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After Whining for Weeks, The Weinsteins Cut ‘Bully’ to Get a PG-13

'Bully'
The Weinstein Company

In the great tradition of carnival barkers, The Weinstein Company is ingenious at turning controversy into box office. Take ‘Bully,’ for instance. This documentary may be about a topic that’s been in the news for the last couple months, but as subject matter it’s hard to generate much interest. The Weinsteins initially got the film in the headlines by talking about releasing it unrated because it was too important to censor. Today – on the day of the film’s five location, no-ratings release – it’s been revealed that they’ll cut the film to get a PG-13.

The L.A. Times broke the story, and the question is: Was the film’s artistic integrity ever important? Perhaps, and now that the studio is plotting a PG-13 release, there are a number of arguments that can be made in favor of the PG-13 decision. They could say the film is so important that small edits and censoring are worth it for the exposure, or that the marketplace dictates that a film has a rating or it can’t be advertised properly. But it’s also hard not to see this as the maneuverings of a company trying to squeeze as much publicity out of a small film as possible.

Though much of what happened can be chalked up to gamesmanship, the MPAA system is unquestionably broken and a little corrupt. It’s shocking that a film as violent (and violent to kids) as ‘The Hunger Games‘ gets a PG-13, swearing has arcane rules ( such as you can have only one F-word in a PG-13 film), and violence becomes acceptable based on the amount of bloodshed seen – not so much the actual body count. Ratings are often guided partly by how much money the studio has – smaller films are often tagged with R or NC-17′s that wouldn’t happen to a studio film with similar content. In the end, ‘Bully’ pitted two bullies against each other.

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