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Posted on Fri, Apr 6, 2012 : 9:25 a.m.

'Bully' documentary reclassified as PG-13 following Ann Arbor teen's efforts

By Bob Needham

The Los Angeles Times reports that the documentary movie "Bully" will go into wide release with a rating of PG-13—bringing victory to a nationwide effort by Ann Arbor student Katy Butler to change an initial R rating.

Butler drew national attention for an online petition drive that has gathered more than a half-million signatures to change the rating.

The Motion Picture Association of America, the movie rating agency, initially gave the movie an R rating (which would limit its audience among teens) due to profanity. The Times reports that the Weinstein Co., which produced the movie, agreed to three minor audio cuts in order to get the lower rating, but the most controversial scene remains intact.

The Weinstein Co. had earlier said it would release the movie with no rating rather than live with the R.

"Bully" is currently in limited release; it expands somewhat next week and is scheduled to open April 20 at the State Theatre in Ann Arbor.

Watch the trailer for "Bully" here:

Bob Needham is director of entertainment content for Reach him at or 734-623-2541, and follow him on Twitter @bobneedham.



Fri, Apr 13, 2012 : 2:58 p.m.

OK is the rating PG13 or is it unrated? I just saw a commercial for it on 4/13 (first commercial I've seen) saying it was not rated.


Sat, Apr 7, 2012 : 6:51 p.m.

I just saw this trailer. Good as gold on a school bus? O my goodness, what planet did she come from? I see it all the time and I do try to stop it. I do not tolerate it at all on my bus. I will write you up and I will talk to you about it. Not on my bus will you see a bully. I will take you into the principal office faster then you can breathe. I hate to say it but most times the way a bully can get to its victim? Is on the bus. You have a problem? Come to me I will take care of it.


Sun, Apr 8, 2012 : 5:04 p.m.

All I can say is this. I do have parents that do want to be involved. Some parents have told my supervisor that I am too involved. Then something happens when I am told to back off. All I tell them is this. I told you so. Then parents realize it is my child. My child was the brunt of a bully. I was told that it was taken care of. If parents get more involved? My job would be much easier. Ann Arbor admins are and do help bus drivers when there are problems.

say it plain

Sat, Apr 7, 2012 : 7:20 p.m.

Wow, you are to be applauded bigtime! It is unfortunately a major context for bullying, the schoolbus is, and bus drivers who care and will find effective ways to end it deserve our support! I think it would be great if report cards and counseling offices had official and regular contact with the school staff who get to observe the children in these situations where they may display their 'issues' in less guarded ways--the school bus, the lunchroom, the hallways. These folks could be great allies to the teachers and principals, if they were to get serious about ending bullying. If there were sessions wherein kids had to get to know and be known by the lunchroom staff and bus drivers, there would likely be a lot less problem behavior in these places! Plus, given that in many schools these situations represent some of the only ones in which active socializing happens among the students, *these* would be great contexts for the implementation of social/emotional education lessons--how to treat others, how to *not* treat others, etc.


Sat, Apr 7, 2012 : 6:18 a.m.

I haven't seen the film but might make the effort. Nonetheless, as a child of the '60's, put me down as someone more concerned about continuing legislation aimed at limiting speech to the politically-correct than the ever-expanding definition of "bullying" and "hate speech." Was I bullied as a young child? You bet -- I can remember on one occassion being patched up by my Mom while my Dad stood in the doorway demanding that I go back out and "finish it." We are raising a nation of ninnies via absentee parents, and anti-bullying legislation isn't going to fix that.

N. Todd

Sat, Apr 7, 2012 : 1:43 p.m.

Like father, like son. I think this mentality is precisely why the vast majority of posters understand the importance of children viewing this film. I would contest that the absentee parents you refer to are more likely to be the parent of a bully as opposed to a "ninnie". I, too, have doubts that anti-bullying legislation will change much either, but education and knowledge on the subject can.


Sat, Apr 7, 2012 : 11:37 a.m.

And more violence will ?

Urban Sombrero

Sat, Apr 7, 2012 : 12:09 a.m.

