Ellen DeGeneres, Drew Brees, Members of Congress Sign on Petition to Change Anti-Bullying Documentary's Rating

 Most of the people who experience bullying in school are young--middle-schoolers, high-schoolers, people under the age of 17. Yet a new documentary film that explores the experience of children who are mistreated by their peers was given an R rating by the Motion Picture Association of America, meaning that most of those young people won't be able to see it without an adult guardian.

Katy Butler, a junior in high school who has been bullied herself, started a petition on Change.org to get the MPAA to change the film's rating, so the people most affected by its subject matter can see it. 


I can’t believe the MPAA is blocking millions of teenagers from seeing a movie that could change -- and, in some cases, save -- their lives. According to the film’s website, over 13 million kids will be bullied this year alone. Think of how many of these kids could benefit from seeing this film, especially if it is shown in schools?

If enough people speak out and ask the MPAA to give Bully a PG-13 rating, maybe we can get them to change their minds. Will you sign my petition to the MPAA asking for a PG-13 rating instead of an R?

From what I understand, the MPAA ruled by ONE vote that Bully deserves an R-rating because of “language,” robbing many teenagers of the chance to view a film that could change their lives, and help reduce violence in schools. This makes me really mad. It means that a film documenting the abuse that millions of kids experience through bullying won’t be seen by the audience that needs to see it the most: middle school students and high school students.

 285,000 people have signed Katy's petition so far, and she's now gotten support from celebrities Ellen DeGeneres, who encouraged her viewers and Twitter followers to sign the petition, from New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees and actress/singer Demi Lovato, and now from Congressman Mike Honda, who is circulating a letter to his colleagues calling for support for the petition and for the change in ratings for the film.

And guess who the president of the MPAA is now? None other than former Senator Chris Dodd. 

In the letter to Dodd, Honda wrote: 

The language in the film is a reflection of reality in our schools, on our buses, and online – something these kids experience every single day.  It’s not sensationalized “adult content” as your rating suggests and is oftentimes an active part of bullying itself.  This depiction is honest, and although striking at times, we should not censor reality. The educational benefit of this documentary, possibly life-saving, appears to clearly outweigh the utterances of profanity.

When you consider what gets films an R rating, the fact that offensive language--in a film about bullying--was the main factor in the choice of ratings, the decision is almost laughable. Just a few films that are rated PG-13, for reference, are Coyote Ugly, Hotel Rwanda, License to Kill, Million Dollar Baby, and The Bourne Identity.

AlterNet / By Sarah Jaffe

Posted at March 12, 2012, 11:07am