So-Called 'Bully' Rating Controversy Comes to an End with a New Fangled PG-13 Rating

Bully is rated PG-13I guess I am the only one that looks at the entire rating "controversy" surrounding the new documentary Bully as nothing more than trumped up marketing junk. When the film initially received an R rating for six uses of the 'F word' the Weinstein Co. immediately appealed the rating only to see the R-rating upheld. The studio then went on a several month marketing blitz, gaining attention for the film every step of the way, discussing how it couldn't be seen in schools with an R-rating, how they refused to cut the offending word and how this is a tragic failure on the part of the MPAA.

Now before I continue, let's get one thing straight, I do not support the MPAA giving this film an R-rating. The idea was ridiculous. Then again, the MPAA has never been something we've looked at as a source of level-headed thinking when it comes to film ratings. Sex is always looked at harsher than violence, the language debate continues and even scenes where characters are seen smoking are used to judge a film's rating. Yet, each and every film bows to the organization in an attempt to secure what is now the almighty PG-13 rating and look here, Weinstein has done it.

The documentary was released on a limited basis in New York and Los Angeles this past week with all the rating controversy and buzz behind it and now, before it expands to 55 more markets on April 13, it has been granted a PG-13 and only a few 'F words' had to be edited out. Glory, glory!

The press release that just went out says the following:

The scene that has been at the forefront of the battle with the MPAA, the intense scene in the film that shows teen Alex Libby being bullied and harassed on a bus, has been left fully intact and unedited. Bully director Lee Hirsch felt editing the scene was not an option, and subsequently refused to do so, since it is too important to the truth and integrity behind the film. Also a victory is the exception the MPAA made by allowing the film to be released with the new rating before 90 days, which is the length of time their policy states a film must wait to be in theaters after a rating change to avoid confusion or inconvenience for moviegoers.

Amazing timing don'tcha think?!?!?

However, some concessions were made as "three uses of the 'F word' were removed from other scenes, which ultimately persuaded the MPAA to lower the rating."

Things get quite chummy after that with Weinstein Co-Chairman Harvey Weinstein saying, "Senator [and MPAA Chairman Chris Dodd] is a hero for championing this cause, and the MPAA showed great courage by not cutting the scene everyone has been fighting to keep... Senator Dodd's support gives voice to the millions of children who suffer from bullying, and on behalf of TWC, the filmmakers, the families in the film and the millions of children and parents who will now see this film, I thank him for recognizing that this very real issue cannot afford to go unnoticed."

I just have to ask one thing before we go on... Do schools use permission forms any longer? For example, can a teacher hand a student a permission slip they can take home to their parents to sign, allowing them to see Bully in its previous R-rated form? Could this permission slip potentially include language that explains the purpose for showing the film and the reason it has an R-rating?

Or, would that entail getting parents involved, which is clearly never going to happen so we have to make sure our films are cut to a specific format so as to be deemed "okay" for kids to watch? I'm just asking...

What's even better was the late-February threat that the Weinstein Co. would take a leave of absence from the MPAA. I guess that didn't exactly happen, especially considering this press release I received just yesterday:

Hot off the ratings dispute between the MPAA and The Weinstein Company, Dimension Films' Piranha 3DD makes a splash with an R Rating that warrants no argument...

Piranha 3DD accepts a well deserved Rated R for sequences of strong bloody horror violence and gore, graphic nudity, sexual content, language and some drug use."

...and that's just the beginning.

Uhhhh, what about that leave of absence?

Now we would never assume that press release was sent out to inspire people to write about the rating and how great it will be to see blood-soaked boobs in Piranha 3DD. Nope. That was just sent out to inform journalists and bloggers such as myself that the MPAA got this one right. After all, we don't want Piranha 3DD shown in schools anyway.

As important as the subject matter of Bully is, I can't look at this so-called "controversy" and not see it for what it is (and now was). It was nothing more than an attempt to drum up publicity and it has been tackled masterfully and covered every step of the way. People were angered at the fact the MPAA wouldn't make an exception as they have in the past for other films and it got them talking, Tweeting and writing about Bully. But now all the wrongs have been righted. Bully can be shown in schools to children aged 13 and older, which is great, but if you're going to tell me Hirsch couldn't have made those cuts earlier, been just as satisfied and foregone all of this "controversy", you're going to have a lot of convincing to do.

I absolutely refuse to accept what appears to be nothing more than a marketing effort and pat anyone on the back for making it seem as if that wasn't what was going on here. Pats all around for the film you made and the attention you're bringing to schoolyard bullying, but let's not pretend there weren't other motivations at work here and it bothers me even more to think the rating system was used in such a way to market a film, even if it was based on getting word out on a problem in society.

