You can't have more than one 'f-word' in your movie and still get a PG-13. There have been a few exceptions over the years, but generally it's one 'f-word' in a non-sexual context. Anymore than that, and its an automatic R-rating. We can debate the morality/practicality of that specific rule. Hell, I'd probably agree with you that it's a silly arbitrary requirement, especially considering the sort of violent content that, thanks to the FEC's war on R-rated movies in 2001 (HERE), ends up in PG-13 movies. But at the end of the day, it's one of the MPAA's few ironclad rules. Thus I have little sympathy when Weinstein's films keep trying to skirt that 'one rule' and still attempt to get that PG-13. Their new documentary Bully may indeed be must-see viewing for teenagers. It may shed light on a major problem, affect the national conversation, and save lives. But if Harvey Weinstein and director Lee Hirsch want that PG-13, they should just bleep out the offending f-words. Period. We may not like the rules, but those are the rules as they stand at the moment.
Furthermore, even if the MPAA does reserve their decision and grant that PG-13 rating to Bully, the Weintstein Company will still have missed a major opportunity. I wrote about this in August 2010, when the studio fought the same battle over The Tillman Story. Point being, I'm sure that altering or bleeping a few choice profanities will not irrevocably harm Bully's impact as a probing study of the current problem with school-related harassment and assault. And I'd argue that eliminating said language would actually help the film achieve its goals, as such a film could actually be shown in schools where it could be the subject of in-class discussion and debate. This isn't about artistic freedom. The film will be released in theaters on March 30, be it with an uncut R-rated version or an altered-PG-13 cut. But, however we might disagree with said ratings guidelines, Weinstein and company surely knew what they were and made the choice to intentionally flaunt them while they were editing their finished product.
I may not agree with the MPAA's stance on profanity, but I'd rather a film like Bully be able to be used as a teaching tool than be a 'restricted' title based purely on an unwillingness to budge. It's not a fight worth having because it's not a fight worth losing. And now it's your turn to chime in.
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