When the much-anticipated and controversial documentary Bully expands to 55 new markets on April 13th, it will do so as a PG-13 rated film.
The MPAA decided to lower the film’s rating not after hundreds of thousands signed online petition letters, or because high-profile Hollywood celebrities came out in support of it, but because director Lee Hirsch cut three f-words.
Apparently, the three f-words that got the boot were not part of one of the film’s most crucial scenes. The main scene that the MPAA has had such a problem with has actually been left alone. The scene involves on teen being bullied on the bus and contains quite a few upper-level profanities – enough to make the MPAA think it warranted an “R” rating.
Director Lee Hirsch had this to say on the decision:
I feel completely vindicated with this resolution. While I retain my belief that PG-13 has always been the appropriate rating for this film, as reinforced by Canada’s rating of a PG, we have today scored a victory from the MPAA. The support and guidance we have received throughout this process has been incredible, from the more than half a million people who signed Katy Butler’s petition, to members of Congress, Governor Mike Huckabee and the many celebrities and others who raised their voices to express deeply felt support for a film that can inspire millions. The scene that mattered remains untouched and intact, which is a true sign that we have won this battle. With an array of great partners, a fabulous educator’s guide and extensive online tools, we can now bring this film unhindered, to youth and adults across our country.
That scene was not on the table, according to Hirsch. His refusal to edit the schoolbus scene in any way eventually led to the workaround involving the removal of other f-word instances.
For Bully, it’s been a bumpy road to get to PG-13. After the film was initially slapped with an R rating, The Weinstein Company implored the MPAA to change their minds. Then, a high schooler began an online petition to lower the rating on change.org and it blew up, garnered hundreds of thousands of signatures. The MPAA was even approached by a U.S. Representative and various Hollywood celebs.
The MPAA reiterated their initial decision, and shorty after that The Weinstein Company decided to buck the MPAA and release the film unrated. It hit select cities with a “pause 13” rating from another movie ratings board and AMC theaters distributed permission slips that parents could sign allowing their child to see the film.
Bully has been marketed as a must see for kids and adults – to alert everyone to the growing problem of systematic abuse within our nation’s schools. The PG-13 rating definitely means that the film will be seen by a lot more kids.
Was this the right move from both sides? What do you think about the MPAA, especially the way they played the whole Bully thing? Let us know in the comments.