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Controversy surrounds 'Bully' movie, Motion Picture Association gives 'R' rating

By Alex McDevitt
On March 6, 2012


I can't stress enough the timely importance to tell everyone how much I hate the idea of bullying; of constantly being under the siege of the adolescents that fill our middle and high schools.

That, honestly, after all those years, still leaves a heavy hole in my heart to this very day. It's not just the damage that was caused then and there-from the name calling to the chewing-out effect these victims go through year after year. I'm telling you all of this because I ,too, was a victim of bullying, and for three years, I couldn't get away from the grasps of the terror of being different. True, I've escaped that, but for the kids living in today's world, the battle has just begun.

  I want to tell a true story that is still enfolding in the movie industry, and still evolving as this article gets published. A few weeks ago, Weinstein and Co., one of the largest movie companies in the film business right now, put in the name for its new documentary, "Bully," being set for release in early 2012. Trailers and news archives showed that this movie, heavily based on the actual psyche and effects on bullying, was going to be receive a R-rating from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA)  giving it for "language" on a degree that a PG-13 rating wouldn't suffice. I was very interested in seeing this movie since last November, but after seeing what waters it's in now, I might have to reconsider.

It's shocking that a documentary focused around the lives of families and individuals would get a rating that might as well make the project more unattainable than it could be. I don't know about everyone else, but it made me sick to believe a documentary that's so focused on the problems and preventions of one of the most horrific ordeals in a child's life would be made more unavailable to the audience especially those who it should be shown to: the children. For me, personally (and I know that I can speak for many people who are interested in this brewing event), I'm not mad at the MPAA for what they did or the reasoning for why they stuck to their guns, it was how they responded in the end that really set me over the edge.

In return, Harvey Weinstein and his team of executives fired back with an appeal for an unrated version to hit theaters instead, as well as an online petition allowing more than 50,000 participants to lower the rating. You would think this would change the eyes of the people who rate/make our movies, right? Not even close.  

In a sudden, but subtle response to both petitions, the MPAA not only decided to stick with the R-rating, believing that nothing else could be done about it, but then went on the offensive side to state that if anything was going to come of it, it might not even be allowed to play if the unrated plea is passed. I might not completely like Weinstein for how he promotes his movies, or his care for money over talent but I have to side with him on this case.

Is this shameless self-promotion? Perhaps. This wouldn't be the first time the Weinsteins have stirred up movie news (ever since his campaigning put "Shakespeare in Love" to Academy voters over "Saving Private Ryan" back in 1998). Is the MPAA messing up on its promise to "share responsibility" in making sure everything is up to standard? I can't blame someone for doing their job, no matter if it's the right or wrong side of what someone might believe. But just to go off of"language" to push it to a R-Rating over most movies that deserve such a penalty may be going too far. "Ray" had heavy drug-usage in scenes, "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" had a heart-ripping scene, and these are only a few examples that prove how questionable the MPAA can be sometimes. The reasoning does, however,  go much further then here.

Instead of arguing about why the movie could be R for "language," why not look at it from the audience's point of view? There is vast audience that will be going to this movie to see, respectively, the emotional side of what bullying does to a human being. Instead, of doing so, many people are  gettingworked about the complications on what's appropriate for movie ratings and all. Sure, most teenagers or children have the option to see this movie with their parents, and, honestly, I could see this going on very well with allowing parents and their children to bond in a better way after seeing this film.

 But was the journey to this point really worth the fight? I'm pretty sure most kids have heard/used profanity of all types, so is it so outrageous for them to hear it in a movie? And besides, it's a documentary on bullying and the targets that trigger such actions to develop. Not letting a group/individuals see something that could better inform them for the future seems detrimental to the point of the film. To put a spin on it, the true "bully" of the situation may in fact be the MPAA or the Weinsteins, depending on where you stand on the matter.

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