"Bully," the Weinstein Company documentary that the MPAA has rated R, is getting support from members of Congress who think the film deserves a PG-13 rating.
Rep. Mike Honda, a Democrat who represents the San Jose, Calif., area, has written a letter to MPAA Chairman and CEO Christopher Dodd — himself a former U.S. Senator — asking him to change the movie's rating.
"We are writing to express our sincere disappointment in the Motion Picture Association of America's decision to issue an R-rating for the soon-to-be-released documentary 'Bully,' Honda wrote in a letter signed by 25 other members of Congress. "This important project shows the real life anguish of many teenagers in this country who are tormented, harassed, and bullied by their peers.
"This truth should be shared with as wide an audience as is appropriate and possible. We believe an R-rating excludes the very audience for whom this film is desperately important. … We ask you to reconsider the R-rating in the context of its educational importance and life-changing potential."
The MPAA's Classification and Rating Administration gave the movie an R because of language — the documentary shows youngsters hurling some tough words at other children. The Weinstein Company appealed the rating and although a majority of the appeals board sided with Weinstein, the tally was one vote short of the two-thirds needed to overturn the initial rating.
Weinstein Company co-chair Harvey Weinstein, who personally appeared before the appeals board, was so upset with the decision, he considered dropping out of the MPAA's ratings process.
"Bully" is a painful movie to watch. It chronicles the abuse some young people face in schools, and shows adults doing little to stop the bullying. It also shows the funeral of a young man who killed himself after suffering abuse at the hands of bullies.
Since the MPAA upheld the R rating, the organization has endured a torrent of criticism.
A 17-year-old Michigan girl's change.org petition that so far has gathered the signatures of more than 280,000 people who want the MPAA to change the rating.
The girl, Katy Butler, told TheWrap that the MPAA is being inflexible — that with an R rating, young people won't be able to see the film and schools won't be able to show it.
On March 7, Butler delivered the petition signatures to the MPAA's offices in Sherman Oaks. That same day, Ellen DeGeneres praised Butler's efforts and, on her television show, urged others to sign the petition.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, actor Avan Tudor Jogia, singer-actress Demi Lovato and other celebrities have expressed support for Butler and the petition.
The Parents Television Council, meanwhile, praised the MPAA for rating the documentary R.
The MPAA has done some damage control.
It released a statement praising the documentary and is hosting an invitation-only screening of the documentary in Washington, D.C. Dodd, Weinstein, director Lee Hirsch and D.C. schools chancellor Kaya Hendersen are scheduled to attend.
The MPAA did not immediately respond to Honda's letter.