Motion Picture Association of America

Hot on the heels of winning a slew of awards at the Oscars, Harvey Weinstein has decided to go to war with the MPAA over the new documentary Bully, which was “slapped” with an R rating for language and lost an appeal to have it changed to PG-13. I’m not going to spend all my time pointing out the irony that Harvey Weinstein is a big bully himself, leveraging the tragic events in this new film to orchestrate a publicity stunt. Suffice it to say, if he were interested in actually having as many students as possible watch this film instead of making money, he could easily distribute censored screeners to schools with any offending language bleeped out. And why is he doing a little song-and-dance about releasing it “unrated” when he knows full well that the National Association of Theatre Owners will have to treat it like an NC-17 film (under the yoke and obligation of the MPAA)? Make no mistake… Weinstein’s in it for the money and not the cause. But let’s leave his personal bullying out of the argument and consider the possibility that an R rating might, in fact, be the right thing for Bully.

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A couple of days ago we reported that Harvey Weinstein intended to once again heroically take on the MPAA. This time it was because they had seemingly ridiculously stuck the upcoming documentary Bully with an R-rating due to some nasty language. The kerfuffle with that comes from the fact that director Lee Hirsch’s work is an important look at a terrible behavioral plague that has the American school system in its grip, and has already lead to an unacceptable amount of violence and death. This movie deals with the lives of bullies and those that are bullied; it’s theoretically an eye-opening experience meant to preach an anti-bullying message to a generation of people who are growing increasingly more callous in the way they treat one another. But, you know, that doesn’t work if the movie gets an R-rating and none of the kids who are supposed to go see it are able to buy a ticket. Just a few days ago this didn’t seem like such a big deal. Weinstein had successfully argued down the rating of one of his films before, so there was no reason to believe he wouldn’t be able to do it again; especially in such a cut and dry situation where a movie was made for didactic purposes, and a little bit of language could probably be excused under the grounds of the film needing an air of realness in order to reach the younger generation who most need to hear the message. The MPAA isn’t […]

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The Motion Picture Association of America has a history of questionable practices when it comes to their content rating of film releases. And Harvey Weinstein has a history of going up against the organization when he doesn’t agree with harsh ratings they’ve slapped on Weinstein movies. In October of 2010, his indie project Blue Valentine got slapped with an NC-17 rating due to an oral sex scene, and Harvey successfully appealed the decision, arguing that nothing in the film was exploitative or unessential, and that the rating would be financially harming a great work of art if it was left to stand. It looks like it’s time for round 2 in the Weinstein/MPAA war. This time the fight is over a documentary called Bully, which takes a look at schoolyard bullying in the United States. The MPAA has deemed that the film should be R-rated due to “some language,” and Weinstein is pissed because a restrictive rating would prohibit the youths who need to see a movie like this most from being able to buy a ticket.

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The Motion Picture Association of America must die. It’s a monopolistic behemoth that poisons creativity and commerce while hiding behind the failed task of educating parents about film content, and the time has come to call for its dissolution. The above logo is what we, as movie fans, are most familiar with when it comes to the MPAA because we see it on trailers and home video, but that symbol is really a trick of PR. The goal of the MPAA is not to rate movies, even if that’s the product we know and loathe best. The MPAA’s founding, fundamental aim is to maintain the corporate dominance of its members – the six largest studios. It does not serve fans. It does not serve families. It does not serve filmmakers.

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