This week, a courageous 17 year-old named Katy Butler delivered over 225,000 signatures to the MPAA urging the organization to change the rating of BULLY from R to PG-13. In the face of this outpouring of support, the MPAA has maintained the R rating -- making it difficult for middle and high school students to access the film -- due to "elements strong enough to require careful consideration [from parents] before allowing their children to view it."
The "elements" in question are six uses of the f-word.
BULLY bears witness to the violence, intimidation, threats, derogation and abuse 13 million American kids will experience this year. We made this film to give voice to those for whom bullying is a daily reality and to honestly depict bullying in such a way as to make it impossible to dismiss as "kids being kids" or a "normal" rite of passage.
Bullying is ugly, it is painful, it is hard to hear and watch, and we cannot ignore the consequences. This language belongs in a film about bullying, because this is what bullying sounds and feels like. To take away this language, or prevent kids from hearing the words that reflect their own experiences, is to look the other way, to gloss over the suffering and to continue to perpetrate the myth that has allowed bullying to become so entrenched in our communities. To pretend this language doesn't exist denies bullied kids who wake up day after day, and get on that bus, or walk through the halls of their schools, knowing the gauntlet of harm they're likely to face, the dignity and acknowledgement of bravery they're due.
This language exists in this film because it does not belong at the bus stop, on our school buses, in the halls of our schools, on our kids' social networking pages, or anywhere in our communities where we strive to make kids safe. The language in this film is their reality. Instead of protecting kids from the language of the film we need to work together to protect them from bullying. We do not depict this mature language to condone or sensationalize it, but for exactly the opposite reason: to underscore just how damaging this language is when it is used to bully -- and its prevalence.
Our hope is that through the hard truths contained in BULLY, viewers will be moved to take action. As parents, educators and a society, we are asking young people to take ownership of this issue and to help us create a culture where bullying is simply not acceptable. As we saw from the overwhelming number of kids who came out in support of the petition urging the MPAA to lower the rating of BULLY to PG-13, this is their story, and they want it to be heard. If we expect middle and high school students to have the courage, integrity and strength to take on bullying, we must empower them with the respect to handle the language that honestly depicts their world.
Cynthia Lowen is the producer of the documentary film, "BULLY."
"BULLY" opens in theatres on March 30th.