MPAA Responds to “Bully” Petition


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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.