The MPAA is so completely antiquated and ridiculous it’s hard to know where to begin? This time they are slapping an R-rating onto the movie “Bully” which is a documentary exposing bullying with the intention of prevention. The reason? Coarse language–what the fuck?
Are we so behind the times that coarse language deserves an R-rating to begin with? PG13 was always a reasonable compromise because kids under 13 might be too impressionable for language or other situations that require parental guidance. Over 13 and usually it is the kids themselves that are using coarser language than any R-rated movie. This documentary is not some fiction piece where parent groups can say it does not accurately depict teenagers or provides inappropriate role models for teenagers that don’t cuss. It’s a documentary filming life in real time including the reality of swearing amongst kids.
I could have some sympathy if the movie depicted sexual acts or “Girls Gone Wild” type nudity, but this is language. Let’s get over ourselves. One of the harshest things kids deal with is bullying in Junior High and High School because they are virtually jungles often without adult intervention. Teenagers have herd mentalities, more so than adults, and will gang up on outcasts and those who don’t fit in or those who can’t fit in even if they try due to physical deformities or sexual preference.
I honestly would like to see the major studios take a stand and get rid of the MPAA. There’s no need for it any more. A ratings guide can be still be available and we don’t have to have such a subjective code. If a movie has nudity it can be slapped with an “N.” If it has language and nudity it can be slapped with “LN.” The idea is to show the content, not the perception if what is being depicted is appropriate. For example, a comedy like Porky’s (back in the day) would have been “LNS” for language, nudity and sexual situations. Any parent with half a brain can watch the trailer for Porky’s and understand it’s not for kids. On the other hand, Passion of the Christ would be rated “V” for violence (or “VS” for violence and superstition). The nature of the Biblical material would lead most parents to understand that younger kids should not see it alone, but for older kids it may be acceptable.
The great fear for moral zealots is that kids will get into theaters to see these unwholesome movies if there is no MPAA. Wanna know a secret? They already are. In my time, it was HBO or Showtime and I stayed over night at a friend’s house when their mom was gone. In the digital age, these movies can be seen on computers, mobile devices, cable TV, and by simply sneaking into a theater. It’s not that parents have to approve of their kids doing this, but the MPAA makes no difference and their decisions are often unfair and confusing. I’d rather my kid go to a theater and see the R-rated version of The King’s Speech then about 80 percent of the brainless material that plays as “family material” on cable TV.
We don’t need the MPAA to be a nanny. Theater owners can also be free to make restrictions of their own based on content. If a movie contains nudity or “N” then 17 and under not admitted. Oh no, we’ll have porn without ratings! someone is thinking. As if theaters don’t already cater to family going audiences and make decisions on the majority of tastes and what sells popcorn.
Bully could be made available for viewing in junior highs and high schools across the United States with viewing nights for parents to come with their kids or even for parents to sign permission slips for kids to see it by themselves and then discuss it with counselors. It is a great opportunity to make Hollywood work for families.
Harvey Weinstein is so pissed off that according to CinemaBlend.com he is considering a “leave of absence” from the MPAA. Some accuse him of doing this as a publicity stunt and I say, hey great idea. I’m all for bringing attention to the movie and the stupidity of the MPAA.
A petition has been started by Katy Butler at Change.Org to get the MPAA to switch Bully to a PG13 rating. Watch the inspirational trailer–does that look like an R-rated movie to you?
SIDENOTE: I’ve been reading quite a bit on violence as of late, everything from evolution and violence to serial killers, and the one thing that stands out is that when a child is bullied, beaten, or abused there is a strong potential for future criminal activity. The idea that “kids will be kids” is lazy thinking on the part of any educator. I personally feel public schools are unstructured and not goal-oriented (should be primarily vocational) and allow for bullying interactions. Morality and ethics could also be taught at this age since kids need to learn early on that to be successful in life you have to get along with others. Mentors are also important. I hated my junior high and part of my high school experience, as you might tell. Let’s stop fucking around with the lives of kids and recognize that they are adults in training. Being a kid is not an excuse to bully.