures of society.
Jimmy’s other friend in the game is Petey, the complete opposite of Jimmy. He’s incredibly shy around others and has very little confidence, which makes the friendship between the two quite odd at first. However, Petey has made the move to be Jimmy’s friend early as his own tactical play.
Here he is in a school where the rest of the student body pretty much shun him, so when Jimmy turns up, Petey doesn’t just see a new kid but a powerful new player in the playground. Allying himself with Jimmy early on offers two things, companionship and protection, of which he needs both. It can be argued that he is the smartest person here because he knows how to twist the fates of the other groups even as they shun him.
Then you have Doctor Crabblesnitch, the school’s principal, who tries to ignore all the corruption and ill doings of both students and staff. Though he can appear to be a bit clueless and failing to take action, Crabblesnitch has his own reasons. To all intents and purposes, he is Bullworth Academy and if the various corruptions start leaking out, Bullworth looks bad, which makes him look bad. This could potentially lose him his job, so he tries to pretend everything is fine, rather than address the flaws within the school. Yet his inaction is eventually taken for weakness by his staff, forcing his hand when they step out of line.
This brings us to who is potentially the most tragic character of Bully, and that’s Zoe. She’s a former student who was expelled from Bullworth for accusations against the gym teacher who was making sexual advances towards her. It’s an incredibly dark tale that isn’t explored in depth within the game, though the teacher does eventually lose his job and gets arrested.
Here we have a girl who found herself in a terrible situation where she was failed by the adults with a duty of care towards her. It was only when Jimmy was willing to believe her and help her that Zoe was able to get justice and return to school. Imagine if Jimmy hadn’t turned up to help Zoe, she’d have to deal with a huge emotionally draining life event with no one there, which would potentially lead to a very dark path for her.
Short term she wouldn’t have been able to get back into Bullworth, leading to a lack of educational credentials and limited future options in her life, but that’s just academia. The emotional impact would likely have been far greater with a mistrust of authority figures and increasing hostility towards a world that abandoned her. Who knows where that would have led.
Jimmy’s impact on Bullworth Academy is literally life changing for a whole host of secondary characters, whether it’s his family, a power hungry antagonist, an unlikely friendship and a girl who nobody believed was the victim of a horrible crime, given a second chance through Jimmy’s actions.
He may have been a bully, but Jimmy managed to be a hero to quite a few people, giving the ultimate lesson that help can come from anywhere and that people can change.