I’ve watched the trailer for Bully, a new documentary backed by Harvey Weinstein, three times now. Each time I watch it I get tears and goosebumps.
The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has given the movie an R-rating, due to generous use of the word f*ck in one particularly-graphic scene– this is reality, after all, not a Disney fairy tale. The R-rating means the movie, once released, will not be screened in high schools or middle schools and in order to see it in a theater, anyone under 17 will have to bring along an adult.
Many believe the R-rating could possibly prevent millions of teenagers–the targeted demographic– from seeing a movie that has the potential to enlighten, educate and wake people up to the realities of bullying.
From an L.A. Times report:
“The MPAA gave it the R mark primarily for a sequence in which one bully describes what he will do to a victim, using variations of the F-word. The MPAA almost always gives an automatic R rating to any film that uses the epithet twice or more, or only once if used to describe sexual intercourse.”
Guidelines may be guidelines, but placing more importance on protecting our children’s ears from profanity, than on opening their minds to need for mutual respect and the evils of school violence, makes little sense.
According to The Bully Project, 13 million children will be bullied this year alone.
But is that so bad, considering the potential good that may, I have to believe, come out of it? That very same article told of an exclusive preview screening in a California high school that resulted in a bullied student, apparently emboldened by the film, standing up and calling out all of the students in the room who had been bullying her.
I will never understand why the sound of the word f*ck is more offensive to people than the sound of rapid gunfire or the sight of a person holding a gun to someone’s head. Both are suggestive and violent,for sure, but why is one okay for kids and not the other?
Bonnie Rochman, of Time Healthland, said it well when she responded to director of public policy for the Parents Television Council’s who said that there’s nothing in an R-rating to stop a child from seeing a movie:
“Nothing aside from the fact that no self-respecting teen is about to set off for the cineplex with Mom and Dad.”
I know better than to automatically assume my kids are automatically above taking part in any bullying, however subtle, or that they are not being bullied in any way. But whenever my fourth grader mentions feeling bad for one of her classmates who is regularly singled out and excluded by the others, and how one of her friends pressures her to stop associating with this student, I tell her I am proud of her for noticing the injustice of this and that she should keep standing up to the judgey girl and keep sticking up for the judged girl. I can only hope my message resonates beyond our living room.
What are your thoughts about giving an R-rating to a film that demands to be seen by as many tweens and teens as possible?
image from the bullyproject.com
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