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Ovation: Working To Change The MPAA’s Rating Of “Bully”.


A few years back, I found myself writing a letter to the corporate office of our local movie theater chain because they refused admission to a seventeen-year-old that wanted to see a movie that was rated “R” with a group of his older friends.  I worked at a movie theater for many years, at one point in management, so I was certain that I understood the Motion Picture Association of America’s ratings scale and angry to learn that the young man had been turned away at the box office.  It turns out that, despite national advertising, local ordinances can be different from the MPAA’s recommendation.  Moviegoers in my area have to be eighteen years old before they can see an R-rated movie without a parent or guardian.

The whole point of the ratings system is to help parents determine what they think is appropriate material for their children to see or not to see.  But, the MPAA has given the new documentary Bully an “R-Restricted” rating, allegedly, because it contains profanity.  This has outraged anti-bullying advocates who insist that the rating should be “PG-13” so that more kids can see the film in schools and theaters without parents having to take them.  This, they believe, is the audience that NEEDS to learn the message that this movie brings to light.

Here’s the trailer for “Bully” …

Many people are fighting to get the rating changed including celebrities like Demi Lavato, Drew Brees and Ellen DeGeneres.  An online petition to change the rating, in addition to the national attention that has been brought to the decision, has prompted an unusual Washington, DC panel and screening later this week.  The “R” rating is said to be based on profane language, which appears primarily in a scene where a bully threatens a victim.

“There is some language in the movie.  It’s mature but it’s not gratuitous because it’s part of the real story of bullying and it’s real language that bullies are using — but having an R rating makes it difficult for anyone under 17 to see it.  After seeing it, I can tell you that 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 know already anyway.” – Ellen DeGeneres

Needless to say, the Parents Television Council applauded the MPAA’s rating which brings even more attention to the debate.  (I’ll never understand why they get more worked up about sex and language than they do over violence, drugs and killing.)

Regardless of the outcome, I certainly hope that pre-teens and other children get to see this movie and that it will influence their thinking when it comes to the problem of bullying.  Some of the young bullies causing problems in the world might not even know that they ARE bullies.  And this movie could be the thing that makes them understand the consequences of their actions.

Do you think the rating should be changed so more youngsters can see Bully?

UPDATE: 03/27/12 – “Bully” to be released unrated.  This means that, essentially, it will be treated as NC-17.  The Weinstein Company won its battle but, if you ask me, the kids still lose.

UPDATE: 04/06/12 – MPAA changes rating of “Bully” to PG-13.

Copyright © 2012

From → Ovations

  1. The movie is aimed at a certain audience.
    It features actors aimed at that audience.
    It features language often used by that audience.
    It can do that audience a world of good.


  2. How did the world get so upside down? It’s so ridiculous when rules get in the way of common sense. I hope they change the rating and they show it in every school every year from now on. It’s looks like a very powerful film.


  3. I hate how MPAA just completely ignores violence. Apparently killing people is better than having sex, which sends you to hell.


    • Same with television … The “procedurals” show some really violent murders followed by dismembered corpses without incident, but show two adult women kiss and all hell breaks loose.


  4. Teaching ninth graders, I completely agree with you that this movie is extremely valuable for younger teen audiences. Teens use bad language, and bullying is happening. The MPAA really needs to rethink this.


    • Nice to know that a teacher agrees with me. I really hope they change the rating or, at the least, edit the current version so that a PG-13 version is made available.


  5. Dan permalink

    Recognize the situation for what it is: A publicity gimmick. A good film maker does not need to use bad language to get the point across. Rather than editing the offending language from the film immediately, the producers are “blaming” and attempting to “bully” the MPAA to change the rating. It is just a way to generate free publicity and media coverage for the film which will result in more viewers (and more cash in their pockets) once the film is edited to remove the six offending words. On the other hand, the film maker could not have paid for this kind of publicity. This is just a shrewd business move.


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  2. Let’s Educate Our Children on Bullying – BULLY the Documentary « Letia Mitchell LifeStyle & Design®

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