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Bully Documentary Gets an Unrated Theatrical Release

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Bully Movie

Alex Libby of Bully | The Weinstein Co.

Last week, I reviewed the movie Bully for my family syndication partners (check out my full review over at Central Penn Parent). It’s my policy to not review R-rated movies, but I made an exception in this case, because the movie covered such an important topic: the tragic consequences of bullying in the school system.

The Motion Picture Association of America issued Bully an R rating for language (by one vote), but it drills home the point that there should be something between a PG-13 and an R rating. I felt the same way about The King’s Speech, which also scored an R rating for language (although a PG-13 version was eventually released). Great film, and ok for kids 13 and older, even though one scene was rife with profanity. There’s no way you could have deleted that scene and made the same movie, and it’s the same thing with Bully. The profanity is necessary to the film, and yet, every kid in the school system — middle school and older — should see this documentary. If they’re bullies, maybe it’ll make them stop. If they’re being bullied, maybe it’ll offer some ideas for how to deal with it.

So I was pretty excited to learn today that Bully will be “unrated” and shown in theaters beginning March 30, 2012.  The ruling comes about after Michigander Katy Butler (go, Katy!) started a petition on Change.org to get the MPAA to change the R rating to a PG-13. More than 500,000 people signed it, including Ellen DeGeneres.

The campaign was supported by tons of influential people, including Meryl Streep, Michael Jordan, Johnny Depp, Kelly Ripa, Justin Bieber, Anderson Cooper, Drew Brees, Demi Lovato, Randy Jackson and 35 members of Congress, to name a few. And hey, if Katy Butler is happy with the unrated ruling, I’m happy with it.

“I am happy Bully will maintain its authenticity and will be an accurate portrayal of what thousands of kids experience every day,” said Butler, who was herself bullied in middle school to the point where one of her fingers was broken.

Bully Movie“The MPAA might not recognize the reality that thousands of bullied kids face each day in school, but nearly 500,000 people around the country, from celebrities to politicians to bullied kids themselves, stepped up to speak out about bullying by signing my petition,” said Butler.

“The brief use of explicit language in this film reflects what so many kids hear each day in school when they’re being bullied. The MPAA said they wouldn’t drop the R rating unless this language was removed, but nothing can remove it from the halls and playgrounds of schools where bullied students hear it each day, except education and exposure.”

Lee Hirsch, director of Bully, said that the unrated designation for the film will allow the film to portray the real trauma and torment that bullied students face each day in school.

“The small amount of language in the film that’s responsible for the R rating is there because it’s real. It’s what the children who are victims of bullying face on most days,” Hirsch said in a statement released by film’s distributor, The Weinstein Company, announcing the unrated designation. “All of our supporters see that, and we’re grateful for the support we’ve received across the board. I know the kids will come, so it’s up to the theaters to let them in.”

One of the people who signed the petition was Gerry Lopez, CEO of AMC Theaters, one of the largest movie theater chains in the world. With or without the lesser rating, he said previously that he would make sure Bully plays at AMC Theaters. “AMC will show this movie, and we invite our guests to engage in the dialogue its relevant message will inevitably provoke,” Lopez said.

Have you seen Bully yet? Are you happy about the “unrated” rating, or do you feel a movie with profanity should be rated R? 

 

Jane Boursaw is the founder and editor-in-chief of Reel Life With Jane. Her credits include hundreds of print and online publications, including The New York Times, People Magazine, Variety, Moviefone, TV Squad and more. Follow her on Twitter at @reellifejane.

Jane Boursaw has written posts on Reel Life With Jane.


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4 comments

  1. I love the first look of this documentary.
    The theatrical release was wonderful. Great job overall.

    -John

  2. Happy to hear that a profanity won’t push this to the R rating that prevents kids from seeing it. Personally, I feel that kids hear that kind of language daily. I’d just as soon the R rating be reserved for sex and violence – as long as the language isn’t totally out of hand. The King’s Speech? Totally not worth the R rating.
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  3. In my opinion, profanity is an essential part of the movie; profane language has been used to bully people. For reality’s sake, they shouldn’t have given the film an R rating for profane language.

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