A new documentary shedding light on the different facets of America's bully crisis is set to be released in select theaters on the 30th of March 2012. The Weinstein Company (TWC) film "Bully" has unfortunately been given an R rating by the Motion Pictures Association of America (MPAA) for "some language," preventing many of its target audience from seeing it. Katy Butler, a 17 year-old high school student from Michigan, is currently spearheading the appeal for the MPAA to change the movie rating to PG-13, allowing the film to be shown in classrooms and to young teens. On the 28th of February The Weinstein Company lost their appeal to change the movie rating but they continue to pressure the MPAA to reconsider, gaining the support of Ellen DeGeneres who spoke about the documentary on her talk show this Wednesday.
With the help of an organization called change.org Butler was able to deliver a petition with more than 200,000 signatures to the MPAA office in Sherman Okas, California urging them to change their R rating of the film to PG-13. An R rating prohibits teenagers under the age of 17 from seeing the film without a parent or legal guardian. "How many 13-year-old kids want to see a movie with their mom and dad?" said Butler in an interview with CBS. "I think the language is part of the message. I mean, the language that’s in this movie is the language that kids hear every day in school.”
Joan Graves, the Chairman of MPAA's Classification and Rating Administration, released the following statement in response to Butler's petition:
"Katy Butler's efforts in bringing the issue of bullying to the forefront of a national discussion in the context of this new film are commendable and we welcome the feedback about this movie's rating. The MPAA shares Katy's goals of shining a light on the problem of bullying and we hope that her efforts will fuel more discussion among educators, parents, and children.The Weinstein Company is now left with three options before the fast-approaching release date. They can choose to release the documentary with an R rating, edit or mute the profanity in the film to obtain the PG-13 rating, or release the film without a MPAA rating, which may result in some theaters treating "Bully" as an NC-17 rated film thus barring adolescents under the age of 18 from seeing it regardless of the presence of a parent or guardian.
The voluntary ratings system enables parents to make an informed decision about what content they allow their children to see in movies. The R rating and description of 'some language' for Bully does not mean that children cannot see the film. As with any movie, parents will decide if they want their children to see Bully. School districts, similarly, handle the determination of showing movies on a case-by-case basis and have their own guidelines for parental approval.
The R rating is not a judgment on the value of any movie. The rating simply conveys to parents that a film has elements strong enough to require careful consideration before allowing their children to view it. Once advised, many parents may take their kids to see an R-rated film."
The film's director, Lee Hirsch, made his stance on editing the film very clear, "To cut around [the profanity] or bleep it out, it really absolutely does lessen the impact and takes away from what the honest moment was, and what a terrifying feeling it can be [to be bullied]." Similarly, TWC believes an R rating would reduce the film's influence on teens. TWC's Chief Operating Officer, David Glasser, told Entertainment Weekly, "If your parents take you or make you go [to the movie], it's like forcing a child to take medicine - but if a kid has the ability where he can go on his own, it becomes a movement. That's one of the reasons why we need this rating changed."
Having received so much media attention, Ellen DeGeneres spoke out in favor of the MPAA reducing the R rating on "Bully" to PG-13 stating, "the lessons that the kids learn from this movie are more important than any words that they might hear. And they're words that they already know anyway."
Ellen, myself, and so many others have already signed the petition on change.org and through the Human Rights Campaign. Sign both petitions to have the rating changed today!
Change.org: MPAA: Don’t let the bullies win! Give ‘Bully’ a PG-13 instead of an R rating!
Human Rights Campaign: Tell the MPAA: Kids need to see this film
Photo credit: Lee Hirsch