Last week, The Weinstein Company announced that its appeal of the R rating given to its documentary “Bully,” which takes a close look at bullying in America’s schools, was denied by the Motion Picture Association of America.
The MPAA released a statement explaining that although it agrees with Weinstein that “bullying is a serious issue and is a subject that parents should discuss with their children,” it’s also MPAA’s responsibility to “indicate to parents that this movie contains certain language.” MPAA emphasizes that a rating “is not a judgment on the value of any movie” but rather conveys that parents should make their own decision about whether or not their child should see the film.
Since Weinstein lost the appeal, people have voiced their disagreement with the MPAA’s decision. Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, issued a written statement in regards to the rating, saying:
Films like Lee Hirsch's "Bully" are critical in illustrating to students the painful consequences of bullying on their classmates and our communities. Unfortunately, because of the film's R rating, students will be shut out and discouraged from viewing this film.
A Michigan high school student who says she was bullied in middle school has started an online petition on Change.org in the hopes of gathering enough signatures to sway the MPAA’s decision. So far, over 186,000 people have signed.
In a recent interview with Salon, film director Lee Hirsch revealed his reasons for not omitting the profanity that landed his documentary the harsh rating:
For me, when it comes to bullying, people are always minimizing the experience, they're whitewashing it. ... The tendency is to say it's a rite of passage or it's just kids being kids, but it matters because the honesty and the brutality and the truth of those scenes are important and relevant. They aren't thrown in there or scripted—this is what happens.
“Bully” is set to be released at the end of March.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.