With Ellen DeGeneres and Drew Brees, 'Bully' cause goes celeb
This post has been updated. See note below for details.
The movement to knock down "Bully’s" R rating is gaining steam. On Monday, a website hosting a petition to change the film’s Motion Picture Assn. of America designation announced that a number of celebrities had signed on to its cause, including Ellen DeGeneres and New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees.
Change.org, which has hosted the campaign started by Michigan teenager Katy Butler to change the rating, said that the number of signatures had now reached nearly 270,000 and that other stars, such as teen singer-actress Demi Lovato, were also signing the petition. Both DeGeneres and Lovato were asking their Twitter followers to sign the Butler petition.
Butler had previously appeared on DeGeneres’ syndicated show to take up the cause.
Meanwhile, 26 members of Congress have signed on to a letter recently penned by Mike Honda (D-San Jose) to MPAA chief Christopher Dodd asking the organization to change the rating, Change.org said. Honda's office has released the names of the legislators. It is a largely Democratic affair, including such well-known members of the party as Charles Rangel of New York and Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, though it does include one Republican, Tom Cole of Oklahoma. [Update, 1:17 p.m., March 12: An earlier version of this post reported that about 20 members of Congress had signed the letter, but that the group did not say who they were, though it noted that it was a bipartisan effort.]
In issuing a plea for signatures, Honda said he believed a new rating was essential in getting teenagers to see the film.
“The new documentary film ‘Bully’… offers an unprecedented look into the lives of youth being bullied and harassed,” he wrote. “This acclaimed documentary is scheduled to be released on March 30th, 2012 and has been assigned a rating of R from the Motion Picture Association of America. I believe an R-rating excludes the very audience for whom this film is most important, and ask you to join us in calling upon the MPAA to reconsider their rating.”
Directed by Lee Hirsch, “Bully” is a documentary centering on five families that have been affected by teenage bullying. The Weinstein Co. is bringing out the film in several markets at the end of the month, and has been both organizing and capitalizing on the grassroots campaign to change the rating. The movie was given the R for profane language, which largely comes in one scene where a bully threatens his victim.
The public-relation battle was ratcheted up further Friday when the Parents Television Council applauded the MPAA's rating.
In response to the Butler-organized petition and the outcry from Weinstein Co. chief Harvey Weinstein, the MPAA has scheduled an unusual Washington, D.C., panel and screening Thursday that will be hosted by both Dodd and Weinstein, along with education experts.
-- Steven Zeitchik
Photo. "Bully." Credit: The Weinstein Co.