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Campaign waged to change MPAA’s ‘R’ rating for ‘Bully’


Katy Butler knows how it feels to be bullied.

When she was 12, four boys came up behind her, called her names, shoved her into a wall, slammed a locker on her hand and broke her finger. “I held back tears while I watched them run away laughing,” she said. “I didn’t know what to do so I stood there, alone and afraid.”

Katy Butler of Ann Arbor, Mich., is now in high school, where she had hoped that she and classmates might see a screening of a documentary due out in late March called “Bully.” The film’s distributor, the Weinstein Company, wants to screen the film in middle and high schools across America.

But the Motion Picture Association of America gave an “R” rating to “Bully,” meaning no one under the age of 17 should see the movie without an accompanying parent or adult guardian.

The MPAA says of an “R” rating: “Restricted. Children Under 17 Require Accompanying Parent or Adult Guardian. An R-rated motion picture, in the view of the Rating Board, contains some adult material. An R-rated motion picture may include adult themes, adult activity, hard language, intense or persistent violence, sexually-oriented nudity, drug abuse or other elements, so that parents are counseled to take this rating very seriously. Children under 17 are not allowed to attend R-rated motion pictures unaccompanied by a parent or adult guardian. Parents are strongly urged to find out more about R-rated motion pictures in determining their suitability for their children. Generally, it is not appropriate for parents to bring their young children with them to R-rated motion pictures.”

The rating of “Bully” raises questions about whether schools will be allowed to screen the film, which explores an epidemic of harassment and violence among the young in the United States. The “R” apparently stems from course language in the documentary.

The filmmakers are lobbying the MPAA to change the rating to PG-13, but have lost one appeal.

Butler, for her part, has launched a Change.org campaign.

“I can’t believe the MPAA is blocking millions of teenagers from seeing a movie that could change – and, in some cases, save – their lives,” she said. “According to the film’s Website, over 13 million kids will be bullied this year alone. Think of how many of these kids could benefit from seeing this film, especially if it is shown in schools?”

Her petition, as of early Feb. 29, had more than 129,000 signatures.

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