Several weeks back, I had mentioned a trailer for a documentary called Bully (as seen here). Released through the Weinstein Company, Bully outlined the plight of five families and the impact of bullying on their lives.
After submitting the film to the MPAA Ratings Board, a decision to label the film as “R” was returned to the Weinstein Company. The MPAA cited abusive language as the main determining factor for the rating. But more importantly, the “R” rating would not allow the movie to be shown in schools, where the message would seem to be the most important.
Sure, the MPAA gave the documentary a way out of the rating; tone down the language. This writer has to wonder how far the MPAA is out of touch of what is truly going on with our youth of today, considering they had a visual representation of the harsh reality right in front of them. Language, especially cursing, is not as taboo with our youth as it was for us, which was not as taboo as it was with our parents generation. Language evolves, but apparently the MPAA doesn’t.
Seeing the importance of the message of this film, The Weinstein company chose to appeal this decision, to which they lost. Instead of being bullied, they chose to fight back. TWC decided to release the movie anyways, officially unrated, but under the Common Sense Media’s rating of “Pause 13+”
Tom Complicate matter worse, the president of the National Association of Theater Owners sent a letter to Harvey Weinstein, essentially stating that if he chose to release the movie unrated, NATO would urge theaters to treat the movie as an “NC-17” rating, which would mean that theater could allow for no children or teenagers to see this movie at all on the silver screen. Here is the text from that letter…
Dear Harvey, The National Association of Theatre Owners partners with the MPAA in the rules and operations of the Classification and Ratings Administration. Exhibition representatives participated yesterday in the appeal of “Bully.” As you know, the appeals board voted to uphold the ratings board’s decision that the prevalence of harsh language in “Bully” warranted an “R” rating. In response, you released a statement criticizing the decision, and threatening to remove your company’s movies from the ratings process. As the father of a nine-year-old child, I am personally grateful that TWC has addressed the important issue of bullying in such a powerful documentary. The filmmaker and especially the brave young people who participated in this project deserve our attention and respect. Nonetheless, I believe that your public response to the decision of the appeals board is unwise. Surveys of America’s parents reflect their very strong concern with the use of harsh language in movies. The vast majority of parents surveyed have indicated that the type of language used in “Bully” should receive an automatic “R” rating. You ask us to ignore the preferences of America’s parents and our own ratings rules because of the merit of this movie. 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. You recently released the award-winning movie “King’s Speech” and must know the language rules very well. You should not have been surprised at the rating for “Bully.” I have nothing but tremendous respect for you and the work of TWC. Our industry is so much the better for your involvement. But if you decide to withdraw your support and participation in the rating system, and begin to release movies without ratings, I will have no choice but to encourage my theater owner members to treat unrated movies from The Weinstein Company in the same manner as they treat unrated movies from anyone else. In most cases, that means enforcement as though the movies were rated NC-17 – where no one under the age of 18 can be admitted even with accompanying parents or guardians. Thank you for your consideration of these thoughts. And the best of luck to you on Sunday. Sincerely yours, John Fithian
President & CEO
Luckily, for the Weinstein Company, AMC Theaters has stepped up, and decided to show the movie. Parents would have to either accompany a child, or sign a permission slip. The permission slip can be downloaded from AMC’s website here.
I just can’t continue to understand the hypocrisy of the MPAA. The double standards in which ratings are passed out to different movies. But then again, I never could understand the wisdom of the 9th grader who would slam me into a locker, hit me on the back of the head, or trip me on purpose in the hallway. A bully is a bully, no matter teenager or a committee of adults in charge of rating movies. I guess in this case, The Weinstein Company just didn’t have enough lunch money for the MPAA.