Film censors: Don’t let bullies win! Give ‘Bully’ a PG-13 instead of an R film rating!

After nearly two years of planning and then recording video of the lives of young people in high school and middle school teens affected by bullying for the documentary Bully, an R rating from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) will prevent people in the target audience from seeing it, both in their middle- and high schools, and in theaters when it opens March 30.

Invest a moment to view the trailer, then consider signing a petition urging MPAA to reconsider its rating.

The Bully Project is a new feature-length documentary that follows "a year in the life" of America's bullying crisis, and offers an intimate look at how bullying has touched the lives of five high school and middle school kids and their families.

For six months, this blog has featured a link to The Bully Project in the column on the right side of the page.  Since we began publishing the link, The Weinstein Company has put its marketing muscle behind the project and will distribute it.  Now, as the project approaches its release date, the young people who most need to see it may be barred from seeing the stories of their lives. [pullquote]‘Because of the R rating, most kids won’t get to see this film. No one under 17 will be allowed to see the movie, and the film won’t be allowed to be screened in American middle schools or high schools.’ -- Katy Butler, Michigan high school student[/pullquote]

I was drawn to the project when I read the comments of director Lee Hirsch, back when he   and his partner, producer Cynthia Lowen, were strategizing about fundraising.  Stories abounded about bullied middle school and high school taking their own lives.  I sensed Hirsch and Lowen would take a principled approach to the project, with integrity and passion, as I read:

BULLY is a deeply personal film for me: I was bullied throughout middle school and much of my childhood. In many ways, those experiences and struggles helped shape my worldview and my direction as a filmmaker. Bullying was a subject I wanted very much to explore in a film, and it was always on the list of projects I wanted to develop. But it stayed an abstraction for a long time -- I was too scared to start developing the idea in earnest because it would mean confronting my own demons, and revisiting a painful period of my life.

 

Then, Hirsch continued, in April of 2009 came news about two young people, two 11-year-old boys, middle school students  -- Joseph Walker Hoover of Massachusetts, and Jaheem Herrera of Georgia– who took their own lives. Both deaths were linked to trauma from chronic bullying.

11-year-old boy hanged himself after relentless bullying
Carl Joseph Walker Hoover

 

A bullied suburban Atlanta boy, Jaheem Herrera, ended his life at age 11 in 2009
Jaheem Herrera, at age 11, ended his life in 2009. His mother blamed his suicide on relentless bullying.

In the wake of those tragedies, Hirsch said he turned his full focus to making the film. In the years since those two tragic deaths, several other suicides have gained national attention, also attributed to the effects of sustained bullying, both in person and on the internet.

It's more urgent than ever that the documentary, Bully, be widely available, and easily accessible. to teens everywhere.  It's time for the MPAA censors to rethink their values.  Some coarse language is much less offensive than the brutality which far too many young people experience on a daily basis.  Would Bully be less objectionable if the abusers used  G-rated words as they drove their peers to suicide?"href="http://www.change.org/petitions/mpaa-dont-let-the-bullies-win-give-bully-a-pg-13-instead-of-an-r-rating" target="_blank">"href="http://www.change.org/petitions/mpaa-dont-let-the-bullies-win-give-bully-a-pg-13-instead-of-an-r-rating" target="_blank">

The true obscenity here is in in the physical, verbal (and online) violence young people endure, not some crude "language" used by classmates.  Couldn't it also be said the timidity of the MPAA borders on obscene?

If you agree, sign the petition and urge your friends to do the same.

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