Harvey Weinstein, the legendary man behind The Weinstein Company, and Miramax before that, is talking about his film “Bully” being itself bullied by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). That’s America’s largely anonymous movie rating organization.
The crisis: bullying in itself is even more barbaric and cruel in our social media epoch than it used to be. It devastates youngsters in their formative years. For a myriad of complicated reasons schools seem disinclined to punish the bullies.
This film aggressively exposes the crisis, and the filmmakers aren’t timid with the profanity that the children use. The politico-artistic problem: the MPAA disputes how appropriate the profanity in the film is, and in-turn gave “Bully” an R rating. Historically subtlety is not their friend. The vital subtlety is about why the use of the “F-word” in different contexts, and stories, for different reasons can have different meanings.
What’s provincial about the MPAA’s sensibilities: consider the words of Chicago Tribune film critic, Michael Phillips.
In the interest of fairness, I am opining without yet having seen the film. But concerns about the rating associations’ usefulness have persisted at a low hum for years.
This specific dispute has made headlines from Los Angeles, which is often conflated with Hollywood, to the world.
Here’s one argument more potent and memorable than Mr. Phillips’ words: this 2006 documentary “This Film is Not Yet Rated.”
Before the MPAA came, movies were censored by the Motion Picture Production Code, aka the Hays Code, which reigned from 1930 through 1967. And, then, in 1968, two years after its birth, the Association established and offered basic sense ratings. But that basic sense got lost when it came to films being judged beyond the MPAA’s provincial standards.
Why do so many Americans still heed our movie ratings system?
Why should or would a nation-wide standard reign when every region, and state in-general has and abides by its own sensibilities?