Pop Tarts

Student petitioning to change 'R' rating on anti-bullying documentary slams MPAA for refusing to budge

Katy Butler shows her online petition to lower the rating of anti-bullying film so it can be shown in schools


On Wednesday morning, Michigan high school student Katy Butler delivered a petition with over 200,000 signatures to the Los Angeles office of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), in the push to lower the rating of the anti-bullying documentary “Bully” from “R” to “PG-13.”

And while she may have gone in with high hopes, Butler – who was a victim of vicious bullying during middle school – left the premises more frustrated than before.

“The MPAA told me they did not want to change the rating, because they don’t want to be inconsistent. But they have been very inconsistent in the past. This was not the answer we wanted,” Butler told FOX411’s Pop Tarts column following a meeting with MPAA officials. “I felt very dismissed, like I was talked down to because I’m a high school student. They only wanted to talk ratings; I was hoping they would really listen to what I have to say.”

Still, this latest setback won’t stop Butler, who is leading the campaign on Change.org, to have the rating reduced so that the film is easily accessible to high school students.

“The petition is still open and we are going to acquire as many signatures as we possibly can,” she continued. “I am hoping to go into the MPAA offices again before the film opens on March 30. Kids need to see this film.” 

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The MPAA recently ruled that the documentary deserves an “R” rating due to the use of profane language, however many argue that this restriction will rob teenagers of the chance to see a film that could help reduce violence in schools. The film’s distributor, the Weinstein Company, has also been waging war against the ratings authority over the issue.

But the MPAA is not backing down.

 “Katy Butler’s  efforts in bringing the issue of bullying to the forefront of a national discussion in the context of this new film are commendable and we welcome the feedback about this movie’s rating . The MPAA shares Katy’s goals of shining a light on the problem of bullying and we hope that her efforts will fuel more discussion among educators, parents and children,” Joan Graves, Chairman of the Classification and Rating Administration (CARA) said in a statement after the meeting.

“The voluntary ratings system enables parents to make an informed decision about what content they allow their children to see in movies. The R rating and description of „some language for ‘Bully’ does not mean that children cannot see the film. As with any movie, parents will decide if they want their children to see ‘Bully.’ School districts, similarly, handle the determination of showing movies on a case-by-case basis and have their own guidelines for parental approval,” she added.

Common Sense Media, a non-profit that advocates for children and families and studies the effects that media and technology have on young users, told us that their comprehensive review of the movie serves as an alternative to the MPAA, and that the Weinstein Company are planning to use this to promote the movie instead.

The review warns parents that while the documentary deals with tough issues such as suicide, which could potentially be upsetting to teens and preteens, the swearing involved is in no way gratuitous. Common Sense Media also argues that “Bully” offers a very realistic portrayal of what every student hears on a daily basis.

 “The MPAA is proving to be the real bully in the ratings fight over this film. They continue to demonstrate that their ratings system is simply inadequate when it comes looking at a movie’s content through the lens of its larger thematic issues,” James Steyer, CEO and founder, Common Sense Media, said.

“A movie like ‘Bully,’ which even features 11 and 13-year-olds, is rated R for language, but it deals with real issues that kids much younger than 13 are dealing with. But more importantly, an R-rating basically prevents most parents from even considering a movie for younger teens, which is a shame, because films like Bully can start truly enriching and important conversations among kids and parents.”


Hollie McKay has been a FoxNews.com staff reporter since 2007. She has reported extensively from the Middle East on the rise and fall of terrorist groups such as ISIS in Iraq. Follow her on twitter at @holliesmckay