Only a few days ago did the Motion Pictures Association of America (MPAA) decide to withdraw its “R” (restricted) film rating on the new film Bully and release it without any ratings due to public protests.
According to their official site and trailer, the film Bully is aimed at discouraging bullying from our current, real life communities, a documentary that tells the stories of bullied kids and how we can prevent bullying.
The MPAA defines the “R” rating as
R — Restricted. Children Under 17 Require Accompanying Parent or Adult Guardian. An R-rated motion picture, in the view of the Rating Board, contains some adult material. An R-rated motion picture may include adult themes, adult activity, hard language, intense or persistent violence, sexually-oriented nudity, drug abuse or other elements, so that parents are counseled to take this rating very seriously. Children under 17 are not allowed to attend R-rated motion pictures unaccompanied by a parent or adult guardian. Parents are strongly urged to find out more about R-rated motion pictures in determining their suitability for their children. Generally, it is not appropriate for parents to bring their young children with them to R-rated motion pictures.
Huffington Post Canada suggests that the “R” rating resulted from the use of coarse language in the film (just two mentions of the f-word in a film deems the film a glorifying rating of “R” from the MPAA.) This means that youth who are under seventeen years of age are unable to go to a theatre and watch R-rated films without adult supervision. Sure, that makes sense. The MPAA is just trying to discourage youth from constant and inappropriate use of swear words, right?
On the other hand…
The Hunger Games, a newly released movie based on a popular teen fiction book series, was rated PG-13 – where parents are strongly cautioned against the mature content (“theme, violence, nudity, sensuality, language, adult activities or other elements”) for audiences under 13 years of age. Where scenes of young adults are viciously killing each other on purpose?
Now isn’t that odd? Unfair? Outrageous, even? Youth are being discouraged from watching a documentary film that contains real content with coarse language and violence, but are not barred from watching a fictional story where killings are present and may encourage violence even if it is fictional! So what does this say about MPAA film ratings? Are we to trust them? To depend on them?
I personally do encourage parents and guardians to judge the film for themselves, to determine whether or not it is appropriate for their children. MPAA’s ratings may be a good reference to start with, but do be aware of the validity of their judgement!