US rep challenges bullying documentary’s R rating


Mike HondaRep. Mike Honda (D-CA) says an important new documentary on the growing problem of bullying among America’s youth will have trouble connecting with its intended audience due to the MPAA decision to hit it with an R rating over language. He wants it downgraded to PG-13, but Parents Television Council believes the R is appropriate.

Honda wrote to MPAA’s Chris Dodd in an effort to get a new rating. “This important project shows the real life anguish of many teenagers in this country who are tormented, harassed, and bullied by their peers,” he wrote. “This truth should be shared with as wide an audience as is appropriate and possible. We believe an R-rating excludes the very audience for whom this film is desperately important.”

He said dropping to the more inclusive rating could change and even save lives.
Honda noted that there was nothing gratuitous about harsh verbal content of the film. “The language in the film is a reflection of reality in our schools, on our buses, and online – something these kids experience every single day. It’s not sensationalized ‘adult content’ as your rating suggests and is oftentimes an active part of bullying itself. This depiction is honest, and although striking at times, we should not censor reality. The educational benefit of this documentary, possibly life-saving, appears to clearly outweigh the utterances of profanity.”

Honda concluded, “We commend the Weinstein Company, Writer Lee Hirsch, and Executive Director Patricia Finneran for tackling this tough issue in documentary form. We are moved by the stories in the film, commend these brave people for their honesty and sincerely hope this film can be viewed by as broad of an audience as possible. With this in mind, we ask you to reconsider the R-rating in the context of its educational importance and life-changing potential.”

According to Hillicon Valley, Honda is adding signatures to the letter from other like-minded legislators, and has at least 20 so far.

Parents Television Council supported the decision to slap the R rating on the film. According to the Associated Press, it said that the rating is designed to inform parents about content, not make a value judgment about content and signaled it was happy with the rating.

RBR-TVBR observation: As Honda points out, the language of the documentary is an accurate reflection of the world children live in today – and even if it went a little overboard, the message is important enough to warrant an override of normal standards regardless, as the FCC did with “Saving Private Ryan.” But once again, PTC would rather live in its own make-believe world in its ongoing and misguided attempt to shield America from its own First Amendment.