'Bully' controversy: Student urges MPAA to change documentary's R rating

The Weinstein Company lost its appeal to overturn the "Bully's" R rating.

Story highlights

  • "Bully," a look at adolescent bullying in America, was rated R for "some language"
  • The Weinstein Co. believes an R rating would diminish the film's influence on adolescents
  • They said they will continue keeping pressure on the MPAA
The battle over "Bully's" R rating rages on.
Katy Butler, a 17-year-old high school student from Michigan, delivered a petition (with more than 200,000 signatures) Wednesday to the Motion Picture Association of America's office in Sherman Oaks, California.
Her message: Lower the MPAA rating of the upcoming Weinstein Company documentary from R to PG-13. "Bully," a look at the rise of adolescent bullying in America, was rated R for "some language" -- specifically for the f-word, which is used a reported six times in the film. An R rating means that adolescents under the age of 17 -- the documentary's intended audience -- cannot see the film without an adult guardian.
Butler, who came out as a lesbian in middle school and has been the victim of repeated bullying, launched the online petition on February 26. Since then, she has been featured on CNN and Fox News, and was in the audience during today's taping of "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," during which DeGeneres urged her viewers to also sign the petition.
But will all of this media attention have any effect on the MPAA's decision? In response to Butler's petition, the organization released the following statement from Joan Graves, the Chairman of its Classification and Rating Administration:
"Katy Butler's efforts in bringing the issue of bullying to the forefront of a national discussion in the context of this new film are commendable and we welcome the feedback about this movie's rating. The MPAA shares Katy's goals of shining a light on the problem of bullying and we hope that her efforts will fuel more discussion among educators, parents, and children.
The voluntary ratings system enables parents to make an informed decision about what content they allow their children to see in movies. The R rating and description of 'some language' for Bully does not mean that children cannot see the film. As with any movie, parents will decide if they want their children to see Bully. School districts, similarly, handle the determination of showing movies on a case-by-case basis and have their own guidelines for parental approval.