Today’s is about something that makes me so angry that I had to write about it.
Bully is a documentary that goes deep into the lives of young students and gives a brutal look at the tormenting that many children have to face on a daily basis. It was made to expose what really goes on at schools, to show the effects that it has on children, and to take a stand against bullying around the world.
Children need to see this movie. They need to see their fellow students from around the nation and hear their stories. However, the Motion Picture Association of America is enforcing a mind-boggling R rating, strictly limiting the accessibility of this movie to the kids who need to see it most.
Nearly everyone has been bullied at some point in their life, to some extent. If you haven’t, you’re lucky.
Kids get picked on because they’re short, or tall, or skinny, or fat, or maybe just because they’re a boy among girls, or a girl among boys. Hair color. Skin color. Race. Religion. Sexuality. Physical disabilities. Mental disabilities.
Children find anything that’s different and target it. Some people laugh it off. Others drown in it. And when that one kid starts drowning, the rest of the kids keep piling on more and more weight.
Some kids see it happening and shy away from it. Others don’t even realize how terrible it is. Take a look at the trailer for Bully…
As you can see, it’s not just the kids that allow it to happen; parents and teachers and school officials all stand by as if nothing is wrong. When an 11-year-old kid commits suicide because he can’t stand the incessant teasing that he faces every day, something is wrong. When a child doesn’t want to get on a bus because it’s essentially a torture chamber, something is wrong. When a documentary is being made to bring these events to light, something is wrong and people need to see it.
Parents need to see it to know that if their child is unsafe, they need to speak out. Teachers need to see it to know that this problem is very real. And most of all, kids need to see it. For all different kinds of reasons.
Bullies need to see how much of an effect their actions have on their victims, and what type of drastic results may occur. Victims need to see the movie to know that they’re not alone, that they have love and support, and that things will get better. And children who aren’t involved either way need to see that they don’t have to just stand by and turn the other way. One act of kindness can make all the difference. It just takes one person to stand up against bullying to save a life.
That’s exactly why Bully needs to reach as many children as possible. In theaters. In homes. In schools. But an R rating dramatically limits that possibility. The people who need to see this most are the ones being restricted from doing so. Sure, parents can take their children to see it (which they most certainly should), but many parents have an unwavering stance against R-rated movies. Most schools these days have a policy against screening R-rated movies in the classrooms. Even if permission slips are handed out, again, there are those parents who won’t budge on rated R movies.
And I get it. Parents don’t want their kids exposed to vulgar language, or excessive violence, or sex, or drugs. I wouldn’t want my future kids to be exposed to that either before I felt they were old enough. But why is Bully rated R? Because of language. Maybe because of some violence (though it’s listed as only for language). Um, sorry, but wasn’t this entire documentary shot in schools? Kids are exposed to curse words on a daily basis at school. They see this violence every day. I think the MPAA is saying that schools are an R-rated place to be. And besides, the whole point of this movie to show that this language, violence, and teasing is unacceptable.
As it stands, the MPAA is unwilling to reduce the rating with the movie set to open (limited release) this weekend. As a last resort, the Weinstein Company has decided to remove the rating completely, preferring to open the movie unrated. Some people are of the opinion that this might be better. At the very least, it avoids the daunting connotation that an R rating brings. However, this will further limit the accessibility that people will have to see the movie. Many theaters don’t carry unrated movies. Some publications can’t advertise films without ratings. Many people stay away from them due to their ambiguous label, or lack thereof.
Filmmaker Lee Hirsch and the Weinstein Company have made a bold move by making such a dark, yet enlightening documentary. And I can’t speak enough about the bully victims who have shown extraordinary courage by telling their stories in front of the camera, in front of the entire nation, to make a difference. Perhaps for the first time in their lives, these children have a voice. They can finally speak up for themselves, and speak out to their peers. These young bullied children need to know that they have a voice that matters, but that voice is being muffled by the MPAA.
Thank you for reading my uncharacteristically preachy post, but I just can’t let Bully‘s message fall upon deaf ears.