The Weinstein Company was not well pleased by the MPAA R Rating for the film Bully (aka The Bully Project ) for the
amount of strong language.
After the failed appeal against the rating, the Weinstein co initially threatened to pull out of the MPAA and then suggested that they would release the film unrated.
These suggestions seem to have wound up the theatre owners and others in the industry leading to a press release from the Weinstein Co stating their position:
National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) President & CEO John Fithian sent Harvey Weinstein a letter dated February 24 on behalf of NATO stating that they may urge theater owners to treat BULLY as an NC-17 rated film. With an NC-17 rating,
children under the age of 18 will not be permitted to see the movie even with a parent or guardian present. The NC-17 threat comes in response to The Weinstein Company's (TWC) suggestion to release BULLY, which has the sole purpose of educating children
and highlighting how bullying has become a national crisis, in theaters unrated after the MPAA failed to lower the R rating given for some language.
As a company we have the utmost respect for the National Association of Theatre Owners, but to suggest that the film BULLY could ever be treated like an NC-17 film is completely unconscionable, not to mention unreasonable. In light of the tragedy that
occurred yesterday in Ohio, we feel now is the time for the bullying epidemic to take center stage, we need to demand our community takes action.
Update: Just Six Expletives
5th March 2012. See article
It seems that all the fuss about the R Rating of the Bully is down to just 6 expletives.
John Fithian, president of the National Association of Theatre Owners, wrote to Harvey Weinstein, explaining that 'rules is rules' and that it would not be a good idea for Weinstein to try and release the movies unrated:
Grateful As a father of a 9-year-old child, I am personally grateful that (the Weinstein Co.) has addressed the important issue of bullying in such a powerful documentary. Yet were the MPAA and NATO to waive the ratings rules whenever we believed that a
particular movie had merit, or was somehow more important than other movies, we would no longer be neutral parties applying consistent standards, but rather censors of content based on personal mores.
That leaves the makers of Bully with the question of whether to edit or bleep the expletives, which are part of the antagonistic behavior documented between kids in the film. Right now, director Lee Hirsch is declining to do that, and has the
backing of Weinstein. The director says such editing would minimize the harsh realities of bullying.
To cut around it or bleep it out, it really absolutely does lessen the impact and takes away from what the honest moment was, and what a terrifying feeling it can be (to be bullied), says Hirsch: I feel a responsibility as a filmmaker, as the
person entrusted to tell (these kids') stories, to not water them down.
Update: Passed PG in Canada
9th March 2012. See article
Bully has been rated PG by British Columbia film censors. Parental guidance is advised for the documentary in the western Canadian province, and the film comes with a warning of coarse language; theme of bullying.
Director Lee Hirsch, who has been campaigning against the restrictive R Rating awarded by the US film censor, said:
Last night, I learned of the B.C. board's decision to grant Bully a PG-rating. I am thrilled that kids of all ages can now join their parents, teachers, social work advocates and leaders to bring about change for this deeply important cause.
Meanwhile in the US a petition with 200,000 Signatures will be delivered to the MPAA calling for a PG-13 rating.
Update: Nutters praise the censors but seem a bit confused about public opinion
10th March 2012. See article
The Parents Television Council has praised the MPAA for maintaining the R rating for Bully despite pressure from the public and the film's
distributors to lower it to PG-13.
The group says its position is based on the language reportedly used in the film. The MPAA also cited language as the reason for the rating.
The council also called for increased public involvement in the ratings process. [...er... the same public that's campaigning for the lower rating?]
Update: Another PG in Canada and Support from Congress
13th March 2012. See article
Conservative Alberta became the second Canadian province to give the Lee Hirsch documentary about an epidemic of U.S. school bullying a PG-rating.
The Alberta censors included a parental guidance warning, indicating themes or content in Bully may not be suitable for all children.
Meanwhile, the advocacy tools website Change.org has announced that 20 members of the US Congress have signed on to a petition asking the MPAA to lower the R rating it gave to director Lee Hirsch's documentary Bully .
The bipartisan group, led by Representative Mike Honda wrote:
We are writing to express our sincere disappointment in the MPAA's decision to issue an 'R' rating for the soon-to-be-released documentary Bully. This important project shows the real life anguish of many teenagers in this country who are tormented,
harassed, and bullied by their peers. This truth should be shared with as wide an audience as is appropriate and possible. We believe an R-rating excludes the very audience for whom this film is desperately important.
started by high school student Katy Butler, has garnered over 275,000 signatures, helped by public support from Ellen Degeneres and New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees.
Update: More PGs in Canada
14th March 2012. See article
Manitoba and Ontario are the latest provinces to give the Lee Hirsch documentary about school bullying a PG-rating.
Movie classification boards in British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Alberta last week gave Bully PG-ratings ahead of its theatrical release.
Update: The Hunger Games vs. Bully
23rd March 2012. See article
Lawmakers, parents' advocates, filmmakers and teenagers are complaining that language and sex are scrutinized while violence gets a pass ( Bully received an R because it contains scenes of teens hurling profanities). Critics also say that the
system of five alpha and alphanumeric characters are blunt tools rather than nuanced instruments and that the overall process is too secretive and rigid.
Michigan Representative Hansen Clarke said:
The hypocrisy is that the very movies that contribute to violence can be seen by teenagers because they get a PG-13, [referring to The Hunger Games]. And the one film ('Bully') that actually teaches them to respect others is given an R.
Dan Isett, public policy director of the nutter group, Parents Television Council, agrees a rethinking is necessary. Like Clarke, he believes movies such as The Hunger Games - and a lot of other films that are approved for teen viewing - merit R ratings:
Certain movies will never get an R no matter what's in them. That's the problem when the ones policing the system have an economic incentive to give films a certain rating.
Yet some legislators, such as California's Representative Linda T. Sanchez, say the rating panels are thinking too narrowly by counting swear words and body parts while ignoring the larger context. It seems like the MPAA missed an opportunity here,
she said of Bully, arguing that raters should have taken into account the movie's message.
The MPAA says that making its system more flexible would require raters who can offer value judgments. And that, the group's chief, former U.S. Sen. Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut, says, takes it into a messy thicket. Who am I going to hire to do
that? Writers? Critics? Dodd said in his office last week as the Bully controversy was building. That's not a business we want to be in.