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Documentary "Bully" gets controversial R rating

An anti-bullying book display.
An anti-bullying book display.
annavanna/Flickr (cc by-nc-nd)

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Anyone who has ever been the subject of bullying knows the visceral feelings of pain associated with it. In his most recent documentary, “Bully,” filmmaker Lee Hirsch captures multiple facets of America’s bullying crisis, as well as exploring the devastating consequences bullying can have on individuals, families and communities.

The movie, produced by The Weinstein Company, has recently been involved in a fight of its own. Due to the themes involved in the movie, the Motion Picture Association of America gave the film an R rating. A high school student in Michigan who is passionate about this topic began a petition to convince the MPAA to bump the rating down to PG-13. The reasoning behind this being that a lesser rating would allow more people, particularly children and adolescents, to see the film, and that the R rating is undeserved due to a lack of nudity, extreme violence and other characteristics of movies made specifically for adults. In spite of the petition, and calls from people like Reverend Jesse Jackson, the MPAA stuck to its R rating, citing that parents should be warned about the serious themes broached in the film.

Who is right here? Is this a PG-13 movie, or should only eighteen-year-olds be able to see it unaccompanied by an adult? Will this controversy end up helping the film through word-of-mouth, or could it limit its potential impact on its viewers?


Wade Major, film critic for KPCC and

Peter Rainer, film critic for KPCC and Christian Science Monitor

Trailer for Bully: