Controversial documentary BULLY scores a PG rating in Canada

Rachel Fox

by:
March 16th, 2012

Despite being "bullied" by the MPAA after being hit with an R rating over "strong language", the documentary BULLY was on the receiving end of some Canadian love this week, where it was granted PG-status in provinces across the country.

Producer Harvey Weinstein has been engaged in a combative public battle with the MPAA over its restrictive rating for a documentary concerned with the alarming and increasingly tragic rise of bullying in schools. Director Lee Hirsch's film, which has been screened at festivals around the world and racked up numerous awards, follows the stories and experiences of five children who are victimized by bullying at their respective schools. According to the film's website, "13 million kids in the US will be bullied this year."

The bullying epidemic is not relegated to school-aged children alone; today, former Rutgers University student Dharun Ravi was convicted of hate crimes following the suicide of his roommate, Tyler Clementi, who committed suicide after Ravi recorded him kissing another man. The case gained international attention and has come to symbolize of the potentially stark consequences of cyber-bullying.

Weinstein is not alone in his quest to have the film's rating downgraded. A successful online petition started by a young woman named Katy Butler has received over 306,000 signatures (including a very public endorsement from talk-show host Ellen Degeneres) from those who hope to have the MPAA downgrade the documentary from its R rating to a more accessible PG-13. Butler writes, "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."

The film's associated Bully Project campaign is geared towards proactive social change through advocacy, education, shared stories, activism and awareness. BULLY's social media crusade extends to Facebook and Twitter.

The controversy surrounding BULLY and its use of highly contextualized (yet ultimately offensive and inappropriate, according to the MPAA) "extreme language" brings to mind similar issues arising over the use of expletives during PBS' broadcasts of SAVING PRIVATE RYAN and Ken Burns' documentary Jazz. Ultimately, the FCC deemed that SAVING PRIVATE RYAN's language was acceptable in the context of WW2, while Burn's Jazz was fine-worthy.

Source The Globe and Mail

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