Tens of Thousands Sign Petition Urging MPAA to Overturn 'Bully's' R Rating

The Bully Project Tribeca 2011

News of the online petition comes one day after a high school student, who may have been bullied, allegedly shot and killed three classmates in Chardon, Ohio.

More than 75,000 people have signed an online petition urging the MPAA’s Classification and Ratings Administration to overturn the R-rating assigned to Lee Hirsch’s documentary Bully because of language.
The petition was created on Change.org by Katy Butler, a Michigan high school student who herself was a victim of bullying. She’s calling for a PG-13 rating.

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The Weinstein Co. is releasing Bully in theaters on March 23 and last week appealed the R-rating at hearing in Sherman Oaks, where Harvey Weinstein personally appeared to argue the case, saying the R-rating will deter the very demographic who needs to see the film.

Butler, a student at Geenhills High School in Ann Arbor, agrees.

“I can’t believe the MPAA is blocking American teenagers from seeing a movie that literally could save thousands of lives,” she said in a statement. “I’m speaking out for all those students who suffer everyday because of bullying. The MPAA needs to give Bully a PG-13 rating so the students being bullied, and the bullies themselves, can see the this film and schools can show it as well.”

After last week’s hearing, Harvey Weinstein said he is considering no longer doing business with the ratings board.

In her own statement, CARA chairman Joan Graves said there are set rules about language, even though the MPAA agrees with the Weinstein Co. that Bully can certainly serve as a vehicle for change and discussion. She said CARA’s responsibility is to convey information to parents.

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“School districts, similarly, handle the determination of showing movies on a case-by-case basis and have their own guidelines for parental approval,” Graves continued.

The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Safe and Drug-Free Schools estimates that over 13 million kids will be bullied this year, making it the most common form of violence experienced by young people in the nation. Filmed over the course of the 2009-10 school year, Bully reveals how the problem transcends geographic, racial, ethnic and economic borders.

Butler has had success before. Late last year, she launched a separate petition on Change.org urging the Michigan state Legislature to block a bill she says would have created religious and moral exemptions for bullying. After more than 50,000 people signed the petition, the legislature removed the exemptions.

“It has been amazing to see Katy Butler’s petition to the MPAA take off,” said Change.org campaign manager Mark Anthony Dingbaum.

News of the petition comes one day after a high school shooting in Chardon, Ohio, that has left three students dead and three others hospitalized. There are unsubstantiated reports that suspect T.J. Lane, 17, may have been bullied. There are separate reports that Lane’s father has been arrested numerous times for abuse.