UPDATE: On April 6, Bully received a PG-13 rating after the director agreed to remove some instances of profanity from the film. However, a key scene on a school bus, in which a student was subjected to intense bullying as not been altered.
When the hard-hitting, anti-school-cruelty documentary Bully opens in theaters this Friday, it will have no rating at all. That may keep it out of some theaters, which will only show movies that have been rated by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), but in those movies it does run in, children of any age may attend without a parent or guardian in attendance.
The movie’s director and producers also hope that the lack of rating will make the movie palatable to schools that want to hold community screenings of the film.
As we wrote last month, the MPAA originally gave the film an R rating, because of two utterances of “f-word” by real-life middle-school bullies. But the film’s director, Lee Hirsch, refused to bleep out the words because, he said, that wouldn’t be honest. “If we whitewash these experiences, we’re sort of back into that landscape of minimizing the experience of bullying, making it more palatable. That would be a great disappointment to me,” he told a radio interviewer.
Advance community screenings of the film are already creating buzz. After a screening in Florida, an 83-year-old man who says he still bears scars from childhood harassment donated $25,000 to fund more screenings in schools around the country. In another interview, Hirsch said he’d been inspired and moved by the number of students who say they’ve intervened to stop bullying after seeing the film. Stories like that are accumulating on the film’s Facebook page.
You can watch a trailer for the new film here:
Bullies aren’t the only ones whose behavior is scrutinized in the film. School staff also get a hard look. Lee told his interviewer that
Audiences are reacting to [a scene] between an assistant principal and a bullying target named Cole. After the administrator dismisses the boy accused of the bullying, she tells Cole that because he didn’t accept the boy’s apology, he’s being just like him.
“Except I don’t hurt people,” Cole says.
“By not shaking his hand, you’re just like him,” the assistant principal responds.
“Like someone who pushes you into a wall, threatens to break your arm?” Cole says. “Threatens to stab you and kill you? Shoot you with a gun?”
“He apologized,” the assistant principal says.