There’s never been a better time for a feature-length documentary giving viewers an intimate look at how bullying affects kids and families. So why isn’t the MPAA on board?
Though it’s already won multiple awards for accuracy, effectiveness, and candor, “The Bully Project” (set to be released March 30 by The Weinstein Company) has just received a final R rating by the Motion Picture Association of America, effectively blocking its screening in schools across the country because of “some language.” Really?? Language? Do the voting members of the MPAA even know any teenagers? As the death toll from Northeast Ohio’s Chardon High School shooting rises to three, as here in Los Angeles 10-year-old Joanna Ramos is mourned after succumbing to blunt force head-trauma at the hands of a schoolmate, this is a seriously bad time for the MPAA to demonstrate its disconnection from the young moviegoers it aims to protect.
It isn’t as if the film is simply capitalizing on alarmism or fear-based, reality show-style hype. No throbbing music leads to a nine-year-old flipping her classmates the bird; no Junior Tarantino action stars run around with shotguns intended for ravage and rape. There’s nothing about any of the movie’s advertising that suggests the audience will have a good time with bad words. This is about fragile faces and hurt hearts learning that “the power of hearing one voice in solidarity with you can be transformative.”
“The Bully Project” is a marketing tool, sure, but it’s more of an awareness campaign with a documentary film used to highlight its central theme. It’s encouraging, not selling. “The Bully Project” exists – all by its lonesome – to advocate for everyone’s involvement, to re-imagine education as an instrument of “social and emotional learning” where empathy and responsiveness are “built-in” to the classroom. It is guaranteed to provoke strong emotional reactions from its audiences regardless of whether or not it contains foul language.
Bullying is a crisis that is choking the life out of more young people than most of us realize, and the film’s point is to prompt us to start realizing it before it’s too late. So listen up, MPAA: Telling teenagers they’re too dumb to differentiate between language and a need to be heard makes you part of the problem, not part of the solution.
- Change.org’s petition to the MPAA to change “Bully’s” rating to PG-13
- National Association of School Psychologists’ Bullying: Facts for Schools and Parents