I'm glad the National Education Association and the Cincinnati School District can now see Bully. I hope it helps. I hope the support the Weinstein Co. and Bully director Lee Hirsch are showing for the Safe Schools Improvement Act makes a difference, but I hope it doesn't take a trumped up movie rating controversy to get the ball rolling. Perhaps we can find people and parents that actually care, but who am I kidding?

If you're interested in my thoughts on the film itself, you can read my review right here. I've included the trailer below.

  • Susan

    Yes, schools do still use such forms from time to time.

  • Ian

    Censorship wins again! I'll even take it a bit further Brad...I think the Brothers W planned to have the offending words trimmed to get the PG-13 THE WHOLE TIME. They milked the manufactured "controversy" for all it was worth, but when it became clear that they weren't getting the PG-13 with the film as is, they cut it down, which had been the plan all along. And now they can push it wider with everyone having talked about it, and our poor little ears will only have to hear the f-word three times instead of six. Between this and the censorship of The King's Speech, not to mention their admittance to buying Oscars, I'm really starting to hate everything about the Weinsteins. And I absolutely despise the MPAA, which is nothing more than a censorship board with no set standards that studios are forcibly beholden to.

    • Brad Brevet

      Totally agree, never a doubt they intended and perhaps even discussed with the MPAA trimming the words they ended up dumping.

  • Travis

    It doesn't matter. If a film is R rated it is banned from the district period

    • Brad Brevet

      A quick search online proves that isn't true. I didn't click on every link, but here is one if you're interested and it even includes a paragraph describing exactly what I mentioned above:

      The district requires the teacher to inform parents when R-rated movies are scheduled to be shown in the classroom and to obtain a signed permission slip. In the letter sent home for Volver, parents are told that the purpose of showing the movie is to study "the role of women in Spanish literature and cinema from the Middle Ages to the present day," adding that Volver is a "highly acclaimed 21st century work by the preeminent Spanish film director, Pedro Admodovar." Why is it rated R? Parents are told that it contains "some coarse language" and "an extremely brief scene suggesting an inappropriate stepparent/child relationship."

      • Travis

        I speak from my experience with my old school district a couple years ago. I must have been mistaken on if it applies to most school districts or not. I apologize and thanks for the links

        • Travis

          Although after reading that one, it does sound as though it isn't widely practiced

          • Brad Brevet

            Nevertheless, it's only a tiny part of a much larger picture.

          • M H

            At my school district they had a parental permission slip policy for R rated films and there was never any problems or complaints from parents. And I went to school in a fairly conservative school district.

            As for the article itself, I didn't get the feeling it was well researched article, as almost every school district I know of has the same policy that mine had. The article was more from the perspective that there is never a good reason to show an R rated film in school, even with parental permission slips, especially when there are such things as DVD players that will essentially edit out any offending content.

  • Christopher Robin Meade

    To be completly honest guys im sort of split on this, i mean granted it is indeed a common fact by now that the people at the MPAA are a bunch of greedy poltically correct thugs who literally use every excuse in the book to "fix" films (make more money). But i also have this to say and this may just be me but don't you find it a little pathetic
    whenever some anonymous idiot from the hype train comes out and whines out loud "logical" speeches such as, " the mpaa are evil","yeah man i mean every time one certain film comes out with sex scenes they are edited to hell for it" and "these old retards they need to either get with the time or just rot and die" i mean brad you often say that you want to be diffrent from every other blog out there and most of the times you are. but whenever i read posts like this and i really hate to say it but i get dissapointed with you to be honest i mean granted the articles are still well-written and you make your points very well don,t get me wrong, but to me it also undermines your potential for me i mean it is your opinion and if you pay no mind to this post thats fine but i also want you to respect my opinion even if its naive and ignorant and while i still respect your work and i will definitely visit this site again with absoulutely no hesitation i am not going to hold you up to such a high standard that i agree with everything you say so im sorry if i wasted your time but these are my opinions and that's what im going with.

    • Brad Brevet

      Hey Chris, I'm not sure I understand what you are saying. I'm not actually commenting on the MPAA here, I'm commenting on how the Weinstein Co. manipulated the press and turned a rating debate into a publicity stunt.

