“Bully” and the MPAA PR Dilemma

“Bully” opened in a limited release on Friday, leaving theaters to decide whether they should let underage teens in or not.  Harvey Weinstein chose to release the film without a rating after loudly and repeatedly objecting to a controversial decision by the Motion Picture Association of America to give the film an R, which means anyone 17 and under needs an adult with them to get in.

Weinstein has brought his objections along with his army of celebrity supporters to magazines and talkshows, but the MPAA refused to budge and the R rating has stuck, which the Weinstein Co. argued would bar its target audience: teens.

“Bully” is said to have received the R rating because in one scene a bully uses profanity.  If sticking to the letter of the law is its sole purpose, the MPAA is doing its job, but at what cost?  The kids who could most benefit from this film are being locked out.  And why, because of language they hear every day on the playground by those very bullies being documented.  The Hunger Games, a film about kids sent to hunt and eat other kids, ended up with a PG rating.  Go figure.

To quote a recent article by AO Scott in the New York Times: “There is little swearing in the movie, and a lot of upsetting stuff, but while some of it may shock parents, very little of it is likely to surprise their school-age children.” Whose sensitivity does the association suppose it is protecting? The answer is nobody’s. That organization, like the panicked educators in the film itself, holds fast to its rigid, myopic policies to preserve its own authority. The members of the ratings board perform a useful function, but this is not the first time they’ve politicianed us.”

By sticking to this decision, the MPAA is doing irreparable PR damage to its own brand.  It is presenting itself as a dated, archaic system.  “Bully” on the other hand is generating more buzz and PR than it ever could have without this controversy.  Harvey is doing his PR magic.  He and the legion of star power champions of the film are garnering more exposure for the film than any marketing or ad campaign could buy.

Regardless of the rating and the controversy, “Bully” is an important film and one that should be watched by kids and parents.  The problem is how to get the kids to see it.

Copyright © Anthony Mora 2012

Allocca, Dave. “Lee Hirsch (left) and Alex Libby.” Photo. People. 02 Apr 2012. 03 Apr 2012. <http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20582921,00.html>

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