If you are upset about the Bully rating, watch This Film is Not Yet Rated

Bully is a documentary on bullying that follows the lives of bullied teenagers. By all accounts, it is a brilliant and important film, the sort of thing that young people should see. Except that they won't, because the MPAA's secretive, unaccountable ratings board has given it an R rating for "language." Despite widespread calls to reconsider (including 165,000 signatures gathered by a Katy Butler, a 17-year-old Michigan high school student) the MPAA is standing pat.

Redditor awertz23 suggests that people following this should go watch Kirby Dick's funny-but-horrifying documentary This Film is Not Yet Rated, which investigates the MPAA ratings board. Dick hired a private investigator and determined the identities of the MPAA raters (a closely held secret) and discovered that the panel was not composed of parents of young children, frequently rotated through -- rather, it was mostly composed of studio insiders who served extended tenures. Dick documents the complicity between the ratings board and the major studios and the crummy deal that indies get, and the systemic bias towards violence (including sexual violence) and against consensual sex, especially gay sex.


  1. They can always label the film X, or not advertise.  Not perfect options, but options none the less.

    1. So that’s supposed to mean that everything about this ratings mess is actually okay?

    2. This is in response to all of your comments in this thread.

      –  There’s no such thing as an X rating in the US.  X is the previous designation which morphed into NC-17.
      –  Most theaters won’t show an unrated film.  Or an NC-17 rated film.  A film trying to reach children who are being bullied is not going to get much response if it only shows in art houses in large cities.

      1.  How wide a theatrical release do you suppose this film would get anyway? Even in art houses in large cities, the only documentaries that get a relatively wide release seem to be those by Michael Moore. You might see a few others pop up once in a while, in the theater way across town and for one week only, but in reality the only places people are able to see theatrical documentaries are on DVD or online.

        The R rating here is indefensible, but to suggest that it will really have an effect on kids being able to see it is a bit of a stretch.

        The producers and distributors need to make a huge push to get this film out online. The only problem there is that kids who should see it wouldn’t be able to pay for it themselves. I’m not sure if they can afford to put it out for free, with a donation box of course, but it would be great if they did.

        1. Where it might hurt is in the after market.  Whether schhools and youth groups would rent and show it.

  2. Highly recommend “This Film Is Not Yet Rated” to see how the cultural sausage is made.  Also to see the sorts of people who think SOPA is a really, really good idea.

    1. I’ve seen it and recommend it too. Thinking back on the people it exposes behind the scenes reminds me of something I recently heard about “The Academy,” those who decide which films get Oscars–

      A Los Angeles Times study found that academy voters are markedly less diverse than the moviegoing public, and even more monolithic than many in the film industry may suspect. Oscar voters are nearly 94% Caucasian and 77% male, The Times found. Blacks are about 2% of the academy, and Latinos are less than 2%.
      Oscar voters have a median age of 62, the study showed. 


      1.  I was not surprised at all that a “silent” film won Best Picture this year.  Most of the academy was around back then, and the nostalgia factor has got to be huge.  They were even willing to overlook the plodding second act for instance.

    2.  Agree. I make a point of showing “This Film is Not Yet Rated” to everybody I know who cares even a tiny little bit about movies. The expose of who’s actually on the ratings board, and the side-by-side comparisons of identical scenes in PG vs R or R vs NC-17 films so you can see what exactly it is that makes late middle aged white and Asian childless upper middle class southern California religious fundamentalists (the people who make up the vast majority of the raters) uncomfortable, are absolutely must-see.

    1.  Not exactly. This was done TO us, much as Tipper Gore wanted to do the same thing to us with music.  Jack Valenti was the perpetrator of this mess.
      This started when I was 14. By then I was a movie going veteran. My parents would allow me to see anything that I could get into (M*A*S*H was the only movie I was ever turned away from). To give you an idea of just how stupid the early system was is that the Hailey Mills movie ‘The Family Way’ was rated X (presumably because it was about consummating a young marriage). This film is very sweet and would have NO problem playing in prime time today. 

      1.  The MPAA does NOT give out the X rating, it’s a rating that any film may give themselves if they do not want to go through the ratings board.  Without a rating a film is legally allowed to advertise.

        It is literally NO rating.

        X has become associated with porn due to the large number of porn films have given themselves the rating to avoid paying the MPAA, but in theory the last Muppets movie could have also had an X rating.

        1. Is this supposed to be an excuse for the MPAA?  Pretty weak.

          Edit (b/c the thread bottomed out): coryf, good point. Previous comment retracted.

          1.  No, it’s an answer to why a movie was rated X, it has nothing to do with the MPAA.  It’s like accusing the troll of also being stock manipulator.  Doesn’t make trolling right.

        2. But if it’s rated X, doesn’t that mean children can’t be allowed in the theater to watch it, even in the company of their parents?

          Or do you mean NR instead?

    2. Not really seeing why anyone should be upset, as we did this to ourselves.

      No, we didn’t.  The MPAA is an industry group, not a government agency.  We didn’t have anything to do with it. 

  3. This is one of those cases where I think it would be appropriate* to release a version with the swears bleeped out, if that’s such a big issue, so that the film can get out there.

    *Yeah, it’s more “stupid” than “appropriate,” because any kid that’s been to camp or just high school has heard much, much worse, but I think getting this out there outweighs the silliness of needing to do the bleeping in the first place.

  4. I concur with Cory — “This Film Not Yet Rated” is a wonderful film and everyone should see it — it’s just yet-another-way-that-hollywood screws us all.

  5. Any child can see a rated R film, they only need to be accompanied by a parent or adult guardian. It says that right there on the rating logo itself. Only NC17 ratings suggest that children not see a film under any circumstances. Why shouldn’t a child have to see it with an adult present? Furthermore, ratings are just that: suggestions. The ratings are a flag to let parents know there might be something in the film they might not want their children to see. It’s all on the parents. If nothing is being cut from the film, then no harm, no foul.

    1. Any child can see a rated R film, they only need to be accompanied by a parent or adult guardian. […] Why shouldn’t a child have to see it with an adult present?

      Because there’s something seriously wrong about a situation where a 16-year-old can drive to the mall and buy a ticket to see “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” but they can’t see a documentary about the challenges other teens face every day without a guardian in tow.

    2. Only NC17 ratings suggest that children not see a film under any circumstances.

      It’s not a suggestion; children are not allowed into NC-17 films. 

      A theater that violates this will be thrown out of the National Association of Theater Owners.  A theater that shows unrated films probably won’t be allowed in NATO.  A theater that shows NC-17 films may not be allowed in NATO.  Theaters that aren’t in NATO are blackballed by big distributors.

      The MPAA is a protection racket.

      1. Ah, this is the answer I was looking for: who enforces the ratings and what are the punishments? 

        So in the short term, this film needs to get out in the public eye through home viewing parties. The Louis CK method, noted below, should be taken up by more filmmakers. Maybe that is the long term solution as well: routing around censorship or failed business models is always an option. 

        1. You can see a movie like that in an art house theater. Which will likely be in an area that already has a strong awareness of bullying issues and a strategy in place. The mindset that causes the bullying will also likely overlap a population that won’t hear about the film, wouldn’t watch it if they did hear about it, and would think that the bullying was cool if they happened to see it.

  6. Of course we should prevent kids from seeing this. Won’t somebody think of the poor bullies?!?

  7. Well. this reminds me of the the time I tried to hang myself in my parents’ bathroom when I was 14.  Obviously I failed in the attempt.  I was being bullied by a gang of boys in a class in my junior high; after the attempt, I thought I was a total coward.
    But I got better.
    This also explains things like Columbine & the recent Ohio shooting.  I never considered taking a gun to school (though kids did it all the time back then: their daddy’s WWII Japanese rifle) & offing someone back then.  How times change.

  8. The MPAA has NOTHING to say about ratings on the internet or for films that aren’t produced by any of their members.

    Egro, screw the MPAA and release it on the internet.

    If Louis C. K. can make a million bucks in profit and still counting just releasing his comedy show as a movie for $5.00 a pop, DRM free, maybe they just need to go indie.

    I’ll pay $5.00 to watch it and I don’t even have a teenager.

    1. I have to echo this sentiment. Nothing like a little creative work arounds. The MPAA is failing, and we don’t need them. I would support this film, and pay for it on the internet, and I don’t even particularly think I can watch it because it will hit too close to home. 

      1. If they can work things to allow full-on downloading, the film could get out via ‘watch+discuss’ which IMO would be the best way for the film to be released anyway. Just screening it in a theatre can’t be as powerful as holding a discussion meeting right afterwards. 

    2. Agreed; but the real problem here is the ability to show it in schools. Difficult with a R rating, probably impossible with no rating.

  9. I just want to say how important Bully is and that it finds its audience.

    I rode a county school bus in rural Indiana when I was in fourth grade. It was THE WORST year of my life. All ages were on the bus, up through eighth grade. I was smacked, punched in the head, spit on, had food poured on me, not to mention plain old verbal abuse. I dreaded getting on that motherfucker in the morning, and dreaded going home in the afternoon.

    The only supervision was the elderly driver, who could not control any of the students. It was a hell, and I’m just glad it only lasted one school year until I transferred to another school. I tried over and over to tell my parents what was going on, but I just couldn’t explain it well enough, and I actually began to believe I deserved it because I couldn’t fight back. But compare a fourth grader with a seventh grader some time.

    People need to recognize, this stuff is very powerful, and has lasting effects.

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