The MPAA has given the documentary film Bully an R rating, angering many of Hollywood’s biggest stars. Meryl Streep, Johnny Depp, Lady Gaga and more have signed their famous names to a petition calling for the ruling to be changed, using their star power to put pressure on the MPAA.
The mysterious powers that be at The Motion Picture Association of America have given the documentary, which follows victims of bullying in schools from the Midwest and South, a restrictive R rating based on language. The ruling indicates a restricted audience, with guidelines suggesting parents accompany viewers under 17 — the group supporters of Bully believe most need to see the film.
Director Lee Hirsch spoke of the MPAA rating controversy to MSNBC. “They don’t give you explanation. It’s incredibly secretive,” he explained of the MPAA’s process. “They will just say, sorry. This is a decision. It was for language. We can’t tell you any more about the process. It’s a very, very secretive process.”
Comparing the language in Bully to violence seen in other PG-13 rated films Hirsch continued, “They’ll say all this violence, gratuitous violence, glorification of violence is fine and then they look at our film and give it an R. It’s heartbreaking and sort of infuriating and it’s really, I think, what’s helped rally so much support to this film, which has just been awesome.”
The Weinstein Co., which will distribute the film, appealed the MPAA’s decision but failed. Katy Butler, a high school student from Michigan, started a petition on Change.org to ask the MPAA to change the rating from R to PG-13. A victim of bullying herself, Katy wrote in part:
From what I understand, the MPAA ruled by ONE vote that Bully deserves an R-rating because of “language,” robbing many teenagers of the chance to view a film that could change their lives, and help reduce violence in schools. This makes me really mad. It means that a film documenting the abuse that millions of kids experience through bullying won’t be seen by the audience that needs to see it the most: Middle school students and high school students.
Please sign my petition and demand that the MPAA give Bully a PG-13 so this important film can be seen by as many kids and adults as possible.
Her call to action has been heard, with current signatures on the petition numbered at over 300,000. Famous names joining the cause include Justin Bieber, Meryl Streep, Johnny Depp, Demi Lovato and Ellen DeGeneres, who spoke about Bully and the petition on her talk show.
Meryl Streep, who added Oscar win number three to her list of credentials earlier this year for her role in The Iron Lady, plans to host a special screening of the film in New York as a way to show her support.