17-year-old Katy Butler's campaign to change the 'R' rating of the movie Bully to 'PG-13' made major headway last week when her petition received more than 275,000 signatures. More than 200,000 of those were delivered by Butler to the Motion Picture Association of America's (MPAA) Los Angeles office last week, where Butler also met with Joan Graves, the MPAA's Head of Classification and Ratings Division.
Butler's mission has garnered the attention of many well-known public figures, sparking a national movement of people calling on the MPAA to drop the 'R' rating. Representative Mike Honda of California issued a letter to the MPAA, which was signed by 20 additional Members of Congress and supports Katy's petition.
The letter reads: “We are writing to express our sincere disappointment in the MPAA’s decision to issue an ‘R’ rating for the soon-to-be-released documentary Bully. This important project shows the real life anguish of many teenagers in this country who are tormented, harassed, and bullied by their peers,”
The high school student from Michigan is no stranger to bullying. After coming out as a lesbian in middle school, Butler was bullied so severely that she ended up with a broken finger after students slammed her hand in a locker. Butler's goal is to increase awareness about bullying, but she fears many teens could be hampered from seeing Bully with the current 'R' rating, hence her Change.org petition initiative.
"This film is too important to silence with an 'R' rating," Butler said in a press release. "Everyone should have a chance to see Bully."
On The Ellen Degeneres Show last Wednesday, Ellen made it clear that she was in favor of reducing Bully's rating to 'PG-13.' She urged her viewers and 9 million Twitter followers to sign Katy's petition. And Ellen wasn't the only celebrity who took to Twitter to express their support for the film. Demi Lovato encouraged her follower to sign the Change.org petition, and Justin Bieber tweeted, "just watched the #BULLY movie. really intense. really powerful. we need to stand up for eachother." New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees also rallied behind Butler and joined the cause on Twitter.
Even the film's producer, Harvey Weinstein, put his two cents into the 'R'-rating controversy. He argued that the rating restricts the teen audience which the documentary targets. The Weinstein Co. appealed the MPAA's decision, but it was declined. He has since threatened to withdraw his films from the MPAA ratings system, which could threaten the commercial and artistic success of his future films. However, he does have hope that the rating of Bully will ultimately be changed.
"We're hoping that smart people come to their senses," Weinstein told the Associated Press.