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The town bully is a stock character, especially in Westerns. The town bully generally oppresses meeker residents of the town. This character is often featured in movies, sometimes as a greaser or a gangster. In 1980s films, he may be an ill-tempered preppy, and the ringleader of a group of lesser bullies.
The town bully usually achieves and maintains his power in large part because of the smallness of the town where he resides, and because of the collective apathy or timidity of the rest of the town residents. Often, the moral of movies featuring a town bully is that if the rest of the town bands together, they can rid themselves of the town bully. Examples of town bullies include Biff Tannen from the Back to the Future series, Nelson Muntz in The Simpsons television series, and Clarisse La Rue in the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series.
A real-life example later depicted in movies is the case of Ken McElroy, of Skidmore, Missouri. McElroy was known as the town bully and was murdered in 1981 in broad daylight in front of a crowd of people. The story was covered internationally and it remains an unsolved murder. The story was covered by U.S. television show 60 Minutes in 1982., described in a 1988 book, In Broad Daylight that became a made-for-TV movie titled In Broad Daylight in 1991. A 2004 film by Ralph Server, Without Mercy, won the Grand Jury Prize for Best Picture at the New York International Independent Film & Video Festival in 2004. The film portrays the last six days of McElroy's life.
- Bradley, Donald. "3 decades on, who killed Skidmore town bully still secret". Mcclatchydc.com. Retrieved 2010-09-01.
- "Ken McElroy Murderer, rapist and consummate intimidator — Murder in Broad Daylight". Trutv.com. Retrieved 2010-09-02.
- "You Get What You Pay For, by Larry Beinhart (Ballantine... - Chicago Tribune". Articles.chicagotribune.com. 1990-02-18. Retrieved 2012-04-20.
- "Without Mercy (2005)". Imdb.com. Retrieved 2014-06-14.