Lee Hirsch’s new documentary Bully offers an unfiltered look at the all-too-common practice of bullying and the harmful effects it has on the lives of middle- and high-school students, made with the hope that it will “change hearts and minds” when those same students finally see it. Unfortunately, Bully has a bunch of cuss words in it, because it was filmed in actual middle and high schools—and actual middle- and high-school students pretty much swear with every other word, because that is how you prove you’re a grown-up. That means that the MPAA has slapped Bully with an inevitable R rating, ensuring that those same children won’t be allowed to watch themselves on film any more than they could see filthy, dispassionate married people sex in Blue Valentine, or listen to Colin Firth “fuck” history right in the ear.
And as in those previous instances, Harvey Weinstein—along with Bully director Lee Hirsch and one of its subjects, bullied student Alex Libby—has announced plans to appeal the rating, arguing, in Weinstein’s words, “It’s better that children see bad language than bad behavior.” The MPAA is expected to suggest that the filmmaker consider censoring some of the profanity in order to be more PG-13 appropriate, perhaps with digitally superimposed scenes of teenagers being stabbed.
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