Though the anti-bullying documentary Bully has dominated entertainment news headlines, it opened this weekend in just five theaters. The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) originally gave the film, which chronicles five bullied children and their families over the course of a school year, an R rating because of six instances of the word "fuck." The movie's distributors, the Weinstein Company, argued that the rating would bar the target demographic of adolescents from seeing it, and refused to cut the offending footage, maintaining that doing so would blunt the film's impact. Harvey Weinstein opted for a controversial unrated release, and Bully earned an "unspectacular" $115,000 this weekend, despite its pre-release buzz. Now, the Los Angeles Times is reporting that Weinstein is mulling a PG-13 re-cut of the film for a wider April 13 release, which would likely mean agreeing to the MPAA's prescribed cuts. Is Weinstein being a hypocrite by caving in?
This is good news: Both Weinstein and director Lee Hirsch publicly asserted that altering the film for a less-severe rating would weaken its effect, says Lauren Lloyd at LAist, but the unrated release has proven just as problematic as the initial R rating. Some chains won't show the film, others are still requiring parental accompaniment or permission, while still others are now treating it like an NC-17 movie. Tweaking the edit to achieve a PG-13 rating really is the only way to ensure its accessibility to young people.
"Will documentary film Bully be re-cut for PG-13 version?"
It might not work: Not only is this hypocritical — Weinstein milked his ratings battle with the MPAA "for everything it was worth" — but a PG-13 re-cut may not necessarily ensure that more people will see the film, says Kyle Buchanan at New York. The Weinstein Company did this once before. After the R-rated The King's Speech won the Best Picture Oscar, Weinstein attempted to wring extra box office dollars from its theatrical run by issuing a PG-13 version that cut down on the obscenities in one pivotal scene. "That revision failed to crack the top ten at the box office and earned Weinstein the enmity of his Oscar-winning director, Tom Hooper, and star, Colin Firth."
"Report: Harvey Weinstein plans PG-13 Bully edit"
Maybe it should be rated R: A PG-13 rating would have the desired effect of allowing young adults to see the movie without a parent, says Lisa Contantini at Hollywood, but that could "be a bad thing." If parents are required to see the movie with younger kids, it's more likely the family would have a follow-up discussion about why bullying is unacceptable. If impressionable kids are allowed to see the film by themselves, they could come away with a "copycat mentality," ready to adopt the bullying behavior the film showcases.
"Bully PG-13 re-cut: Could a new rating be a bad thing?"