Anyone scared of the "F" word needs to pull their head out of their tuchis and move into the 21st century.


Sat, Apr 7, 2012 : 6:48 p.m.

Should see the language my inner city children used. Holy moley want a mouth they have.


Sat, Apr 7, 2012 : 12:05 p.m.

I believe "tushys" or "tushies" or "tushes" would be correct... :-)


Fri, Apr 6, 2012 : 11:40 p.m.

Bottom line: More people will now see this film. This is good.

Tony Livingston

Fri, Apr 6, 2012 : 11:40 p.m.

Way to go. This is important.


Fri, Apr 6, 2012 : 5:23 p.m.

Just curious, was the Ann Arbor teen the only person to try and get this changed or did many states have their own "katy" and we only hear the local slant? Glad it was changed...anyone thinking that the kids who needed to see this would go to the theater with their parent(s) and have a meaningful dialogue...well, what's that saying about swampland in florida? I hope this new rating allows this to be shown in schools, which is where it really needs to be viewed/discussed.

say it plain

Fri, Apr 6, 2012 : 5:57 p.m.

Indeed! It is the new ratings' improved allowing for the film being shown in schools that might have the greatest positive effect! We can only hope it turns into a spark for discussing how to stop bullying, and for forcing school officials to stop turning a blind eye to the abuse they allow to happen on their 'watch'. I'm none too hopeful that the parents of kids who might be taking part in the abusing will be rushing off to see the film with their children, But I am happy for the kids who endure this sort of thing that they and their parents will have a better chance with this new rating to have the light of day and of a film crew shed upon the crap they must deal with regularly! So often their stories are not even believed--denied by the perpetrators and ignored or minimized by the adults around. Their truth is too often a lonely and depressing one that leaves them doubting their own experiences, which is so wrong.

Andrew Jason Clock

Fri, Apr 6, 2012 : 4:03 p.m.

Obviouscomment, please watch "This Film Has Not Been Rated." Film ratings by the MPA are more or less arbitrary to begin with. Yes, there are some general rules about the number of swears in a film, but they change that all the time if its the "right" company presenting the film. They should have gone without a rating, like many documentaries, and avoided the whole corrupt process. Unfortunately, taking a stand against the antic of the MPA generally means you can't properly distribute your film. Katy did something that a lot of powerful and/or respected Hollywood folks could not, got the MPA to come down off their high horse and apply common sense.

say it plain

Fri, Apr 6, 2012 : 5:29 p.m.

Yeah! And her utilization of the *positive* social media tool that is "" was cool too...


Fri, Apr 6, 2012 : 3:50 p.m.

When the issue was first raised, my reaction was that, if the R rating required underage viewers to be accompanied by an adult, it might not be such a bad idea. The requirement would have allowed, or maybe even prompted, constructive and supportive discussions about the film. In light of emerging knowledge about development of the human brain, I think we would do well to apply that knowledge and support our young, rather than continue to throw them into situations they are not prepared, in the biological sense, to handle. The fact that a teenager's protests led the way to the changes that now allow young kids to attend the film unaccompanied suggests that we older adults have a ways to go in stepping up to our responsibilities. I say this not as a parent, but as a longtime music teacher who has worked with individual students over a period of years and who has watched as those students grow into maturity. I've even taught a few children of former students. Parental support matters; so does the support of those of us privileged to teach these children.

say it plain

Sat, Apr 7, 2012 : 3:49 a.m.

I understand your hope, @Linda, that parents accompany kids in seeing this movie, but I actually think that they would just not take their kids to see the film at all had it been rated R. I know that my impulse would be to assume that if a film is rated R, it would be disturbing for kids under 17 to see. I tend to feel that kids under 14 or so really don't need to see movies rated R *at all*, and I presume I'm not alone in that. But if a movie is rated PG-13 then I assume it might have sensitive material that warrants a parent coming along for anybody 13 or so and under. I tend to think that movies rated PG-13 might not even be appropriate at all for kids under 8 or so, at least for in the theater where a parent cannot stop the action and discuss as needed. I think that it was totally the right move to give this a PG-13.


