The saga of the upcoming documentary Bully (which we covered in our Spring Issue) has finally come to a resolution. After the film received an R rating from the Motion Picture Association of America, Harvey Weinstein, whose Weinstein Company will release the film in New York and Los Angeles on Friday, and director Lee Hirsch spearheaded a campaign asking the organization to lower the rating to PG-13, which would allow the movie, an incisive look at the growing pervasiveness and cruelty of high school bullying, to be screened in schools. The MPAA cited “some language” as the reason for the R rating, and noted that only a recut version of the film with the offending words removed would lead to a looser rating. But Hirsch and Weinstein refused to edit their movie, arguing that the changes would blunt the visceral power of the scenes of bullying. The Weinstein Company announced yesterday that it will ignore the Association and instead release the film unrated.
A number of celebrities, including Ellen DeGeneres, joined the cause, along with David Boies and Ted Olson, the two lawyers who recently successfully argued for the overturn of Prop 8, and U.S. Representative Mike Honda of California, who sent a letter to his fellow Congressmen asking the MPAA to reconsider its decision. Katy Butler, a Michigan high school student, gathered almost five hundred thousand signatures on a petition at Change.org, but the MPAA refused to reclassify the film as PG-13.
The National Association of Theater Owners has threatened to treat the film—as it does with all unrated films—as effectively NC-17, meaning no one under the age of seventeen would be admitted. The Weinstein Company’s president of marketing Stephen Bruno said in a statement yesterday, “We believe theater owners everywhere will step up and do what’s right for the benefit of all of the children out there who have been bullied or may have otherwise become bullies themselves. We’re working to do everything we can to make this film available to as many parents, teachers and students across the country.”