Dueling watchdogs on bullying documentary


WatchdogsThe MPAA has turned down numerous requests to remove the R rating it has attached to “Bully” – a documentary for and about teens – so that they can more easily see it. The producers are releasing it without a rating. One children’s watchdog says theaters should turn it down; another says they should run it.

Parents Television Council thinks that the film should not be shown. Common Sense thinks as many kids as possible should see it as is.

PTC’s Tim Winter said, “This move, regardless of intentions, sets a precedent that threatens to derail the entire ratings system. If a distribution company can simply decide to operate outside of the ratings system in a case like ‘Bully,’ nothing would prevent future filmmakers from doing precisely the same thing, with potentially much more problematic material.”

Winter went on to suggest that the movie is being overshadowed by Weinstein Company’s deliberate attempt to undermine the ratings system.

Common Sense disagree with the PTC view. In a review of the film, it wrote, “In Bully’s strong language (including a brutal, profanity-laden scene in which one boy says to another that he’ll ‘shove a broomstick up your a—‘ and ‘cut your face off and s—t’) earned it an R rating from the MPAA (a rating that the production company chose not to accept, officially releasing the film as unrated), but none of the swearing is gratuitous. Like it or not, it’s a realistic portrayal of what every middle schooler and older hears every day. This gives the film veracity and credibility with kids, and it will justifiably shock parents.”

Common Sense suggested that the content of the movie in and of itself was much more shocking than the language by itself. It did suggest that adults view the documentary along with any middle-school aged children who go to see it.

RBR-TVBR observation: Sometimes an exception is justified. And exceptions do not automatically eliminate the rule they were excused from following. The FCC’s “Saving Private Ryan” exception did not lead to a sudden flood of f-bombs on broadcast television. We believe MPAA could and should have made one in this instance, support the decision to release the movie unrated and urge theaters to show it.