Are a few f-words worse than teenagers murdering each other?
If you are sane, I would hope you would answer "no." But alas, the controversy last week stems from the Motion Picture Association of America granting an R-rating to the anti-bullying documentary Bully for a few f-words, while giving money-making juggernaut and violent movie The Hunger Games a PG-13 rating.
Everyone is weighing in. There's a petition from one of Bully's subjects, Katy Butler, garnering support from Ellen DeGeneres, quarterback Drew Brees, Demi Lovato and a slew of other big name celebs. Meryl Streep even hosted a screening of the film and talked about how she was builled as a kid. Even lawyers are threatening the MPAA with legal action.
But is this really a debate about who gets to see Bully or a critique of flawed rating system? Or both?
Bullying, although prevalent since the beginning of time, has become an epidemic of late with a rash of teenage suicides and emotional and physical trauma, all while being magnified by social media. It's naïve to think that bullying (or racism or sexism or any -ism) could be eliminated from our society, but it's important to bring awareness to the issue -- a task that Bully can and will easily achieve.
So to curb this controversy and really, truly bring awareness to the anti-bullying movement, The Weinstein Company should forgo financially profiting from the documentary and instead release it directly to YouTube, iTunes, Facebook and other online platforms, free of charge.
Pay the filmmakers for their work, let it go viral and watch it explode.
With seemingly every trending topic on Twitter being about Justin Bieber, I can only assume that millions and millions of kids have access to the internet, a smart phone or some medium to be able to watch this movie online instead of going to the theaters and paying their allowance money to get educated. According to bulliyingngstatistics.org, "over half of adolescents and teens have been bullied online, and about the same number have engaged in cyber bullying." What better way to address cyber bullying than releasing it directly to cyberspace? Kids are already making anecdotal YouTube videos of their stories of being bullied by holding up post it notes or signs describing their experiences. Just search "Bullying Stories" and see what comes up.
Look at what KONY 2012 did. Regardless of the campaign or naked founder, it brought an unprecedented amount of awareness to an issue and person most kids haven't heard of and didn't care about before watching that 30-minute video. Look at what the tragic case of Trayvon Martin is doing. Kids, from around the world, are posting pictures of themselves in hoodies, or with skittles and iced tea, in support of the young man who lost his life. Pre-teens and teenagers have the ability to get behind a cause thanks to new media and are doing so with fervor and passion.
I signed Butler's petition because I believe that Bully should be rated PG-13 to maximize awareness for the anti-bullying movement. But I don't buy into that a mere regression of ratings is going to single-handedly have that huge of an effect. The Bully debates is a good way of exposing the hypocrisy of the MPAA, but let's not forget, the Weinstein Company is expecting to make money off of this film, and a PG-13 rating would assuredly make them a few more bucks. (Another solution would be allowing children with a school I.D. free admission.)
What would make a bigger of an impact; putting Bully in select theaters across the nation with a price tag, or allowing it to be simultaneously released across every digital platform for free?