So-Called ‘Bully’ Rating Controversy Comes to an End with a New Fangled PG-13 Rating

Bully is rated PG-13I guess I am the only one that looks at the entire rating “controversy” surrounding the new documentary Bully as nothing more than trumped up marketing junk. When the film initially received an R rating for six uses of the ‘F word’ the Weinstein Co. immediately appealed the rating only to see the R-rating upheld. The studio then went on a several month marketing blitz, gaining attention for the film every step of the way, discussing how it couldn’t be seen in schools with an R-rating, how they refused to cut the offending word and how this is a tragic failure on the part of the MPAA.

Now before I continue, let’s get one thing straight, I do not support the MPAA giving this film an R-rating. The idea was ridiculous. Then again, the MPAA has never been something we’ve looked at as a source of level-headed thinking when it comes to film ratings. Sex is always looked at harsher than violence, the language debate continues and even scenes where characters are seen smoking are used to judge a film’s rating. Yet, each and every film bows to the organization in an attempt to secure what is now the almighty PG-13 rating and look here, Weinstein has done it.

The documentary was released on a limited basis in New York and Los Angeles this past week with all the rating controversy and buzz behind it and now, before it expands to 55 more markets on April 13, it has been granted a PG-13 and only a few ‘F words’ had to be edited out. Glory, glory!

The press release that just went out says the following:

The scene that has been at the forefront of the battle with the MPAA, the intense scene in the film that shows teen Alex Libby being bullied and harassed on a bus, has been left fully intact and unedited. Bully director Lee Hirsch felt editing the scene was not an option, and subsequently refused to do so, since it is too important to the truth and integrity behind the film. Also a victory is the exception the MPAA made by allowing the film to be released with the new rating before 90 days, which is the length of time their policy states a film must wait to be in theaters after a rating change to avoid confusion or inconvenience for moviegoers.

Amazing timing don’tcha think?!?!?

However, some concessions were made as “three uses of the ‘F word’ were removed from other scenes, which ultimately persuaded the MPAA to lower the rating.”

Things get quite chummy after that with Weinstein Co-Chairman Harvey Weinstein saying, “Senator [and MPAA Chairman Chris Dodd] is a hero for championing this cause, and the MPAA showed great courage by not cutting the scene everyone has been fighting to keep… Senator Dodd’s support gives voice to the millions of children who suffer from bullying, and on behalf of TWC, the filmmakers, the families in the film and the millions of children and parents who will now see this film, I thank him for recognizing that this very real issue cannot afford to go unnoticed.”

I just have to ask one thing before we go on… Do schools use permission forms any longer? For example, can a teacher hand a student a permission slip they can take home to their parents to sign, allowing them to see Bully in its previous R-rated form? Could this permission slip potentially include language that explains the purpose for showing the film and the reason it has an R-rating?

Or, would that entail getting parents involved, which is clearly never going to happen so we have to make sure our films are cut to a specific format so as to be deemed “okay” for kids to watch? I’m just asking…

What’s even better was the late-February threat that the Weinstein Co. would take a leave of absence from the MPAA. I guess that didn’t exactly happen, especially considering this press release I received just yesterday:

Hot off the ratings dispute between the MPAA and The Weinstein Company, Dimension Films’ Piranha 3DD makes a splash with an R Rating that warrants no argument…

Piranha 3DD accepts a well deserved Rated R for sequences of strong bloody horror violence and gore, graphic nudity, sexual content, language and some drug use.”

…and that’s just the beginning.

Uhhhh, what about that leave of absence?

Now we would never assume that press release was sent out to inspire people to write about the rating and how great it will be to see blood-soaked boobs in Piranha 3DD. Nope. That was just sent out to inform journalists and bloggers such as myself that the MPAA got this one right. After all, we don’t want Piranha 3DD shown in schools anyway.

As important as the subject matter of Bully is, I can’t look at this so-called “controversy” and not see it for what it is (and now was). It was nothing more than an attempt to drum up publicity and it has been tackled masterfully and covered every step of the way. People were angered at the fact the MPAA wouldn’t make an exception as they have in the past for other films and it got them talking, Tweeting and writing about Bully. But now all the wrongs have been righted. Bully can be shown in schools to children aged 13 and older, which is great, but if you’re going to tell me Hirsch couldn’t have made those cuts earlier, been just as satisfied and foregone all of this “controversy”, you’re going to have a lot of convincing to do.

I absolutely refuse to accept what appears to be nothing more than a marketing effort and pat anyone on the back for making it seem as if that wasn’t what was going on here. Pats all around for the film you made and the attention you’re bringing to schoolyard bullying, but let’s not pretend there weren’t other motivations at work here and it bothers me even more to think the rating system was used in such a way to market a film, even if it was based on getting word out on a problem in society.

I’m glad the National Education Association and the Cincinnati School District can now see Bully. I hope it helps. I hope the support the Weinstein Co. and Bully director Lee Hirsch are showing for the Safe Schools Improvement Act makes a difference, but I hope it doesn’t take a trumped up movie rating controversy to get the ball rolling. Perhaps we can find people and parents that actually care, but who am I kidding?

If you’re interested in my thoughts on the film itself, you can read my review right here. I’ve included the trailer below.

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