Violation of Youth: Transcendence Through Destruction


      Director: Larry Clark

      Screenplay: Harmony Korine , Larry Clark, Leo Fitzpatrick , Jim Lewis 

      With Leo Fitzpatrick, Justin Pierce and Chloë Sevigny 



      Director: Larry Clark

      Screenplay: Zachary Long, Roger Pullis 

      With Brad Renfro, Rachel Miner, Nick Stahl and Bijou Phillips 


Violation of Youth: Transcendence Through Destruction in  Kids and  Bully review by Latif Zaman



Larry Clark's Kids follows vacuous NYC teenagers Telly and Casper on a normal day, leisurely searching for drugs and sex. The stark, simple title, the day in the life structure, and realistic dialog of Kids gave it a documentary-like feel, many heralding it as an indictment of the kids of America. Clark's film  Bully unfolds its tale of suburban teenage debauchery around the true-life murder of the sadistic bully Bobby Kent by a group six teenagers, including his best friend Marty Puccio. The extreme nature of the crime, and the victim, helps particularize these characters more than those in Kids, but also elucidates Clark's perspective, namely his fascination with a certain kind of predatory instinct. In Kids and Bully the search for drugs and sex often come off as mere rote, fueled more by intertia than vigor or passion. The most dynamic character in Kids is Telly, the "virgin surgeon", whose life is defined by the pursuit of his next virgin conquest. Bully portrays Bobby Kent as the only one among of his friends possessing any significant intelligence or ambition. However, a genuine pleasure in sadism centers his life. He repeatedly embraces Marty, his most fragrant victim, assuring him, "you're my best friend." Bobby needs his victims, whom he rapes, beats, and psychologically tortures, to escape the lethargy seeped ennui of their lives. The only powerful motivation Clark offers his protagonists in either film is the desire to conquer and violate.


Clark's films generally follow a male perspective, females existing mainly as foils for the males. In fact most of the major female characters in both Kids and Bully are raped. In Kids, Casper, to emulate the sexual mastery of Telly, rapes the peacefully sleeping Jenny, in a long, explicitly jarring scene. The defilement of Casper primarily intrigues Clark, however, the camera focusing on Casper's bewildered face the next morning as he asks "what happened?" Amidst all his drugs and debauchery, only the malicious violence of rape exiles Casper from innocence, from childhood. Looking back, Telly's pursuit of virgins can be seen as a subliminal compulsion to destroy innocence that is made even more profound by the fact that he is HIV positive.


Planning the murder of Bobby Kent consumes the lives of the teenagers in Bully, all of them playing an integral part in the proceedings, and carrying it out in an almost ritualistic fashion. Just before the murder the kids even dance and rhythmically chant "we're going to kill him," and "dead." All these youths live within the extended womb of their parents homes and financial support. They do not have the intelligence to escape to college or the drive to escape financially. Thus they are trapped in a perpetual adolescence. In one scene playing a video game, two of the teenagers perform a move called an "infantality" One explains "Its worse than death, because you keep living, but you're a fucking baby." Their hyper-sexualized and drug-filled world inundates them with so much stimulus that it no longer affects them. The first sexual experience, a first smoke or drink, become merely a blur instead of the traditional "coming of age" experience. Murder becomes the plateau of adulthood in Bully. The teenagers follow Bobby's example and find the first stimulus in their uneventful and rather pathetic lives, in the urge to destroy him. Lust and rage, in and of themselves may be natural human emotions, but sadistic lust to harm transcends human law. Larry Clark doesn't just degrade his protagonists, he makes them strive for degradation, and ultimately dehumanization through acts murder and rape. Clark's films obsessively follow teenagers, and the only growth, the only escape from adolescence, he allows them in his microcosm are the basest of transgressions. Clark doesn't concern himself with the consequences or victims of his protagonists actions, solely on the inclination to perpetrate them.