Taking a calculated risk, the Weinstein Company has decided to release its hot button documentary BULLY without a rating. Despite a firestorm of criticism that has enticed the support of such celebrities as Meryl Streep and Johnny Depp, the MPAA has stuck to its guns in giving the film an R rating, citing strong language used by bullies intimidating youths in the film. The rating would make it more difficult for children under 17, who could benefit the most from the film’s message, to see the film. The film, which begins its release today, has also generated an online petition created by a bullying victim that has attracted hundreds of thousands of signatures.
Releasing the film unrated has its own perils. Some theater chains around the country routinely refuse to book films that do not have the sanctioned ratings, and some newspapers and magazines around the country similarly have policies in place that refuse taking advertisements by films that are unrated. Of course, an unrated release is generally used by films that otherwise would be rated X for sexual or violent content, which is certainly not the case here. However, by publicly challenging the rating, Harvey Weinstein, ever the shrewd marketer, has created a storm of publicity, which not only puts the theme of the film front and center, but also questions a ratings board that routinely offers PG-13 ratings to action films that feature violent mayhem.
In a release, the Weinstein Company explained their position. “After a recent plea to the MPAA by BULLY teen Alex Libby and The Weinstein Company Co-Chairman Harvey Weinstein failed – by one vote – to get the film its deserved PG-13 rating, TWC is choosing to move forward with releasing the film unrated by the MPAA on March 30. Furthering proof that the R rating for some language is inappropriate for a film that’s meant to educate and help parents, teachers, school officials and children with what’s become an epidemic in schools around the country, the fight against the rating continues on. The outpouring of support by politicians, schools, parents, celebrities and activists for the film’s mission to be seen by those it was made for – children – has been overwhelming. Nearly half a million people have signed Michigan high school student and former bullying victim Katy Butler’s petition on Change.org to urge the MPAA to lower the rating. The kids and families in this film are true heroes, and we believe theater owners everywhere will step up and do what’s right for the benefit of all of the children out there who have been bullied or may have otherwise become bullies themselves. We’re working to do everything we can to make this film available to as many parents, teachers and students across the country. To get more information on the film and to view the trailer, visit: www.thebullyproject.com