After a massive campaign by the film’s producers that included celebrity support and a Change.org petition signed by more than 500,000 people, the MPAA has still refused to lower the rating of “Bully,” a documentary that follows the lives of five families who have been the victim of bullying, to PG-13. The film, which will be released in NY and LA on March 30, contains explicit language used by actual bullies and has been slapped with an R rating. You can read my original analysis of the controversy here.
The Weinstein Company, which will distribute the film, has chosen to release “Bully” without a rating instead of accepting the decision by the ratings board. Releasing “Bully” as Unrated allows theater owners to choose whether to let minors into the theater or to treat it as an R. This is a purely symbolic gesture of defiance to the MPAA. While unrated movies typically perform poorly at the box-office, this is not a case of putting principle over profit. “Bully” is sure to make a profit either as unrated movie or an R, largely because of all the free media that this campaign against the MPAA has generated. I guess, as usual, the Weinstein brothers knew what they were doing.
Although I have been skeptical that teenagers would line up to see a documentary about bullying in the first place, the filmmakers feel differently. The director of the film, Lee Terry, released this statement today: “The small amount of language in the film that’s responsible for the ‘R’ rating is there because it’s real. It’s what the children who are victims of bullying face on most days. All of our supporters see that, and we’re grateful for the support we’ve received across the board. I know the kids will come, so it’s up to the theaters to let them in.”