The buzzy new documentary Bully will hit theaters this Friday — but only five theaters will screen it, thanks to a standoff between producers and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). After the MPAA gave the anti-school-bullying documentary a restrictive R rating that would have prevented kids from seeing the film without a parent, its producers made the rare decision to ignore the MPAA and release the film with no rating at all. (The MPAA slapped an R on Bully because of six instances of the word "fuck.") Now, Bully's very limited release might have the same effect as an R rating: Kids won't be able to see it. A bold move or the wrong move?
It's a boneheaded move: Kids will have to be lucky to see this movie, says Cole Abaius at Film School Rejects, because most theater chains don't show unrated films as a matter of policy, while others don't allow anyone under 18 in — no exceptions. It looks like director Lee Hirsch is "ready to cut off his entire head to spite his face."
"Since everyone can't see Bully, director Lee Hirsch wants to ensure nobody can"
Hopefully it will work out: In this case, there's a good chance theaters will let kids in, says Jamie Frevele at The Mary Sue. Only one MPAA vote kept Bully from a PG-13 rating, suggesting that the objectionable content isn't that bad. (In the movie, a teenager hurls a string of unscripted obscenities at a bullied child.) And remember, The Hunger Games is rated PG-13, even though it depicts kids murdering each other. Let's hope theater owners acknowledge the MPAA's hypocrisy, screen the film, and let kids in.
"Bully will be released unrated — now it's up to theaters to let kids in"
Why not release the movie online? If the filmmakers are as noble as they claim to be, they could ensure that people see the movie by releasing it directly to YouTube, iTunes, and Facebook, free of charge, says Chris Krapek at The Huffington Post. "What better way to address cyber bullying than releasing it directly to cyberspace?" Though the Kony 2012 campaign eventually crashed and burned, it first experienced massive success with just this kind of release. Bully could have the same impact.
"Chris Krapek: A solution to the Bully R-rating controversy: Let it go viral"