'Bully' Movie Could Reduce Teen Suicides, Should Not Receive an R Rating


"Bully," a new documentary about America’s bullying epidemic in schools, has received an R-rating by the Motion Picture Association of America, preventing teens under the age of 17 from seeing this movie in theaters or in schools. A movie that could have such an enormous and immediate impact on bullying in elementary, middle, and high schools should not be kept from the age group to which it is targeted. The MPAA should join the fight against violence in schools and give “Bully” a PG-13-rating.

According to a summary of the documentary, over 13 million American kids will be bullied this year. The film documents how nearly everyone has been affected by bullying, and how the consequences of even a small amount of bullying are enduring. The film also addresses the fatal consequences of bullying: suicide. According to the CDC, suicide is the third leading cause of death in young people aged 15 to 24, and there are between 100 and 200 attempted suicides for every successful suicide. Showing this movie to teens and young adults all across the United States would help them better understand the impacts that their bullying has on their peers. 

A recent petition on Change.org to urge the MPAA to change its rating of “Bully” has reached more than 340,000 signatures, and many celebrities have spoken out against the R-rating, including Ellen DeGeneres, Meryl Streep, Johnny Depp, and Justin Bieber, as well as 20 members of Congress.

The movie was given an R-rating primarily because of language. According to the parental guide on the Internet Movie Database, there is no nudity, and no appearance of alcohol or drugs. There is a discussion of suicide, but very little violence. The assignment of an R-rating to a movie so important to kids highlights the hypocrisy often involved in MPAA ratings. Movies with violence, gore, sex, and nudity are often assigned PG-13 ratings, but when it comes to the profanity that is heard every day in schools, the MPAA takes a hard stance. One Change.org petitioner commented, “Why is it that a violent movie can get a PG-13 rating, but a movie aimed at curbing violence gets an R [rating]?” It seems especially ironic that “Hunger Games,” a movie about teenagers engaging in a group death match, has received a PG-13 rating.

On her show, Ellen DeGeneres said of the documentary, “The lessons that the kids learn from this movie are more important than any words that they might hear.

Watch Ellen DeGeneres’ discussion of the movie and its “R” rating: 

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons