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'Bully' MPAA Rating Decision Kiss of Death for Film

Harvey Weinstein supposedly gets his way in Hollywood, but the Motion Picture Association of America ratings board did him no favors by copping out on rating of his documentary “Bully.”

The Weinstein Company’s film about school boy bullying was slapped with an “R” rating, which would have prevented it from being shown in junior high and high schools. The group removed a rating all together, after the company protested.

That means theater owners are free to decide whether to screen the movie. But most view an unrated film in its worst possible light, which would be an NC-17 rating.

The restriction means you must be over 17 to get into the theaters. An “R” rating requires a parent to accompany a teen. Most theaters won’t screen NC-17 films because of the restricted audience.

The picture, starring Brad Renfro, Bijou Phillips, Rachel Miner, Michael Pitt, Leo Fitzpatrick and Nick Stahl, is based on a true story. It’s about the 1993 real-life murder of Bobby Kent, a student in Florida who was such a bully other kids set up his killing.

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“The small amount of language in the film that’s responsible for the R rating is there because it’s real,” said Director Lee Hirsch in a statement.

“It’s what the children who are victims of bullying face on most days. All of our supporters see that, and we’re grateful for the support we’ve received across the board. I know the kids will come, so it’s up to the theaters to let them in,” he added.

“Bully” earned an “R” rating because of coarse language. Film censors automatically used the rating if it contains two more more F-bombs.

The film maker and a raft of celebrities had lobbied for a “PG-13” rating, which “The Hunger Games” and “Twilight” movies received, despite their graphic depictions of murder and mayhem.

The MPAA has been rating films for their content since 1968. Ironically, its system for judging film content was supposed to be a modernization of the Hays Code, adopted in the 1934 to accomplish the same thing.

In another irony, the MPAA considered the Hays code hopelessly out of date because a number of top quality films that were being excoriated largely for sex and nudity. The Hays Code was only 34 years old at the time.

Although it has been modified slightly since its enactment in 1968– the NC-17 replaced the X rating in 1990–the MPAA code is now 43 years old. It’s clear movie ratings have lost their relevance in the digital age.

When a film like Bully is “R” rated, you known it’s time to rethink this archaic system.

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