Who’s Bullying Who?

UPDATE: 03/08/12 – Despite Michigan teen Katy Butler’s best efforts – presenting over 200,000 signatures to the MPAA to urge them to reconsider the R-rating for Bully. The national media has taken notice, and Butler even appeared on the Ellen Degeneres show. Still – the MPAA is not backing down. No word from The Weinstein Company as to what will happen next for the film.

One of the documentaries screened at this year’s SDFF, The Bully Project, addressed the growing problem of bullying.  The intent of filmmakers – after its festival run – was to take the film into middle schools and high schools throughout the U.S.  Earlier this week, the documentary Bully – as it is now called – was reviewed by the MPAA and rated R for language. The rating was a huge blow to the documentary, as the majority of school districts throughout the country do not show films rated R.  The Weinstein Company immediately filed an appeal and lost discovered on the February 23rd that they appeal was denied.

This to me is astonishing.  There are quite a few PG-13 movies that come to my mind that are far more questionable/disturbing than the language the MPAA deems as unacceptable:

  • Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom: Mola-Ram literally pulls a beating heart out of his victim
  • Poltergeist: A paranormal scientist rips his face off revealing veins, guts, blood, eyeball socket and skull
  • Titanic: a little bit of nudity anyone?

Still not convinced that I am on the right track here? Well, it seems I am not alone.  Rueters journalist Fred Schruers writes in more detail about how the PG-13 rating may have outlived its relevancy.

All of this, however, does nothing to help the creators of Bully with this huge setback.  The Weinstein Company announced that they may consider taking leave of the MPAA, a bold move to say the least.

The Weinstein Company is considering a leave of absence from the MPAA for the foreseeable future. We respect the MPAA and their process but feel this time it has just been a bridge too far.

In the end, Bully and its creators truly are the losers here. The intent was to help kids examine what they do and say to each other, and how these actions can be taken to far with fatal consequences.  The documentary is a powerful one, and should be required viewing for parents and middle-school/high school-aged children.

It makes no sense. Regardless of whether or not the Weinstein Company releases the film without a rating, the majority of theater chains won’t play it, and school districts will be reticent to show it given its history with the MPAA. So, who;s the bully now?

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