Unable to persuade the MPAA to give a PG-13 rating to “Bully,” the documentary about the tragic consequences of verbal and physical abuse, the producers have decided to released it “unrated.”
“The small amount of language in the film that’s responsible for the R rating is there because it’s real,” said director Lee Hirsch. “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.”
Nearly half a million people signed a petition from Katy Butler, Michigan high school student and former bullying victim, on Change.org to urge the MPAA to lower the rating. “The kids and families in this film are true heroes, and we believe theater owners everywhere will step up and do what’s right for the benefit of all of the children out there who have been bullied or may have otherwise become bullies themselves,” said TWC president of marketing Stephen Bruno. “We’re working to do everything we can to make this film available to as many parents, teachers and students across the country.”
The MPAA refused the appeal by one vote and refused to reconsider despite the support of Representative Mike Honda and David Boies and Ted Olson, the high-power lawyers who opposed each other in Bush v. Gore and were on the same side in the successful challenge to California’s Proposition 8.
The MPAA, which routinely gives PG-13 ratings to movies with the “f-word” and with very crude and explicit sexual material insist on an R-rating for this film because it includes strong language actually used by teenagers. Parents and high school and middle schoolers (who know these words) are exactly the audience who should see this film and discuss their own experiences. Stay tuned for an interview with director Lee Hirsch coming later this week.