Thursday, March 15, 2012

It Is Time For The MPAA To Be Reformed

It Is Time For The MPAA To Be Reformed

Personal Note

I grew up becoming a victim of bullying. I will only say this much: I am now described by doctors and psychologists as having more than one mental disorder based off of past psychological trauma, and being bullied has had a big hand in it. So, when it comes to the subject of bullying, I take it VERY seriously.

The Facts

There's a new "bully" hiding in plain sight, and that is the Motion Picture Association of America. Their ratings system is flawed, and the CEO of the MPAA is Chris Dodd: A former politician that has been involved in several controversies while in office. Need I say more?

Reported 2 days ago in the Hollywood Reporter (, it now says that a film named "Bully" is sweeping across Canada receiving PG ratings. However, this film has been rated R in the United States of America. It seems as though that explicit sexual language and violence is going to raid Canadian theaters, corrupt their society, but thankfully our American children will be safe from it. Or that's what the MPAA wants you to think in this case.

At this point, anti-bullying advocates have already seen the documentary, and so have some celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres and Demi Lovato as well. Slowly but surely, even more celebrities are hopping on board, including Justin Bieber AND Meryl Streep (, and it is becoming a known fact: "Bully" might be the greatest test given to the Motion Picture Association of America's rating system, for it is a film challenging a ratings system when its intentions were nothing of the sort.

Double Standards

Above: Two films that hold a special place in the MPAA appeals process history.

Let's not forget 2 films here, the first of which is "Gunner Palace", a 2005 war documentary that was slapped with an R rating. It had 42 F-words and contained violence. But yet, the MPAA appealed the documentary's rating to a PG-13 rating. There's also "The Hip Hop Project", which is a 2007 documentary that takes place over 4 years about a man helping less fortunate individuals create a hip-hop album. The documentary contains 17 F-Words.

How many F-Words does "Bully" have? Drumroll please: Six.

These people and celebrities against the R-rating of "Bully" are challenging the ratings system, and this is great. It certainly isn't to get more vulgarity into PG-13 movies, that I can guarantee. If anything, it is because it has been proven over and over again: The Motion Picture Association of America's entire ratings system needs an overhaul, especially for motion pictures like "Bully".

What is this "Bully" thing even about?

A still from the documentary "Bully"
For those of you who don't know, "Bully" was a documentary that was originally called "The Bully Project." I have been doing research on "Bully" ever since it was given an R rating, and here's what I have discovered.

"Bully" takes place over a year, and the film documents several instances of bullying, and what ultimately happens to the children in this documentary when they become victims. It is a documentary set inside of our own nation's schools, a documentary that details the process of the negative effects bullying has. While it may be hard to watch such a thing, it is far from un-educational. If our children saw how horrible bullying effected their peers, do you think they would want to continue doing it? If I were younger and knew better, I certainly wouldn't.

To me this is not about shoving a message down someone's throat or Harvey Weinstein getting his money. It is about wanting to get this message out there. If this film continues into theaters or home-video with an R-rating, a whole cause that went to help curb bullying in this country could have been all for nothing, and that is so terribly shameful.

Restricted in more ways than one

The MPAA's official graphic for the R-Rating.
Lee Hirsch, the director of this documentary, has made it public several times that he did not set out to make an R-Rated documentary, nor did he think he was making an R-Rated documentary. He set out to do what any film documenter should do: Record the fact. Now the facts are here for everyone to see, that is unless you are under the age of 17.

Not only that: But restricting people under 17 from seeing the film is what the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) plans to do if The Weinstein company surrenders the R-Rating. They have even promised Harvey formally that they will treat the film as if it were an NC-17 (, and in case none of you know, the NC-17 rating replaced the X rating 1990. I find it a little bit crazy (OK, really crazy) to treat a bullying documentary as if it were an explicit hardcore pornography.

It is also quite disheartening to see the fact that a documentary with 42 F-words about a war, or a documentary with 17 F-words about creating music, is deemed more acceptable by the MPAA. Meanwhile, a documentary with only 6 that is about a societal problem that has been going on for decades is branded as "Restricted".

Not built to last

Former Senator of Connecticut Chris Dodd,
now the CEO of the MPAA
The MPAA may have initially created an effective tool in preventing our children from being exposed to offensive or explicit material, but now it is clear more than ever: This rating system the MPAA uses is out-dated. And now because it is out-dated, classrooms may never be able to possess the power that could help curb bullying: And that is because a non-profit organization in our country that clearly doesn't represent America's citizens as a whole said so.

It just might be time for a little reform in the MPAA; whether it be the ratings system, the ratings board, the way the organization runs, or the people like Chris Dodd who run it, or maybe even possibly all of the above.

There is just no denying it anymore at this point. It is time for some things to change.

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