'Bully' seeks rating change (and exposure)
The campaign to get the “Bully” rating knocked down is picking up momentum. On Wednesday, the Weinstein Co. announced that it had garnered more than 150,000 signatures petitioning the Motion Picture Assn. to downgrade the movie from an R to a PG-13.
Lee Hirsch’s documentary examines a group of five families who have been affected by the bullying crisis, sometimes in catastrophic ways. The movie contains profane language, prompting the MPAA to deny an appeal last week for a PG-13.
The campaign, which is being hosted by the online-petition site Change.org, aims to move the MPAA to change its mind. As part of the campaign, Katy Butler, a bullied Michigan high school student who has been instrumental in the anti-bully movement, went so far as to say in a statement that “by refusing to change the film’s rating to PG-13, the MPAA is acting like a bully, too.”
Of course, it’s highly unlikely that an online or social-media campaign will stir the group to reverse course. But the push has generated free publicity for the film—many of the kids who signed the petition are now aware of a movie they never heard of before last week—which is arguably as important to the Weinstein Co. as getting theater owners to allow 16-year-olds to see it without their parents.
Weinstein Co., which is releasing the film commercially at the end of March, is planning a large rollout of the film at schools around the country throughout the month, in the hope of creating dialogue among kids, parents and teachers. Hirsch told a group of high school students at one such event last week that he was bullied when he was younger. “When you’re dealing with this stuff people try to minimize your pain,” he said. “I felt like I didn't have a voice.”
At the screening, held for Fairfax High School students in Los Angeles, one student stood up and called out students in the room who had been bullying her, yielding a moment as eye-opening and uncomfortable as any scene in the film.
The campaign has also had its more surreal moments. One of the unlikely people the Weinstein Co. has enlisted in its latest publicity campaign is the Rev. Jesse Jackson.
While not generally thought of as an authority on the subject of bullying (or ratings), Jackson nonetheless said in a statement that the movie “depicts the nightmare that some kids face every day in schools across America." He added, "Children are afraid to go to school and therefore their educational productivity decreases. It creates violent reactions in our children and they must be allowed to see the movie as it was intended to help raise awareness, increase empathy and change minds.”
Photo: A scene from "Bully." Credit: The Weinstein Co.