You might have read about some of the controversy surrounding Bully already. The buzzed-about documentary, opening March 30th in theaters, has been making the news rounds after the MPAA slapped it with an R rating for "some language" instead of granting distributor Weinstein Company a preferred PG-13 rating.
While I'm sure the MPAA has their own crazy reasoning why a film about the real problem of bullying merits a "Children Under 17 Require Accompanying Parent or Adult Guardian" designation, a lot of well-known folks are more than a little puzzled and are willing to take action. According to The Hollywood Reporter, David Boies and Ted Olsen - lawyers who successfully challenged the constitutionality of California's Proposition 8 - have raised the possibility of taking the MPAA to court.
On a practical level, the rating controversy has brought a lot of attention to the film, and hopefully – final decision aside – that will translate into a lot of kids figuring out a way to see it. After all, this is an issue that affects each and every one of them. And let's be honest, it affects us adults, too.
Studios often ask Fandango for help promoting their films, or they offer up exclusive content to bring attention to their latest projects. It's no secret, we're a ticketing site, so in the end, we do want to help all of the studios market their wares and help our users find movies they'll want to see.
But being asked to write something personal about the problem of bullying, and to help draw attention to this issue and film, is maybe the easiest of all requests to grant. As a thirtysomething Samoan who was adopted into a white family at the age of three months, and who grew up in mostly white neighborhoods in Mississippi and Denver during the 70s and 80s, being picked on and having to stand up for myself, and needing others to stand up for me, too, is something I can easily recall.
It has in a very real way been a defining point of my life, as the way I treat others, and try to be in some form or another a decent fellow human being, is very much directly related to feeling and being treated like an outsider during my youth. Being called the "N" word or "brown boy," or taunted and laughed at, or beat up on the way home from school or snickered about behind my back…yes, it affected me, and I thank God for having my family and close friends, who I could see were equally in pain for me being treated that way. Their support meant everything. It makes it even sadder to hear when today's kids have to go through similar situations, and sadder still to hear that it was so bad for some of them that they felt the only way to stop the pain was to commit suicide.
The problem with bullying is that at the very root, it goes against our basic humanity and the right of all of us to exist on this planet and not be persecuted and made to feel inferior by other people – whether we're children or not…and especially if we're children. I'm not a parent yet, but I know that I would find it near impossible to be anything but highly disappointed and angry to know that one of my kids was bullying another. On the other hand, I would want to do everything in my power to make sure my own children and those around them were safe from constant ridicule and harassment from their peers.
That's why this film, independent of any rating, needs to be seen by kids. If the crowning achievement of their generation can be that they stood up together and said enough is enough and realized that the bullying of their peers or anyone is inherently the worst trait and way of being to another individual, then that would be an amazing and incredible blessing they could pass on to the next generation. As adults, the very least we can do is relate to them with our own stories, and keep the forum on this topic – and this movie – open for them to experience with each other.