“Bully” Documentary Will Be Released In Theaters Unrated [UPDATE!]
For the past few weeks there has been a battle brewing between the Weinstein Company and MPAA over the rating for the documentary "Bully", with the MPAA refusing to back down from its "R" rating due to "brief use of explicit language." Now, the Weinstein Company has come up with a way around the rating.
It was announced earlier today that "Bully" will be released in theaters on March 30th without a rating. While the MPAA complained about the explicit language and demanded its removal, critics of the decision said that doing so would not remove its use from regular school children, such as the ones the film portrays. The film's director Lee Hirsch is happy about the "unrated" nature of the film, saying that they will be able to show the true nature of bullying without interference from the MPAA,
"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."
One of the biggest supporters of "Bully" receiving a lower rating was a Michigan high school student Kathy Butler, who has been a victim of bullying. Butler, after hearing of the MPAA's stance on the film, put together an online petition that collected almost half a million signatures, including celebrities like Johnny Depp, Ellen DeGeneres, and Demi Lovato.
"The MPAA might not recognize the reality that thousands of bullied kids face each day in school, but nearly 500,000 people around the country, from celebrities to politicians to bullied kids themselves, stepped up to speak out about bullying by signing my petition.
The brief use of explicit language in this film reflects what so many kids hear each day in school when they're being bullied. The MPAA said they wouldn't drop the ‘R' rating unless this language was removed, but nothing can remove it from the halls and playgrounds of schools where bullied students hear it each day, except education and exposure."
As the MPAA's focus for its rating was the language used by the kids and not the violence, is this a reflection of our values as a society? Are we ok with seeing violence, but foul language is crossing the line? Also, should the film makers have abided by the MPAA's wishes, or were they right in the decision they made?
UPDATE: The conservative watchdog group the Parents Television Council (The PTC) is now asking theaters nationwide to not show "Bully" because of its unrated nature, regardless of its message. In a statement made earlier today, PTC President Tim Winter said that to show this movie would threaten the viability of the MPAA's rating system,
"This move, regardless of intentions, sets a precedent that threatens to derail the entire ratings system. If a distribution company can simply decide to operate outside of the ratings system in a case like Bully, nothing would prevent future filmmakers from doing precisely the same thing, with potentially much more problematic material.
Either ratings mean something, or they don't. The MPAA's job is not to make subjective judgments about the merit of a film of the importance of the film's message. The MPAA's sole task is to take an objective measure of the adult content in a film, and apply the appropriate rating."