As you may have heard, there’s a huge controversy brewing about Bully, Harvey Weinstein’s new documentary about how teen bullying has affected a number of families throughout the country. The short version: the MPAA denied it a PG-13 rating because somebody curses in it. It’s become a cause celebre, especially for people who hate the MPAA, like Kevin Smith. And since I hate the MPAA, I’m on board too, right?
Nope. Lost amid all this is the fact that Bully is actually a bad movie and chock full of unpleasant implications about our society. Intentionally or unintentionally, the MPAA did us a favor.
Here’s the thing: most documentaries that get a wide release have a specific formula — they center around some social issue that everyone agrees is wrong. They oversimplify the issue to varying degrees. They lay out some solutions, which are also oversimplified. Then they end with a false upbeat ending designed to make you feel good about yourself and dedicated to doing absolutely nothing to stop this problem yourself because the documentary told you other people are already taking care of it. That’s Bully in a nutshell.
The film’s tagline is, “It’s time to take a stand.” Stop and think about how appalling that actually is for a minute: going to see this movie isn’t “taking a stand.” You’re not protecting some kid from getting beaten up by seeing this movie? It’d be more productive to go out, find a kid beating up another kid, and beat HIM up.
You show this to a kid and he’ll see it for what it is: feel-good B.S. for adults that has nothing to do with how they live their own lives. It’ll just prove what he already knows: you don’t understand what he’s going through.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a fan of the MPAA. And the rules over ratings are asinine. But in this particular case, there’s no real controversy here. Bully is a bad movie. Let’s have a little more concern about this whole “child-beating” thing instead. That seems like something we should care about.
(Image via Weinstein Company)