Weinsteins’ Bully Gets PG-13 Rating After Compromises With MPAA

One of the biggest hot topics in film recently has been the Motion Pictures Association of America’s treatment to the documentary Bully. Originally given a restricted rating, much to the displeasure of executive producer Harvey Weinstein, the film has gained notoriety these past few weeks in large part because of Harvey’s outcry in addition to the support he has had in the form of signed petitions from schools and students making a case for the PG-13 rating.

The Weinstein Company was all prepared to release Bully as unrated, a move that would have had the major theater exhibitors get cold feet about screening the documentary with such a designated rating. But even with an R rating it would still have been hamstrung at trying to reach its target audience – middle-schoolers. Though, to be honest, if the kids were going to watch it, they would need a parent or guardian to take them to the movie theater anyway. But that’s besides the point. What is important is that the MPAA couldn’t look past 10 uses of the f-word and its derivatives to give it a PG-13 rating from the get-go.

Now some might view Harvey Weinstein as a bully when it comes to Oscar campaigning and how he pushes to get what he wants, but you have to applaud his determination to provide a forceful voice when it comes to champion films he feels that have been inappropriately given strong ratings. A case in point would be the simulated oral sex in Blue Valentine or the uses of the f-word in The King’s Speech. The MPAA’s arcane system of contextualizing the content of film is well documented in the documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated by Kirby Dick, and includes comments from filmmakers and actors who feel that the MPAA’s methods are outdated and need refinement.

Bully has gained strong support from celebrities that include Ellen DeGeneres and Justin Bieber who also tried to get the MPAA to reconsider the rating. One high school student from Michigan, Katy Butler, started her own online petition to pressure the MPAA as well, and it garnered half a million signatures from across the country.

TWC resubmitted an edited version of Bully to the MPAA earlier this week, having removed a few uses of the f-word, but retained a very troubling incident of bullying captured on a school bus. Having had an opportunity to view the documentary, the scene is one that sticks out, if only because of how the situation is handled by the school’s principal in a later scene.

With this new version, the MPAA has given it a PG-13 citing “intense thematic material, disturbing content, and some strong language – all involving kids.”

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