Ellen Degeneres sides with teen in debate over bullying movie
A Michigan teenager who hand-delivered more than 225,000 petition signatures to the Motion Picture Assn. of America Wednesday, also received a ringing endorsement from Ellen Degeneres on the talk show host's program, which aired later that day.
The episode was broadcast about five hours after Katy Butler, 17, handed over five boxes of signed petitions to the MPAA’s Sherman Oaks office, all urging the agency to change the rating of a film about bullying from “R” to “PG-13.”
“They were very heavy,” Butler said. “We dropped off the boxes in the front and then we went into the back into a conference room with (MPAA ratings board chief) Joan Graves. She really doesn’t want to change the rating because she wants to be consistent, but the MPAA hasn’t been consistent at all.”
The MPAA has resisted calls to change the rating, citing the adult language used in the film. But Hollywood mega-producer Harvey Weinstein, whose Weinstein Co. is distributing the film, told the The Times that the 2005 documentary “Gunner Palace” featured 42 examples of the F-word, 36 more than in “Bully.” The MPAA agreed to give the film a PG-13 rating after an appeal. Weinstein has appealed the rating of “Bully” but was denied.
Butler, whose finger was broken in a bullying incident as a seventh-grader, has utilized Change.org to gather signatures in an attempt to get the MPAA to lower the film’s rating so that teenagers can see it.
On her Wednesday show, Degeneres advocated openly for Butler’s cause.
“After seeing it I can tell you that the lessons that the kids learn from this movie are more important than any words that they might hear,” Degeneres said. “And they are words they already know anyway.”
“Good for you!” Degeneres yelled to Butler from the stage. “I’m proud of you!”
Butler said she looks up to Degeneres, and called her experience “amazing.” But after her 20-minute meeting with Graves Wednesday, she said she doesn’t think there is a “high chance” the MPAA will change the rating.
But she also said she is not losing hope.
“They did take the time to talk to me, and I think that’s a step in the right direction,” Butler said. “It took 200,000 signatures to get them to talk to me, so we’ll see how many it takes to change the rating.”
The film is due out March 30.
-- Matt Stevens