Documentary ‘Bully' heads into theaters unrated
A version of this column appears in Friday’s Weekend Look section of The Oklahoman.
Documentary ‘Bully’ heads into theaters unrated
BAM column: The Weinstein Company is standing up to the MPAA and rejecting the MPAA’s controversial R rating for the advocacy film.
The Weinstein Company is standing up to the Motion Picture Association of America when it comes to its “Bully.”
The studio announced this week that it will release its powerful new documentary unrated rather than accept the MPAA’s controversial R rating for “Bully.”
“Bully,” which will open in New York and Los Angeles theaters Friday, has been at the center of a media firestorm since the MPAA rated it R, limiting it to mature audiences because of strong language. The Weinstein Company argued persuasively that the movie warranted the more lenient PG-13 rating, since every curse word in the film is uttered by an adolescent bully caught in the act of bullying.
“After a recent plea to the MPAA by ‘Bully’ teen Alex Libby and The Weinstein Company Co-Chairman Harvey Weinstein failed — by one vote — to get the film its deserved PG-13 rating, TWC is choosing to move forward with releasing the film unrated by the MPAA,” the company said in Monday’s announcement.
“Furthering proof that the R rating for some language is inappropriate for a film that’s meant to educate and help parents, teachers, school officials and children with what’s become an epidemic in schools around the country, the fight against the rating continues on. The outpour of support by politicians, schools, parents, celebrities and activists for the film’s mission to be seen by those it was made for — children — has been overwhelming.”
More than 475,000 people have signed Michigan high school student and former bullying victim Katy Butler’s petition on Change.org to urge the MPAA to lower the rating. The petition has been backed by TV personality Ellen DeGeneres and New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, and actors Johnny Depp and Meryl Streep also have joined the battle to grant the documentary a PG-13.
Alex Libby, one of the adolescents whose experiences with bullying are chronicled in the film, is on the receiving end of most of the swear words hatefully uttered in the documentary. After seeing the film, I was moved to throw my support behind him and the ratings protest: After all, the harrowing advocacy film was rated R because it unflinchingly shows bullies doing what they do: using profane and cruel language to intimidate their victims.
As I said in my previous column on this topic, the MPAA doesn’t need to shield children from this kind of language; those who have been victimized by or witnessed bullies in action have undoubtedly heard it firsthand. Protecting kids from seeing a film that’s working hard to protect them from the actual acts portrayed in the film seems wrongheaded.
“The small amount of language in the film that’s responsible for the R rating is there because it’s real. It’s what the children who are victims of bullying face on most days. All of our supporters see that, and we’re grateful for the support we’ve received across the board. I know the kids will come, so it’s up to the theaters to let them in,” said “Bully” director Lee Hirsch in Monday’s announcement.
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