A documentary focusing on bullying in American public schools has gained plenty of pre-release buzz, but not because of any marketing strategy. Instead, the effort has been largely grass roots and focused on the decision of the MPAA to give the film an R rating based on strong language.
Katy Butler, a Michigan high school student and victim of bullying, started a petition on Change.org to change the rating to PG-13 to allow more children who may be experiencing bullying into the theater. In the belief that more good can be done by allowing children to view the film, the petition gathered steam quickly, and eventually over 500,000 people signed. In addition to the regular signees, the petition gained the support of 26 members of Congress and celebrities such as Johnny Depp and Ellen Degeneres according to People.com.
Lee Hirsch, the director of Bully, released a statement Monday regarding the MPAA decision. “The small amount of language in the film that’s responsible for the ‘R’ rating is there because it’s real. It’s what the children who are victims of bullying face on most days. All of our supporters see that, and were 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.”
“The MPAA said they wouldn’t drop the ‘R’ rating unless this language was removed, but nothing can remove it from the halls and playgrounds of schools, where bullied students hear it each day, except education and exposure,” Hirsch went on to say in the statement.