An exciting new documentary is set to hit theaters March 30. Produced by an award-winning director, Bully follows several bullied students in different states over an entire school year. It’s said to be brutally unrelenting in its portrayal of the real damage and pain caused by bullying, but it also offers hope and solutions, and encourages its audience to get involved.
However, because the Motion Picture Association of America – the organization responsible for giving ratings like G, PG, PG-13, and R to films – has given the film an R rating, Bully may not reach the middle and high school audiences whose lives it is meant to impact.
This is ironic, because the reason that the MPAA gave the restrictive rating to the film is for a few instances of profanity – that is uttered by real middle schoolers in the course of taunting a peer. According to the reviewer at Movable Feast, profanity “involves a handful of expletive-laced threats out of the mouths of pubescents that the film chillingly points out would be overheard on any school bus in America.” The rating means that minors under age 17 are not allowed to view the movie in theaters without a parent or adult present, and that schools will be unlikely to host showings, which the movie’s producers, the Weinstein Company, had hoped to arrange.
The Weinstein Company, filed an appeal with MPAA to ask the board to grant a PG-13 movie, and director Lee Hirsh and student Alex Libbey, one of the bullied students featured in the film, pled the film’s case in a hearing earlier this week. But the members of the MPAA review board, whose inconsistent and non-transparent judging process has been criticized in the past, rejected the appeal.
So what’s next? The director could re-edit the movie to try for a less restrictive rating, but he doesn’t want to dilute the impact of the real-life events he depicts. Meanwhile, a woman in Michigan who was bullied as a child has begun an online petition drive directed at the MPAA. “I’m speaking out for all those students who suffer every day at school,” she writes.
You can sign the petition here. We hope you’ll click on over and stand up to bullying!