Fri, Apr 6, 2012 : 10:35 p.m.

Regarding "Say it plain's" comment: I believe keeping the movie rated R would have necessitated children's being accompanied by an adult might have prompted parents, children's most important teachers, to take their children to the movie and then talk about it. If the parents are too busy to do that, or have other priorities, then maybe it would have been just as well for children not to see the movie. At this point, I hope adults will see the movie with the children in their lives and then talk about it. (I see, in a further comment, that "Say it plain" thinks parents could be part of a bullying problem. Sad, but in some cases, true.) Let's hope for the best possible outcome here.


Fri, Apr 6, 2012 : 7:16 p.m.

A GREAT and thoughtful reply. The world needs more teachers like you! Take a bow! BRAVO! And thank you!!

say it plain

Fri, Apr 6, 2012 : 5:44 p.m.

I don't see the validity of your argument here. Parental support matters, yes indeed. How keeping this movie rated R would have allowed for more 'parental support' isn't at all clear to me. It is far easier to argue that keeping the movie rated R would have *decreased* the opportunities for adults to support their children in understanding this phenomenon of bullying and finding ways to stop it together. An R rating would have prevented the film from being shown in schools, where useful dialogues could perhaps take place, and would have caused many parents to hesitate to bring their middle-school aged children to see it in theaters and talk about it. Do you honestly believe that children will be heading in droves to see this without parents for the sake of, what, some sort of 'thrill' of seeing a couple of hurtful "naughty" words uttered on screen? ! Yes, I agree, we need to help children, with their impressionable brains and minds, understand how hurtful bullying can be. And we need to talk about bullying with them. We need to be emphasizing how self-respect and respect for others are one and the same thing, we need to help bullies stop their self- and other-diminishing behaviors. We need to help the victims understand that the adults--who as I understand it in this movie are not appearing to do what they need to to protect children at all!!--in their worlds should step up and be responsible, and not allow the immature and destructive behavior of peers to continue. The movie-makers were trying to do this by giving us a 'real' glimpse into the experiences of real kids. I don't see how an R rating would have done anything but perpetuate the process whereby adults seem to sweep the problem of bullying under the proverbial rug, leaving children hurting, and doing *nothing* to improve our social worlds!


Fri, Apr 6, 2012 : 2:51 p.m.

They had to cut bits (albeit small ones) from the film, so it's less a victory than a compromise. I hesitate to reiterate (no rhyme intended) what has been stated before, but worse things can be seen and heard on cable television at two in the afternoon. I recently viewed the film in New York and was stunned by the nescience of the parents and school officials. What is depicted isn't the quaint "ruffian on the stair" of the English boarding school era. It's cruelty. Compromise or no, I'm glad kids will have an opportunity to see this unaccompanied now.


Fri, Apr 6, 2012 : 2:49 p.m.

"the Weinstein Co., which produced the movie, agreed to three minor audio cuts in order to get the lower rating" I'm thankful the MPA didn't lower their standards. The problem was with the Weinstein Co. all along. I guess if Katy Butler wants to say it's a victory because of the lower rating that's ok. But it's important to remember that she was not going against the Weinstein Co. asking them to edit the movie so as to get a PG-13 movie, she was asking the MPA to make an exception by lowering their standards. That was not a reasonable request. Seems to me she is a teenager with good intentions but obviously still a teenager's reasoning. This comment will obviously get slammed by some, but I can't help if my opinions and morals differ from the majority.


Fri, Apr 6, 2012 : 6:14 p.m.

Trey Parker and Matt Stone on how MPA treats independent film makers differently than major productions (Swear words bleeped--ha):

Solomon James

Fri, Apr 6, 2012 : 3:39 p.m.

The MPAA did lower their standards, just follow the link. "But the new cut leaves intact a controversial scene on a school bus in which three F-words are used against a bullied child. The case now represents an exception to the MPAA's rules; the group typically will impose an R rating on any film with more than two F-words."