      • Christopher Robin Meade

        sorry about that brad but the way you made it sound in the article at least to me because while you indeed did place most of the blame on the weinstein company, there were also some comments in there not many but some in there that to me sounded like an excuse to have another axe to grind against the rating system and as i said i don't bame you one bit and again i'm not the best writer in the world and yes the post was repetitive to the point of nausea so i have no room to talk but from the little comments i read in the article while not the big part of it was still a little on the bandwagon side or at least that's how i interpeted it then again i could be wrong like i always am anyway reply to me again if you can and have a good night

        • Brad Brevet

          Those comments were in there only to make the point that I wasn't saying I felt the MPAA giving the film an R-rating was validated and to place the focus on the Weinstein Co.'s use of the rating system to gin up publicity. The only time I made those comments was in the second paragraph just to get them out of the way and that's it. I don't think I focused on the MPAA much at all to be honest.

  • Lemi

    Piranha 3DD!!!! June 1st!!! so EXCITED!! GO SEE IT!!

  • JB

    Why do people consider the MPAA censorship? They are a ratings board that says if you want a certain rating it must be within certain guidelines. They never say you must remove anything to be released, just to be released with a desired rating. Perhaps more people should look up the word "censorship."

    I don't disagree that there are inconsistencies with the MPAA, but more movies should be rated R, than rated PG-13. If they were to apply similar standards to violence and vulgarity as they do sex and profanity, then it should elevate the rating to R, not reduce it to PG-13.

    I agree with Brad 100% regarding the Weinsteins. They pretend this is a matter of principle, but it is really marketing and money. I loved hearing all the outrage at trying to "change history" by editing the King's Speech. Anyone who did their homework found out the screenwriter had a stuttering problem and part of his "therapy" ultimately was an outburst of profanity. SInce little is said on the matter in the history books, he inserted his own history. He has admitted that. And scholars have defied that what is seen on screen would have happened. THERE is your history.

    I agree this subject matter is important, but it doesn't make the movie so important to compromise principles.

    • M H

      What part of having to edit a movie to get a certain rating or a wide release, when it goes against the original artistic intent of the film, does not count as censorship in your view? Obviously you need to look up the definitions of censor and censorship. I'll help you.

      The definition of censor from reads “an official who examines books, plays, news reports, motion pictures, radio and television programs, letters, cablegrams, etc., for the purpose of suppressing parts deemed objectionable on moral, political, military, or other grounds.” And from the same site the 2nd defintion of censorship reads as “2.the office or power of a censor.”

      The whole upset behind the Bully’s rating is for the use of six f words in the film. The MPAA believes that more than two or three f words in a PG-13 rated film is unacceptable in any case because it might endanger or upset minors or their parents. This is system that insists that rule is universal and true for all parents and minors. As such, for the filmmakers to get a PG-13 rating it requires that they had to edit out at least three f words, especially if they wanted their documentary made for teens about teens, to be able to be seen by teens. That is the very definiton of censorship, a group of people policing works to make it fit their standards of morality or decency.

      You might make the argument that it's not censorship, because the MPAA system is a voluntary one, which is the logic the MPAA hides behind, but it's a false logic. The thing is for a film to get a wide release and access to the widest possible audience, the filmmakers have no choice but to submit their work to the MPAA, or else their films will be treated as NC-17 by the theaters chains and will not be shown or will be heavily monitered.

  • Alex L.

    Why should we be discouraging a company that is trying to bring movie watching back to the forefront of entertainment. We are living in a world where people would rather sit at home and play video games or sit on twitter for hours not enriching themselves in the least bit. Movies are the highest form of entertainment but it's not seen that way anymore.

    Who cares if the oscars are boring. They always have been. We are there to cheer on what we find the best. If Schindler's List came out today, it wouldn't be the box office blockbuster it was because of the way people look at the movie industry.

    We should be banging the drum and stirring up controversy for the thing we all love because right now it's dying. But this year I'm seeing an uphill change. The hunger games is going to best Harry Potters BO from last year and we still have the Avenger, TDKR, and Spiderman ETC to go.

    Brad, I find your degradation of the weinsteins strategy to be counter intuitive to reasons you even have this website.

    • Brad Brevet

      My comments are merely regarding the Weinstein's manipulation of a flawed ratings system for publicity. As for everything else you mention I'm not sure where you came up with most of it since I don't think it has anything to do with the issue at hand.

  • Alex L.

    Plain and simple, what I'm trying to say is that The Weinstein Company is trying to make people go to the movies again in anyway possible. What's so wrong with that?

    • Brad Brevet

      I have expressed my problem with their method, not sure what (or why) you are asking? My problem has nothing to do with getting people to see movies, it is the way in which they are doing it. Trumped up controversy. By the way, are you going to go see it? Have you seen it?

  • Alex L.

    I am going to see it when it expands to my location. I've actually wanted to see it before any of the controversy started.