LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A teenager once victimized by schoolmates petitioned a Hollywood studio group on Wednesday seeking a rating change for a new documentary film about bullying that would allow young audiences to see it without parental approval.
Katy Butler, 17, of Ann Arbor, Michigan, made the trek to the offices of the Motion Picture Association of America in Los Angeles to deliver a petition with more than 200,000 signatures seeking to change the R-rating for “Bully” to a less restrictive PG-13.
“I hope they (the MPAA) see that 200,000 people agree with me that kids need to see this movie, and I hope they will listen to what I have to say,” Butler told Reuters ahead of delivering four big boxes of signatures to the MPAA.
Butler said she started the petition drive through social action website Change.org because she had been bullied in school after coming out as a lesbian, and she knows the harm bullying can do to kids.
The petition has been signed online by nearly 230,000 people but the MPAA, a group that represents Hollywood’s major studios in business and government matters, has refused to budge from its position that “Bully” should not be seen by people under 17 unless accompanied by a parent.
The MPAA voluntarily rates films in the United States for content such as language, nudity and drug use, and in “Bully” there are too many uses of one particular expletive for the movie to obtain a less restrictive rating.
“That is a word that is used to bully kids. That is the language these kids hear in school day to day,” Butler said.
A spokeswoman for Change.org said Butler and her mother met with Joan Graves, the MPAA’s chairman of the classification and rating administration, for 15 to 30 minutes on Wednesday.
The MPAA issued a statement saying Butler’s “efforts in bringing the issue of bullying to the forefront of a national discussion in the context of this new film are commendable and we welcome the feedback about this movie‟s rating.”
It went on to note that the R rating does not mean kids can’t see the movie, only that they have parental permission or a particular school district’s approval. No change to the rating was made.
In fact, “Bully” distributor the Weinstein Co. has already lost one appeal of the rating, and some movie industry watchers have speculated that the push behind changing the film’s rating is little more than a publicity stunt by the company’s chief, Harvey Weinstein.
Yet Butler said she started the petition on her own and for her own reasons.
“When I was in middle school ... I ended up having my hand slammed in my locker, which broke my finger. That was absolutely a horrible experience, which has stayed with me, and stays with a lot of kids. This movie is a really powerful way to show that,” she said on Wednesday.
Reporting By Bob Tourtellotte; Editing by Elaine Lies