March 8, 2012
Senator Christopher Dodd, Chairman
Motion Picture Association of America
1600 Eye St., NW
Washington, D.C. 20006
Dear Senator Dodd:
I'm writing to you as a movie lover, and an American. Your decision to give an "R" Rating to a documentary film that delivers a powerful message, and could possibly effectuate positive change in people's lives, is both short-sighted and capricious. I have to be frank that it also appears to be patently ignorant and stupid. I urge you to reconsider the MPAA rating given to Bully.
If the press accounts are true, Bully received this rating because the "f-word" was used 6 times in the film. Purportedly, your organization believes an adult should accompany their child to see this film. I think that’s preposterous! The MPAA says it’s OK to see blood, guts, and guns and murder in a film - but the “f-word” is out of bounds?
The filmmaker feels that editing or bleeping out the word, would diminish the impact of his film, and he’s probably right. The filmmaker wants his film to reflect the truth, so why can’t the MPAA do the same?
I don't know who comprises the board or committee that decided what the film rating should be, because you keep that information secret. I think it's safe to assume that whoever watched "Bully" doesn't have any teenagers, or if so - doesn't spend much time with them. Did your "ratings committee" talk to any kids, or teenagers, and ask them what they think about using, or hearing, the "f-word"?
Kids hear the f-word more often than you or I would probably like. It's part of their vernacular. Are parents present when they hear it in the hallways of their school? Are parents always present when they hear it on television? Or while listening to a favorite group or singer on their mp3 player? No! Do we trust our kids to be able to discern when that language is appropriate, or inappropriate? I hope so, because we don’t live in a nanny state, and the MPAA is clearly usurping the role of a parent here.
Every single city, town and hamlet in this vast country of ours - has a bully or bullies. Wherever there's a bully, there are victims. Our nation has ignored this problem for so long, that our culture has accepted it. This has created a hopeless despair that resides within some of our kids, and is one of the many variables that contribute to kids choosing to harm themselves. This is unacceptable to me, and most Americans, and we need to stop it.
As adults, it's our responsibility to examine the problem of bullying, and do everything we can to find an effective solution to change the behavior, and change the culture that’s developed within our communities, that's turned a blind-eye to this harmful behavior.
One film is NOT going to change our culture as a whole, though it might touch the hearts and minds of many. This film could be a powerful tool to facilitate dialogue, and encourage discussions among parents, kids, and their educators - which could lead to change.
I’m very disturbed by the fact that the MPAA has embraced old-fashioned puritanical values. It would be very simple to require that marketing materials, and theater owners, reflect that there’s “adult” language in the film. Remember that we’re living in 2012. Do you have any idea how ridiculous this is? I trust you’re familiar with the Hays Code, and the archaic “correct standards of life” that the code exemplified. Why is the MPAA rating films based on the Hays code again?
The MPAA's rating system has largely worked, but not always. In the documentary film Gunner Palace, the "f-word" was used over 40 times. While the MPAA initially gave the film an "R" rating, the filmmaker appealed the decision. Because of the context in which the word was used, the MPAA changed the rating to "PG-13". Bully deserves the same reconsideration, even if it takes 3 or 10 appeals. It is incumbent upon the MPAA to work with the filmmaker, and do whatever it takes, to change the "R" rating. Anything less is unacceptable, and personifies bullying to the extreme.
I trust you will somehow find it within yourselves, to do the right thing. You did it for Gunner Palace, and I’m certain you can find a way to do it for Bully.