At times like these, I’m truly relieved to be a Canadian.
While the movie, Bully, continues to create a stir in the U.S. long before it’s been released in theatres, Canucks are complacently awaiting April 2.
That’s when the much-heralded documentary about bullying will be released here.
Our provincial rating systems have granted Bully PG-status, noting that this film could affect great change in schools and in society.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Motion Picture Association of America, or MPAA, has rated the film as restricted.
This means teens under 17 must be accompanied by an adult and the film cannot be shown in most school systems.
Since 1922, the goal of the MPAA was, among other things, to limit government interference in filmmaking by creating an industry-led self-censorship. This became their ratings system.
Today, Chris Dodd, the CEO of the MPAA, says that the organization does not make qualitative judgements when rating a film.
They simply use standard objective criteria – in this case, the number of times an f-bomb was dropped. It occurs during a scene where a young boy is threatened on a school bus.
The quantity of the profanity in the scene forced the MPAA to give it an R-rating.
According to Dodd, the association’s “hands are tied.” But that’s not quite true.
The original 1920s rating system was referred to as the Hays Code, for former Postmaster General William Hays.
In the late 1960s, given the societal changes, the Hays Code was revised to reflect the new social norms.
So why can they not create new ratings for documentaries or films of social importance today?
How can Dodd claim to be tied by rules when the MPAA creates them in the first place?
And if the purpose of today’s MPAA is to inform parents of a film’s content, the R-rating has missed its mark.
By definition, an R-rated movie “may include adult themes, adult activity, hard language, intense or persistent violence, sexually-oriented nudity, drug abuse or other elements.”
Of course, this definition includes further explanation. But how many parents will read beyond that sentence?
The movie Bully does have harsh language and some violence in a couple of scenes. However, isn’t that the point of the movie – and what producers are trying to change?
As our films and television series continue to become more true-to-life, the imprecise PG to NC-17 categories aren’t going to do the job.
If the MPAA wants to inform, they should do just that.
That’s why television ratings break down their warnings to specifically outline the type of content, whether it be ¬lan¬guage, sexuality, violence or otherwise.
The Parents Television Council is pleased with the rating. Meanwhile, a Michigan teen has over 400,000 signatures – including politicians’ – on a petition to get it changed.
In the end, everyone’s trying to do what’s best for the film, the parents, and our teens. And what’s best is a change for the better.
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