Well, I want to begin by saying that I have agonized over whether I should even bother writing this post or not, but I care so here it is. I care not only about this very important issue of bullying but also about fairness. Let me say unequivocally that I am in 100% support of the Bully movie and what Lee Hirsch and Weinstein films are doing.
A little background, I am not a celebrity or a rich person, I am just a Dad of 2 kids, 1 is 15 the other is 21. My 21 year old daughter I just found out was bullied as a teen and contemplated and apparently attempted suicide. I clearly was out of touch and didn’t see the signs. I thank god that somehow she got through this and is better now. She gave me permission to say these things and in fact has posted her own video on her YouTube channel. Anyone interested in seeing it can contact me for the link. I may also do a video version of this issue on my YouTube channel.
I signed the petition to have the rating for Bully changed from R to PG13 along with hundreds of thousands of others, prior to doing my homework. Although I have no doubt that Lee Hirsch and Harvey Weinstein’s motives are pure, I to a certain extent feel manipulated.
I was and still am so passionate about this subject and was upset that the MPAA wouldn’t give it a PG13 rating, thinking like many people that signed the petition, that the MPAA and Joan Graves were the bad guys and they could simply change the rating but wouldn’t.
This is NOT the case, and the film makers and the media are NOT being candid or fair to either the MPAA or Joan Graves. Ms. Graves and the MPAA have in my opinion been unfairly vilified in the media.
Because I was so upset about this issue in thinking that the MPAA was being the bad guy I called them and asked to speak to Ms. Graves. This was last Friday March, 9. At the time I was told she was in screenings most of the day and that they would pass my message to her. Quite frankly I did not expect to hear from her at all, let alone the same day!
I have no doubt that she is a very busy woman so I have to give her credit, not only for calling me back very quickly but for being sincere, candid, patient and listening to everything I had to say. Not only did she take the time to explain the issue and how the MPAA and the appeals process works, but she gave me as much time as I needed. At NO point during our 22 minute conversation did I ever feel rushed. I love movies and the whole process and was fascinated by what I was learning and I could have easily kept talking to her, but I was sensitive to the fact that she is busy and must have lots of people wanting her attention, especially right now because of Bully so I ended the conversation.
Again I have to say how impressed I was that she took the time, she did not have to but she did.
I then started using social media particularly Twitter in an attempt to reach somebody, ANYBODY, associated with Bully. I was not so naive as to expect Lee Hirsch or Harvey Weinstein themselves to contact me, although that would have been very cool, but I just hoped I could get somebody on their team to talk to me to make sure that I had my facts straight before I wrote part 2. I gave them 1 full week to talk with me.
I realize that the team behind Bully is very busy, especially right now, but if Joan Graves from the MPAA/CARA could give me 22 minutes of her valuable time then, in my opinion there is NO excuse that somebody from Bully couldn’t give me some time.
Unfortunately, nobody would take the time to speak to me, so I am moving forward and I believe I have my facts straight. If I do not then I am sure somebody will correct me.
The folks behind Bully are being disingenous at best and hypocritical at worst! Harsh criticism I realize, but fair is fair. Why do I say this? I will get back to why after I explain the way the system works. Please keep in mind that none of this changes the fact that I like what they are doing with the message of the movie and they should be commended for making this film. But they need to work within the system and not expect the rules to be changed because of the importance of this film. I agree the film should be rated PG13 but there is a system in place of which the filmmakers were fully aware of and now that they didn’t get their way they are being “bullies” themselves by using the media and enlisting congress and movie stars many/most of which are too busy to do the due diligence that I did, and therefore they assume that it’s as simple as just changing the rating.
It’s NOT that easy and Lee Hirsch and Harvey Weinstein know better! They also were fully aware of how the system works when they submitted their film for a rating. They knew it would garner an R rating under the current MPAA guidelines.
Keep in mind that I have ZERO connections to Hollywood. I am a huge entertainment buff, but I am a complete Hollywood outsider. Everything I learned and am about to describe is from doing my homework and speaking with Ms. Graves.
What I state next is what I believe to be accurate. Keep in mind that I only have the MPAA’s side of this but feel pretty confident that what I state is correct. Here is how the system works and what happened in the case of Bully and the other two movies that have been discussed recently and cited as reasons why Bully should have a ratings change, a 2004 movie called “Gunner Palace” that had an R rating and appealed and received a PG13 and a yet to be released movie entitled “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” that recently successfully won their appeal and are now receiving a PG13 from the original R rating. I won’t go in to more detail regarding the other two movies listed above other than to say that they went through the same appeals process that Bully went through and they won. Should Bully have won their appeal?
In my opinion yes they should have, but…… they didn’t so instead of doing what they need to do to get a PG13 rating they went on the media blitz and blinded people with emotion without explaining the truth of the matter, which is what I hope to do here. I will cover what I would do if I were the director and what I hope he does do later.
First let’s describe the process as I understand it:
1. A film is submitted to the MPAA for a rating. The issue with Bully is that they have 6 instances of the F-Bomb. Now the MPAA rules are that if a movie receives 2 or more F-Bombs or 1 instance that is used in a sexual connotation then it gets an R rating.
2. If a film gets a rating that the filmmaker finds unfavorable they have essentially 2 choices, one is they edit the movie and resubmit or they leave the film alone and they appeal. Bully did the latter, which I agree with, it is important IF possible to leave the language in as is and IF possible get a PG13 rating to ensure the widest possible audience. Unfortunately Bully lost their appeal.
Keep in mind that the appeals board is a different group of people then on the original ratings board and in fact Ms. Graves is NOT in the room when the appeals board votes.
I do agree with Lee Hirsch and others wanting to change the rating, that our current system is inadequate, antiquated and needs to be and should be changed, but for now we have to accept the system as it is, and then work towards future change. Harvey Weinstein agreed to bleep “The King’s Speech” while it was still in theaters in order to get a PG13 rating. In my opinion of course here, it was all about the Benjamins!
While I loved that film I argue that this movie is much, much more important and the same should be done here. Instead of doing so they are waging a war with the MPAA that is unfair and quite frankly they should lose.
So while I applaud their passion it would really be a shame if the MPAA were to bow down to all the pressure that is being exerted upon them by caving and making a special case for Bully. If they bow to pressure for Bully then we may as well throw the ratings system out the window. Yeah, I know some would say that’s not such a bad thing, but again that’s not how you make changes.
While I agree with the producer that we should not talk down to kids, and that they hear this language all the time, at the same time then we should give them credit for knowing what word is being bleeped.
If I read this sentence to the Bully audience I am confident that the majority will understand the missing word:
“I am going to ________ you up” Tell me can you think of any other expletive that fits properly in to that sentence? Probably not!
So what does that mean? It means that while in a perfect world we should leave the F-bomb’s in and give the film a PG13 rating, but the reality is that bleeping it will not severely damage this movie or the impact it will have.
So what would I do and should Lee do? Edit the movie, bleep the F-Bombs, and resubmit to the MPAA and hopefully receive the PG13 rating to ensure a wide audience. Then if he wants he can release both versions of the movie on the DVD and Blu-Ray.
In just watching the trailer I was moved to tears and I wanted to reach out and give the children in the film a hug and tell them that they are worthwhile and to hang in there. I then wanted to storm in to the schools and chastise the educators for not being attentive and dealing with this epidemic. The fact that I viewed a short trailer for this movie that had ZERO expletives in it and I was moved to tears, I believe proves that the impact of this movie remains the same whether you bleep the F-Bombs or not.
So in my mind there are two issues at play here.
The first is that bullying is an epidemic in this country and needs to have a large spotlight placed upon it, so we can begin to deal with this issue. I also applaud Katy Butler for starting her petition drive, but the second issue has to do with the way that the film makers have gone about the ratings issue and the way that most of the media has portrayed this issue.
You have many stars, politicians and athletes including Anderson Cooper, Ellen DeGeneres, Olivia Munn, Johhny Depp, Meryl Streep, Drew Brees Justin Bieber, Roger Ebert and now congress rallying behind the effort to “bully” the MPAA in to changing the rating for this movie. Prior to my doing my homework I also signed the petition.
Do I regret having signed it? No. Would I sign it today knowing what I know? Not sure, maybe.
What is truly amazing to me is so many of these movie stars and esteemed critic Roger Ebert, should be fully aware of how the MPAA works and yet they are jumping on the band wagon seemingly ignoring the rules for the industry that feeds them.
We can’t change the rules just because we don’t like them. It’s a very slippery slope if we do.
One thing that all bullies have in common:
They believe the rules do not apply to them.
So Lee, Harvey and the rest of the Bully crew:
Don’t be a BULLY! Play by the rules, you lost fair and square.
Edit the film, let’s get the rating it should have and save kids lives!
Concerned Dad Mauricio