One of the more interesting stories to come out in the past couple weeks has been the rating ordeal surrounding “Bully,” a documentary about bullying. The Motion Picture Association of America stamped the Weinstein Company film with an R rating, which basically prevents part of the film’s target audience — teenagers — from seeing it. Harvey Weinstein is fighting to change the rating, but hasn’t had much luck so far.
Either last week or earlier this week, a high school student from Michigan posted a petition on Change.org. The goal of the petition is to get the rating changed; and even though a petition isn’t likely to change the MPAA’s mind, it will most definitely bring attention to this story.
Now, I’ve not seen the movie, but the reason the film is rated R is because of language. Not violence, not sex, but language. Language every high schooler in the history of high school has heard, and likely used. And for that simple fact, this movie should be rated PG-13 to allow teenagers to see it. Not because it’s OK to use harsh language toward one another, but because the subject of this movie can make an impact on how bullying is looked at and dealt with.
Because I haven’t seen the movie, I’m hesitant to say it’s acceptable to be viewed in schools. Perhaps with parents’ permission. But it’s something to definitely consider, especially with the atmosphere and attention surrounding bullying in the past several years.
The MPAA responded to Weinstein’s very vocal opinions on the R rating, and said:
Bullying is a serious issue and is a subject that parents should discuss with their children. The MPAA agrees with the Weinstein Company that Bully can serve as a vehicle for such important discussions. Unfortunately, there is a misconception about the R rating of this film limiting the audience to adults. This is not true. In fact, many other R-rated movies on important topics, such as Schindler’s List, have been screened in schools and viewed by children accompanied by their parents.
There is no misconception, though. Some parents won’t let their kids see R-rated movies. And even though a lot of theaters don’t actually enforce the ratings guidelines (example, I’ve seen teenagers get into “Saw” films with no problem), the schools will. The instances where a school shows certain R movies, like a historical movie like “Schindler’s List,” are very special cases. Students have to let their parents know, and sometimes get signed permission.
But that’s for history class. “Bully” doesn’t fit in that category, so when and where would it be shown? And are school officials even comfortable and brave enough to try to show such a movie, considering the touchy subject matter?
There aren’t any easy answers, but the MPAA can help make the movie more accessible if they changed their R stamp to PG-13.
Below is the trailer for “Bully.”