Following AMC Theaters’ decision to screen the unrated version of the documentary Bully at theaters in New York and Los Angeles, the Parents Television Council has released a statement calling on AMC and all other major theater chains to keep to their policy of only screening films rated by the MPAA. “This move, regardless of intentions, sets a precedent that threatens to derail the entire ratings system,” said PTC head Tim Winter in a statement. “If a distribution company can simply decide to operate outside of the ratings system in a case like Bully, nothing would prevent future filmmakers from doing precisely the same thing, with potentially much more problematic material.”
The Weinstein Company announced yesterday that it would release Bully unrated rather than with an R rating from the MPAA for multiple instances of profane language, which would prevent theaters from allowing teenagers to see the film without a parent or guardian. Nearly 500,000 people have signed Michigan high school student Katy Butler’s petition urging the MPAA to lower the rating.
You can read the full PTC statement below:
This move, regardless of intentions, sets a precedent that threatens to derail the entire ratings system. If a distribution company can simply decide to operate outside of the ratings system in a case like Bully, nothing would prevent future filmmakers from doing precisely the same thing, with potentially much more problematic material.
It is unfortunate that the serious problem of schoolyard and online bullying is being overshadowed by a misguided and manufactured controversy over the MPAA rating. It’s even more unfortunate that the MPAA ratings system, which only exists as a tool to help parents make informed viewing decisions for their own families, is being deliberately undermined by Weinstein and his colleagues in the entertainment industry, and that their efforts may well spell the demise of a system that has benefited parents and families for over forty years.
Either ratings mean something, or they don’t. The MPAA’s job is not to make subjective judgments about the merit of a film or the importance of the film’s message. The MPAA’s sole task is to take an objective measure of the adult content in a film, and apply the appropriate rating. Though the MPAA’s system is not perfect, it has been remarkably consistent at least in this regard: any more than a single “sexual expletive” (usually the “F-word”) will lead to an R-rating. Bully employs multiple uses of this “sexual expletive,” and that is why it was given an R-rating.
It is time for a thoughtful reimagining of the entire movie ratings system. What parents need and have the right to expect from the MPAA is more clarity, more consistency, more predictability in the ratings system; not a system that is gamed to pick winners and losers or that changes criteria to suit a particular – even noble – point of view.