Re-Edited ‘Bully’ Receives PG-13 Rating In Time for Theatrical Expansion

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After weeks of a publicly fought battle between The Weinstein Company and the Motion Picture Association of America, Bully has been granted the PG-13 rating that it petitioned for. It initially receiving an R rating and lost a subsequent appeal by one vote.

“This is a great victory for us all!,” Bully director Lee Hirsch declared on his Facebook page yesterday.

Notable celebrities and politicians such as Mike Huckabee, Anderson Cooper, and Ellen DeGeneres came out in recent weeks in support of the film and a petition on Change.org by Midwestern teenager Katy Butler to reverse the rating garnered over 500,000 signatures in recent weeks.

The film had received an R rating for numerous instances of the F-word. The directors and producers of the film held that the language was necessary for maintaining the efficacy of the film’s message. Producer Cynthia Lowen, in a recent Msnbc video, maintained that this was the language that was heard everyday by teenagers in schools and censoring those words would do a disservice to the reality of the pain inflicted on bullied kids.

Hirsch previously told POV’s blog, “The uses of f— are real and integral to understanding what happens and I don’t think those experiences should be watered down.”

Many also argued that it was absurd that a film like The Hunger Games, whose premise revolves around young teenagers violently killing one another, had received a PG-13 rating while Bully had not. The Weinstein Company rejected the initial R rating before the film was released in New York and Los Angeles last weekend and it went to theaters “unrated.” Theater chains reacted differently to that news. Regal declared it would treat the film as an R-rated film and AMC said it would allow teenagers to see the film with written permission. The film opened to a strong $23,000 per-theater-average in five theaters.

A few compromises have been made to appease the MPAA. According to a Weinstein Company statement, the new version of the film will remove three uses of the F-word. However, the film retains a particularly powerful scene on a school bus where the word is uttered three times. (Two F-words usually guarantees an R.)

“This was about drawing the line but not being utterly unreasonable,” Hirsch told the Los Angeles Times.

The film will forego the 90-day wait typically imposed by the MPAA between releases of a film that have been re-rated. The Weinstein Company was also lucky to have this rule go un-imposed last year when it similarly edited the R-rated The King’s Speech for language in order to attain the family-friendly PG-13 rating after its numerous Oscar wins.

The PG-13-rated Bully will be released in theaters as the film expands to 55 markets next week.

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POV Staff
POV Staff
POV (a cinema term for "point of view") is television's longest-running showcase for independent non-fiction films. POV premieres 14-16 of the best, boldest and most innovative programs every year on PBS. Since 1988, POV has presented over 300 films to public television audiences across the country. POV films are known for their intimacy, their unforgettable storytelling and their timeliness, putting a human face on contemporary social issues.