This post has been updated.
The movie “Bully,” which follows five children from the Midwest and South who were brutalized by classmates over the length of a year, may not be seen by as many children as it hoped.
The film has received an “R” rating from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), which cited concerns about foul language, CBS News reports. The rating is believed to have been decided by just one vote.
In a statement, Joan Graves, Chairman of the Classification and Rating Administration at MPAA, urged people to remember that the R rating does not mean children cannot see the film, as their parents can still take them to the theater. “The R rating is not a judgment on the value of any movie. The rating simply conveys to parents that a film has elements strong enough to require careful consideration.” she said.
But many people aren’t keen to accept the rating, including Katy Butler, a Michigan high school junior who was bullied after she came out as a lesbian in the 7th grade. Her campaign on Change.org now has more than 300,000 signatures. Celebrities including Ellen DeGeneres, Meryl Street and Justin Bieber have signed the petition, as well as 26 members of Congress.
“Over 13 million American youths will be bullied over the course of this year alone, making it the most common form of violence experienced by young people in our nation,” begins a letter from Rep. Mike Honda (D.- Calif.) to his colleagues, in support of Butler’s campaign. “We cannot hope to control this epidemic ... without discussing tough issues publicly and bringing them to the forefront of the consciousness of the American public.”
Some have also suggested that the MPAA are the real bullies here. Kirby Dick, who exposed MPAA secrets in the documentary “This Film Is Not Yet Rated,” told E!online that because the MPAA is controlled by big companies, “they've been bullying small independent films for decades.”
But “Bully” both is and isn’t an independent film. It was made by Lee Hirsch, an independent documentary filmmaker, and is being distributed by the Weinstein Company, one of the biggest film studios in the business.
Butler, whose finger was broken during an assault by bullies in grade school, also sees the MPAA as bullies of sorts. On her petition, she writes that the rating is “robbing many teenagers” of the chance to see a film that could potentially “change their lives.”
The MPAA is trying to fight that perception, hosting a “Bully” screening and panel discussion for D.C. area principals and educators with the filmmakers this evening.
It’s unlikely that the MPAA will reverse its rating decision, however. The film already went through the appeals process once and the “R” rating was upheld. There is no process for a second appeal to ratings, the MPAA said. The rating can only change if the filmmakers submit a new version to be rated.
Watch the preview of “Bully” below: