The news came late yesterday that Bully - the controversial documentary about bullying in America's schools that launched a nationwide debate when the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) granted it an R rating - has been re-cut to earn a PG-13 rating. This revision comes in anticipation of its extended rollout - including to Phoenix, where it will open at Harkins Camelview - on Friday, April 13.
The changes to the film are minimal, including the removal of sound (bleeps just don't cut it for the MPAA) for three of the offending curse words that originally earned its R-rating for language.
What hasn't been touched is the pivotal school-bus scene, when teen Alex Libby (making the TV rounds today to react to the re-cut, absent his Coke-bottle glasses) is verbally and physically assaulted by fellow students.
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On the surface, the compromise between The Weinstein Company and the MPAA seems like good PR for everyone: The MPAA capitulated - but not too much - and the Weinsteins still get the glow of having fought the good fight (and not with their rumored weapons, staplers thrown across the room at poor, 20-something assistants).
The only problem is that the ratings controversy and blogosphere skewering of the MPAA's outdated and corrupt system threatens to overshadow what should be the real scandal at the heart of this film: bullying. As Libby says in the film, "They've pushed me so far that I wanna become the bully." Audiences, critics, and filmmakers may have reacted in just this way to the bullying MPAA - but now that they've taken a stand and made progress, it's time to get back to the real issues.
They may not be as simple or glamorous - in fact, they're devastating - but now that adults, teens, and pre-teens alike will be able to see this crucial film, we can all participate in a new national dialogue.