MPAA Stops Picking On 'Bully', Actually Gets Some Good Press For Once

from the backing-down dept

When the producers of the documentary Bully decided to protest the MPAA rating system, and then AMC supported them by announcing they would screen the unrated film, I wrote about how it represented a serious erosion of the MPAA's artificial grip on film ratings. Since then, the MPAA has softened on the issue, and agreed to grant a PG-13 rating to a slightly-edited version of the movie:

The change was made following the removal of several instances of the F-word, but leaving intact a particularly powerful and important scene of teen Alex Libby being bullied and harassed on a bus. In a press release, distributor The Weinstein Company lauded the MPAA's decision, calling it a victory "for the parents, educators, lawmakers, and most importantly, children, everywhere who have been fighting for months for the appropriate PG-13 rating without cutting some of the most sensitive moments."

Well, that's probably the nicest thing a non-member has said about the MPAA in awhile. Harvey Weinstein himself said "Senator Dodd is a hero for championing this cause", conjuring up images of the mighty MPAA CEO carving through hordes of busybodies from the Parents Television Council. But while Chris Dodd is surely happy for some good press, his recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter (the one in which he dropped vague hints about the return of SOPA) suggests the MPAA's decision may have been primarily personal:

THR: Why did you host a screening of Bully at the MPAA with Harvey Weinstein when The Weinstein Co. isn't a member company?

Dodd: Because I care about the issue, and I thought it was a great film. I called Harvey, and I said I would invite the superintendent of schools, teachers and principals, an expert on bullying and Lee Hirsch, the director. We had a great discussion after the screening. You're right, Harvey is not a member of the MPAA, but he's a brilliant film producer, and it's an important film on an important subject matter. It is utilizing the platform I was given at the MPAA.

THR: But Weinstein was highly critical of the ratings board at the time and has used his attacks against the board to market the movie.

Dodd: First of all, I've known Harvey for 25, 30 years, and we've been friends. He was very helpful to me as a candidate for Congress and as a senator over the years.

There's no "second of all" forthcoming. He was just "utilizing the platform" he was "given" to do favors for his friends. It's nice to see that he's still putting the skill-set he perfected in politics to good use as a lobbyist.


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  1. icon
    Leigh Beadon (profile), 9 Apr 2012 @ 4:25pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: This is STILL bad...

    Well I mean, I don't like how it plays out either... and I do think it's worth examining things from a collusion/antitrust aspect. But other than that I think the way things went with Bully show the first steps towards the sort of social pressure that will end the MPAA ratings regime without the need for government intervention.

    Look at Bully: it generated a bunch of buzz online, so the studio was emboldened to ignore the MPAA and release it unrated, and then AMC was emboldened to agree to show the film. So - people did break from the MPAA. Sure, by making this change (with the minor edits) the MPAA has backtracked things a bit - but it's only a matter of time before this sort of thing comes up again, and again, and again, all while lots of filmmakers are exploring alternative distribution methods for other reasons too. Ultimately, a control system like the MPAA ratings regime can't survive in the digital world - and I'd rather see it worn away by those social and market forces than I would see it legally regulated somehow (because, let's face it, the regulators would probably screw it up)

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