Friday, April 06, 2012

Bullying of the Bully Documentary

About a month ago I posted about Weinstein & Co.'s attempt to get their R rated documentary "Bully" to be rated PG-13 Motion Picture Association of America, but did not intend on doing any edits.

In my post, I pointed out that I thought despite signatures and a public campaign for a re-rating I thought the ball rested in the movie producers re-edit the movie to meet the rating standards, or you leave it.

Well, the film will be released next weekend as a PG-13 film, and when I heard that snip-it, the first thing I was interested in was their a re-edit.

I knew that the film had flirted with an unrated release - but it seemed that unrated could potentially be far more deadly than "R." So for me, I suppose, I wanted to see the MPAA win.

If the film wasn't re-edited not only would I credit the Weinstein Co. for being marketing geniuses, I would also credit them as the Bully of the MPAA. But it looks like a compromise has been made, which allows for a partial re-edit.

As is not surprising, the rating didn't come down to "thematic material" necessarily, but profanity. Steven Zeitchik of the LA Times reports that the rating is a compromise. In at least three spots, the volume is dropped to essentially "bleep" out the F-word. But, in untypical fashion, the MPAA is allowing a scene that does contain three F-words. Which breaks the mold of their standard ratings.

The MPAA, Weinsteins, etc. celebrate this as an opportunity for schools, boyscout and girlscout groups, etc. to bring kids without parents.

I understand the importance of the topic, but to me this seems more about group sales, not bully topical exposure. I think there will be teens who see this film and are challenged.

But if there is topical material, not just (but including) language, that might mean students shouldn't be seeing this without parental approval, then isn't that what the ratings are for?

There has been other "R-rated" films that people thought important and important enough to not change the rating, but for children to see. I specifically think of Schindler's List or The Passion of the Christ. Many under 17 year-olds saw these films, but appropriately with the approval of an adult.

I am sure you, like me, have mixed feelings about how films are rated, and can think of examples where films should have tilted up or down from their actual rating. The objectiveness is clear, but it seems that in this situation, the rating of the film was a choice, largely based on how the documentary was edited, and the Weinstein's made a choice and created a ruckus campaign that has promoted Lee Hirsch's documentary in a way that documentary's rarely get publicized.

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