Bullying the Ratings03/06/2012
Written by Joseph Weiler, NFFTY Intern
Lee Hirsch’s documentary Bully has been creating a lot of buzz all around the industry. A significant film that people say could, “save thousands of lives” may very well be inaccessible to those it is trying to reach out to.
Directed by Sundance and Emmy-award winning filmmaker, Lee Hirsch, The Bully Project is a beautifully cinematic, character-driven documentary. At its heart are those with huge stakes in this issue whose stories each represent a different facet of Americas bullying crisis. The Bully Project follows five kids and families over the course of a school year. Stories include two families who have lost children to suicide and a mother awaiting the fate of her 14-year-old daughter who has been incarcerated after bringing a gun on her school bus. With an intimate glimpse into homes, classrooms, cafeterias and principals offices, the film offers insight into the often cruel world of the lives of bullied children. As teachers, administrators, kids and parents struggle to find answers, The Bully Project examines the dire consequences of bullying through the testimony of strong and courageous youth. Through the power of their stories, the film aims to be a catalyst for change in the way we deal with bullying as parents, teachers, children and society as a whole.
Due to multiple instances of foul language the MPAA has ruled that this film should be rated R, thus preventing it from being shown in public schools. This rating ultimately will only stop Hirsch’s intentions with making this documentary. How can it reach out to bullied children if it can’t reach them at all? The Weinstein Company is not the only ones petitioning for this change in rating. Rev. Jesse Jackson along with 200,000 other petition signers will have their signatures delivered to the MPAA on Wednesday, The Hollywood Reporter states.
The issue is not just that Bully was initially given the rating of R but that it was given R when other films with graphic content also can be given PG – 13. In 2010 a film put out by Warner Bros, The Losers, was given the rating of PG – 13 even though there are multiple graphically violent scenes, several instances of swearing and some sexually charged scenes. This begs the question, which is worse for the younger demographic? Seeing violent and sexual scenes or hearing harsher swear words a few times?
In my own opinion I would rather see films like Bully be justified as rated PG – 13 even though there are such swear words since the message throughout the film is one that is so powerful. The purpose of this documentary is important enough to shine through and since harsh words are a form of bullying it honestly wouldn’t be too big of a surprise if most of the children viewing this film had already heard them multiple times.