A reader writes:
While I completely agree that the MPAA is in the wrong about this movie, there's a solution that no one seems to have mentioned yet: parents should see this movie *with* their kids. An R rating doesn't mean kids can't see it, just that they can't see it without a parent. As someone who was bullied as a kid, seeing this movie with my mom would have opened up a world of conversation that neither of us knew how to start and might have made a big difference in my life and in hers (she still expresses regret that she didn't understand the extent of what I was going through and that she didn't step in to help, and I think it really eats at her even though I don't have lasting damage). From the trailer, it really seems like having kids see this is only half the battle. Parents need to see it too, understand the consequences of what's happening, and get involved in their kids' schools. Kids live through it and know this stuff – they need parents to take action for real change to take place.
At a movie theater on Friday night, I saw numerous young children (ages 5-10, or so) in line with their parents to see the R-rated Act of Valor, the new action movie/recruitment video starring active-duty Navy SEALs that goes as far as depicting torture . I’m assuming that those parents thought that seeing our country defended on screen so violently would be a positive, character-building experience for their children. Although I would personally disagree, every parent does and should have the right to make those decisions for their children. My hope and expectation is that parents would bring their children to see Bully as well.
In my experience, many parents are incredibly lax about letting their kids as young as 10 watch R-rated movies at home. The real barrier to kids seeing Bully on home video isn’t the R rating. If the movie was a slasher/serial-killer movie, lots of tweens and young teens would see it. But they look for fun when they watch movies, and this doesn’t look like fun.
So no, you won’t be able to drop your 7th and 8th graders off at the mall to watch Bully. You’ll need to sit with them and be there when the lights come up. Is that a bad thing?
What the R rating for Bully does mean is that teenagers (supposedly) can't see it with their friends, where they might decide to be assholes and cheer for the bullies throughout. This might be a good thing.