Bully Unrated

The documentary movie “Bully” was rated R, and the distributors didn’t like that. So, it was announced today, in a rare move in the movie industry, that the movie would be distributed with no MPAA rating. Perhaps because unrated movies carry the stigma of other possibly explicit works, it is well known that many movie theaters will not show unrated movies. I suppose releasing the film as unrated was mostly in protest to the MPAA rating.

There are a couple of things going on here that are problematic. If the goal was to allow more people to see the movie, then why release it with no rating? It doesn’t make much sense to me. Furthermore, this is exactly the kind of movie that parents should not only see but take their kids to see. The “R” rating does not completely ban people under 17 from seeing the movie. They simply cannot see it by themselves. Of course, that is the issue that the distributor, the Weinstein Company, had with the rating.

This brings back memories of the film, “This Film Is Not Yet Rated”, a film I rather disliked (however, not for its attack on the MPAA system; I may do a post in the future on this movie). In that movie, the filmmakers challenged the way that films are rated by the MPAA and likened it to a form of censorship. I hope that people don’t try to make a comparison to the film being rated R as a form of censorship.

While “Bully” will likely be an infinitely more important film than any film that is a dramatization of unreal events, it is perhaps curious to this blogger as to why it is getting so much attention. Well, perhaps it is precisely because this film is probably a very important one that the company would have preferred an MPAA rating of PG-13.

What the R rating would have done is prevented a group of teenagers who wanted to go see a movie this weekend from seeing this without at least one parent. However, let’s be honest-the average teenager is more likely to see a movie like “The Hunger Games” (if they hadn’t already), “Wrath of the Titans” or even “The Lorax”. Of course the (perhaps) wiser group who wants to see “Bully” will have to drag along a parent; as if doing that would be difficult.

So, I don’t quite see the logic in surrendering the R rating. With the unrated rating, many theaters will not have “Bully” shown. If they wanted to demonstrate their protesting of the rating, they had already done so by trying to get it appealed. There are times in life when we have to give in. I think the Weinstein Company made a mistake by not giving in.

I could be wrong about that, though. If as many theaters show the film as would have given the R rating instead, then this protest will not only have been a success for the company, but be a stepping stone for future films who want to appeal a rating. But if it was just to “stick it to the man”, as it were, then I think I have a problem with their decision to release it unrated.

Update (April 6th): The movie has since been edited to allow for a PG-13 rating, and a PG-13 version will be released in theaters from April 13th. I am assuming they did what network television has been doing, and are simply bleeping the strong words. This is probably the best choice as adults and probably most teenagers can take a guess as to what those words were anyways. I will probably get flack for supposedly supporting “film censorship”, but I stand by my opinion that they should have just released it with an R rating in the first place. To each his own-the film will make more money because of this rating, so this was probably the best choice.