Bully Documentary Given R Rating, Can’t Be Used To Educate High Schoolers

It’s one thing to get an R rating for some gratuitous shots of Fassbender’s shapely rump and sizable dong. It’s another thing to get an R rating when your a crucial part of your intended audience is high schoolers.

So that’s why it’s a damned shame that Bully has gotten an R rating instead of PG-13, limiting its ability to be shown in schools nationwide. The harrowing Weinstein Company-produced documentary details the dangers of bullying and its tragic playmate, teen suicide. Bully features intimate interviews with parents of children who have taken their lives, as well as with children who are experiencing bullying at school themselves.

Apparently the MPAA gave the film an R rating because of strong language used by children in the film.

Weinstein said in a statement:

“I have been through many of these appeals, but this one vote loss is a huge blow to me personally. Alex Libby gave an impassioned plea and eloquently defended the need for kids to be able to see this movie on their own, not with their parents, because that is the only way to truly make a change.

“With school-age children of my own, I know this is a crucial issue and school districts across the U.S. have responded in kind. The Cincinnati school district signed on to bus 40,000 of their students to the movie—but because the appeals board retained the R rating, the school district will have to cancel those plans.

“I personally am going to ask celebrities and personalities worldwide, from Lady Gaga (who has a foundation of her own) to the Duchess of Cambridge (who was a victim of bullying and donated wedding proceeds) to First Lady Michelle Obama (whose foundation has reached out to us as well), to take a stand with me in eradicating bullying and getting the youth into see this movie without restriction.”

Watch the moving trailer for the doc:

For their part, the MPAA issued the following statement:

“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.

“The MPAA also has the responsibility, however, to acknowledge and represent the strong feedback from parents throughout the country who want to be informed about content in movies, including language.

“The rating and rating descriptor of ‘some language,’ indicate to parents that this movie contains certain language. With that, some parents may choose to take their kids to this movie and others may not, but it is their choice and not ours to make for them.”

Photo via The Weinstein Company

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  • dsp

    Powerful! Teared up for that kid with the glasses! And that biatch…I’ve been on that bus and they are just good as gold! I wanted to ring her neck! This does need to a PG-13. Like no thirteen year old has ever heard the term F-U! riiiiiight!

  • Danny

    The MPAA is historically and currently homophobic and biased. They aren’t fooling anyone into believing otherwise whenever they deal with GLBT representation. They have no transparency on their criteria for ratings for that very reason. Film ratings should be done by an independent organization not created by the studios themselves.

  • Steve

    The fact that a documentary about bullying got an R Rating should be an indicator in itself as to how serious the issue is and how accessible the movie should be. Now, it is not impossible to see this movie in school – you simply have to sign a permission slip or something (my school did it all of the time) but that still doesn’t solve the ability to opt out. Now, I’m not saying that people shouldn’t have a choice to see this movie, but chances are that the parents who want to “protect” their kids from this movie are either afraid that their child might actually be a victim and are afraid to talk about it, or the parents realize they are part of the problem.

    I hope this movie gets a lower rating. This country doesn’t need “protection” anymore, we need education.

  • DenverBarbie

    Michael Tucker, the filmmaker behind the infamous Gunner Palace, once said, “When a little girl was running down the road in South Vietnam, burnt by Napalm and she’s naked, is that PG? Is it PG-13? Is it R? You can’t rate reality.”
    Bullying is the reality of youth. To prohibit kids from seeing a film that they have already lived/are living is heinous.

  • Jakey

    Ugh, the MPAA is so broken. Context doesn’t seem to matter remotely as much as who’s seeking the rating, and so has it been for a long time. None of the language in this can possibly be for prurient reasons; an automatic R for using the word “fuck” more than once should not be the rule. If ‘Saving Private Ryan’ can get an R rating because of the importance of its content, this should be able to easily score a PG-13, but that had Spielberg and a lot more money behind it, and this, alas, does not. (ANd this is really wrong considering what an MPAA rating means for how and where the film is distributed, etc.; how did an alleged “guide for parents” board get so much control over that?)

    And that statement is typically wrongheaded for them. They wouldn’t be making a choice for the parents with a PG-13, they’d simply be giving a choice to kids, as opposed to removing it by giving the film an R. Not that they care.

    Update: I heard The Weinstein Company is considering bypassing them and releasing the film without a rating. That will shut them out of a lot of theaters for the same stupid reasons, but I hope they go for it.

  • Jakey

    @Danny: Yep, you got it. Anyone who wants proof of the MPAA’s attitude towards LGBT subjects should see ‘This Film is Not Yet Rated,’ which goes into that in great detail. Still on Netflix, I think.

  • dsp

    @DenverBarbie: Very well said!

  • Chris

    On the other hand, the filmmakers could bleep the offending words, and the film would be accessible to the audience they’d like.

    Is that the right solution? Of course not. The MPAA is completely in the wrong.

    I am a total defender of artistic integrity. I understand and agree with the arguments against censoring those words.

    But the MPAA has presented a barrier, and if the film’s language is the only thing keeping it from reaching such a massive audience, where it could do so much good (and this film looks powerful enough to potentially really achieve something) then they should be willing to compromise the work in order to reach that audience.

  • Diane

    I’ve had issues with MPAA for years over their skewed standards when it comes to violence vs. sexual content. And Miramax had to fight the MPAA over the original NC-17 rating they gave to Clerks. I remember Kevin Smith saying at the time, that the only thing they could cut was actual dialogue because there was no sex or violence.

    Rape, torture, violence and female nudity will get you an R. Consensual sex and male nudity gets you an NC-17. The Bully rating is yet another indication the rating system is broken and needs to be overhauled.

    Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
    Rated R – Rated R for brutal violent content including rape and torture, strong sexuality, graphic nudity, and language

    Shame (The Fassbender film, which the studio agreed not to edit for an R rating, as part of their deal for the US rights)
    Rated NC-17 for some explicit sexual content
    “This film is rated NC-17 for its sexual content.”

  • Crysta Lynn

    I say dont scrub plans, let parents know you intend to do this, and the reasons behind it.

    Get permission slips, or better yet, start a petition to get a law passed that says for the good of the children, certain movies, in a school setting, are exempt from the “ratings.”

    Basically, tell the MPAA they can shove a pineapple up their rear ends!

  • Chris

    The MPAA rating is meaningless. Theaters like it because if they don’t show an NC-17 they can’t be sued for letting an unattended little kid sneak out of Shrek Story the Reboot VII into see you know, a movie with actual content. But that’s about the extent of it. As noted, high budget movies are usually rated to match their target audience, not the film’s actual content. A school can decide what they want to show for their own reasons. Some schools may have policies about the R rating but there are no laws preventing a child from seeing a movie that’s not obscene, in a theater or out of it.

  • fanboi

    why not make a BLEEPED version for schools?

  • Cam

    The MPAA needs to be dragged out in public to explain how a movie that shows people being murdered is ok for children to see, and yet a movie that educates kids about bullying is not acceptable because it has a swear word in it?

    The MPAA is a sick group of people who love violence but have major issues with sex. They all need therapy.

  • MakeDestroy

    @Steve: I agree. I don’t remember bulling not being EXPLICIT. Ever. Censoring the documentary would be sugar coating the subject and it would not have the impact it needs to have in order to address this serious issue.

  • cwm

    everybody treats the MPAA ratings as if they have the force of law. which they don’t.

    the ratings board are a bunch of individuals hired by the film industry–with who knows what motivations–and who act in total secrecy. and the “appeal” process is bullshit.

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