MPAA Responds to “Bully” Petition

    February 28, 2012
    Shaylin Clark
    Comments are off for this post.

A little while ago we brought you a story about a petition asking the MPAA to reconsider its R rating of the documentary Bully. The film, which explores the problem of bullying in American schools, narrowly missed receiving the PG-13 rating that its makers wanted. The Weinstein Company, which produced the film, argued that the R rating would prevent many of the kids who most need to see it from doing so. Many movie theaters do not allow kids under 17 to see an R-rated movie without an adult, and many schools will not screen R-rated films, regardless of subject matter.

As part of the previous story, I sent the MPAA a request for comment. I asked about the organization’s response to the petition, and to the claim that the R rating would keep some kids from seeing the movie. They had not responded by the time the original story ran, less than an hour later I received the following statement, credited to Joan Graves, head of the Classification and Ratings Administration:

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.

The voluntary ratings system enables parents to make an informed decision about what content they allow their children to see in movies. The R rating and description of “some language” for Bully does not mean that children cannot see the film. As with any movie, parents will decide if they want their children to see Bully. School districts, similarly, handle the determination of showing movies on a case-by-case basis and have their own guidelines for parental approval.

The R rating is not a judgment on the value of any movie. The rating simply conveys to parents that a film has elements strong enough to require careful consideration before allowing their children to view it. Once advised, many parents may take their kids to see an R-rated film.

What do you think of the MPAA’s response? Should kids be allowed to see this movie without their parents? Let us know what you think in the comments.

  • Richard Dugan

    i think that the MPAA is a censorship organization that uses the power of its ratings to economically cripple artistic integrity. America will never have free speech as long as we permit restrictive and secretive organizations like this to determine the appropriateness of any film for any audience. The only way to fix this problem is to stop allowing the MPAA to provide any ratings to any films and to allow the public to decide what is or is not appropriate for their children or anyone else to see with their pocket books. A second but less effect way would to require by law that all individuals rating any artist work be identified by name and qualification for the position they hold.

  • Rosie

    Yes, I think kids should be allowed to see this film without their parents. Most tweens and teens are not going to want to drag their parents along to see a movie. They would rather just not see it at all. I feel the only way to get a real dialog started between these kids is to let them go as a group without parents.

  • Mike

    Schindler’s List and this are TOTALLY diffrent (i think at least, but i haven’t seen bully yet but i can be positive it doenst have some psych shooting people in his boxers). I was 16 when i saw that and i STILL remeber most of it. It really made me think… Saying “fuck” isn’t that bad, your little boys and girls start saying it earlier than i did. (8th grade i started useing “bad words”) The MPAA acts like we dont cuss. They need to start having new rating systems for things like this. I hate buying R rated movies, and just having the Main Character say “fuck” 16 times *planes trains and automobiles* This isnt the 1950’s anymore its 2012. Change the F***ing rating already.

  • Samuel

    I think that this case is an exception. I do agree, the rating system is not perfect, particularly when they are unable to factor in the moral implications before screening it. But ratings are there for a purpose, to be a strong gauge of the amount of sex, violence and profanity in a movie. I don’t think it goes as far as threatening artistic integrity, but it does reasonably limit the audience. Without ratings, what stops a 7 year old from watching a horror movie for 18 years old and up?

  • Jill

    I think they’ve set up roadblocks to getting this information to the people who need it the most…kids. I can’t begin to imagine what their motivation for that would be but it’s absolutely bewildering. Who exactly do they think they’re protecting here? I imagine the classmates of that eleven year old child who hanged himself came in contact with some pretty graphic information when they found out what happened. There are real consequences for actions, even at a very young age. But hey, let’s shield the kids…until it happens in their school…maybe because of the actions of someone who just might have changed their behavior if only they could have seen the movie in school. Thanks MPAA. Thanks for “protecting” the kids.

  • Bill Richwine, DO

    Time and time again I see PG13 films with very strong violence and sexual content. For the MPAA to then decide the f bomb language of the bullying film rates an R is hypocritical. Would the studio consider releasing the film with the obvious sustitute word “fricken” dubbed in?