Documentary Bully battles MPAA over rating

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The MPAA has been behind some big head-scratchers over the years: slapping Blue Valentine with an NC-17 rating (initially), fighting Boys Don't Cry director Kimberly Peirce not over the violent murder scene but a tame sex scene, and now giving a documentary on bullying an R rating for strong language. Spoken by thirteen-year-olds. In real life.

Unsurprisingly, people aren't happy about this. Since Bully received its rating, both industry bigwigs and actual bullying victims have voiced their dissent. Harvey Weinstein, who produced the film, appealed to the board last week with one of the film's young stars, arguing that an R rating would prevent school kids from seeing the movie, thereby missing its message. When the MPAA handed down its R rating, Weinstein released this statement:

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 this time it has just been a bridge too far.

Now, nearly 125,000 people (at press time) have signed a petition by Katy Butler, a girl who was bullied in seventh grade, to get the MPAA to reverse its rating. Butler included a lengthy personal introduction with her petition, which includes:

I can't believe the MPAA is blocking millions of teenagers from seeing a movie that could change — and, in some cases, save — their lives. According to the film's website, over 13 million will be bullied this year alone. Think of how many of these kids would benefit from seeing this film, especially if it is shown in schools?

The MPAA insists that R-rated movies on important topics, like Schindler's List, still get screened at schools and that the rating is merely there to help parents make decisions on what their kids should watch. This logic leaves me unconvinced that anyone on the MPAA has met a parent. Because they tend to freak the fuck fudge out about R ratings. And schools? I still vividly remember my middle-school history teacher fast-forwarding and intermittently slapping a sheet of cardboard over the TV when we watched The Patriot, even after we had turned in permission slips. (But maybe she was just being considerate. Heath Ledger's raw sexuality in that movie has been known to cause  adolescent fainting spells.)

It's pretty sad that the MPAA is blocking kids from from seeing an anti-bullying movie. But hopefully other studios will take a cue from the Weinstein Company and stop paying them any heed until they lose relevance altogether. 'Cause, much like Britta, they're a GDB.