When the MPAA gave director Lee Hirsch’s documentary Bully an R rating, Harvey Weinstein was angry. Weinstein is co-chairman of The Weinstein Company, which is distributing the film. Bully is a documentary dealing with, as you might guess from the title, the issue of bullying in American schools. The film is meant to give a realistic picture of the problem. As such it includes a fair amount of violence and the kind of language that teenagers use when grown-ups aren’t around.
It was this language – not the violence – that prompted the MPAA to slap the film with an R rating instead of the PG-13 rating TWC wanted. TWC appealed the decision. Weinstein himself, along with one of the boys featured in the film, Alex Libby, asked the MPAA to change the rating. Since the movie is aimed at teenagers, an R rating will prevent many of the very kids at whom the film is targeted from seeing it. Not only will it prevent many movie theaters from letting kids under 17 in without an adult, it will also prevent TWC from holding many of its planned screenings of the film at middle and high schools. The appeal came one vote shy of the two-thirds majority required to overturn a rating.
Now it seems that there is an appeal of a different kind. Katy Butler, a high school student in Michigan, has posted a petition to Change.org, asking that the MPAA again reconsider its decision to give the movie an R rating. The petition, which appears to have been filed yesterday, has a target of 150,000 signatures. As of now, Tuesday afternoon, it has over 90,000 signatures.
I contacted the MPAA about the petition. I asked what their response to the petition would be, and their response to the claim that such a rating would prevent the film’s target audience from seeing it. As of yet they have not responded.