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New film on bullying hits obstacles ‘Scared Straight’ never had to

Fan and graphic designer Ruben R Martinez created this image to protest the proposed 'R' rating for Bully.

Fan and graphic designer Ruben R Martinez created this image to protest the proposed 'R' rating for Bully.

My generation wasn’t even walking when the documentary ‘Scared Straight’ aired uncensored on television in 1978.

But as my college roommates and I sat and watched the same documentary in our living room 20 years later, we were drawn in by its punch-packing harshness, grit, and the way the kids had the ever-loving tar scared out of them.

It was the first instance of the words “f**k” and s**t” used without censorship, and it aired multiple times on television.

During the film, convicts facing 25 years to life tell a group of trouble-making teens what life is like in prison, and where they’ll end up if they continue on the path. They don’t sweeten their language, they curse at the men and the women, and they talk openly about exactly what will happen to them in prison. They talk explicitly about violence, rape, slave-and-sex-trading and murder among inmates.

Here’s the first 15 minutes from the film, which contains strong language.


Nearly 35 years later, people are protesting the R-rating of the documentary ‘Bully’ given by the Motion Picture Association of America (MP

AA) to a film that was created to be shown to children. You have probably seen Ellen Degeneres and a number of anti-bullying advocates speaking out for this film to be given a PG-13 rating.

The film is facing the R because of its strong language. The MPAA has been known to be arbitrary in its decisions on film ratings, as discussed in the 2005 documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated.

The MPAA ratings board is revealed to consist of people who have grown children or no children at all, and make on-a-whim decisions that favor big-budget films over indie films; and have double-standards over the way women are depicted sexually in films vs. men.

While the ratings and censorship status of Scared Straight! and Bully were determined by separate entities (television v. film), this vast double-standard is just an example of the arbitrary methods of censorship in the U.S.

I remember the ridiculous allegories we were shown in school when I was a bullied child. We’d watch filmstrips of books like Blubber, and I distinctly remember my classmates talking about how wrong bullying was. I also remember these classmates were often my antagonists.

I know what it’s like to go to bed wishing you woke up as a different person or in a parallel universe where you were popular and loved. I know what it’s like to think about ending it all because “that’ll show them to make fun of me.”

Here’s one of the official trailers from the film. It is absolutely heartbreaking. I want you to watch it and then ask yourself, “Is this a film that shouldn’t be shown to kids?”

If we can get this film to as many kids as possible, to get teachers to take their kids to see it, to show it in the classroom for discussion and dialogue, maybe kids might begin to understand one another instead of feeling the need to abuse others.

Bully is scheduled to open March 30. Visit the film’s web site for information and resources on how you can help put a stop to bullying. Sign the petition to get this film a PG-13 rating. If it gets the R rating, take your kids to see it anyway. Because there is no language harsh enough to describe how much bullying hurts us all.

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  • Melissa Lawler March 17, 2012, 3:06 pm

    If it has an R rating then the kids who need to see it won’t be able to. It has to have a PG-13 for them to be able to see it.
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  • Michelle
    Twitter:
    March 17, 2012, 7:57 pm

    Thanks for posting this. All kids need to see this movie. Bullying is an issue that scares me to death with 2 small girls who will be starting school soon. I’m sure it is most appropriate for the classroom.
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    • Bellesouth
      Twitter:
      March 17, 2012, 9:03 pm

      It is soooo scary. I’m not even a parent and I can only imagine. The worst thing about it is that the bullying no longer stops when school lets out. It happens on Facebook, with texts, on video games… the home is supposed to be a safe place for kids.

      I think parents should really look into this and also look into what their children are doing online. One thing law enforcement officials suggest is that the computers/electronic devices are in a commonly-used area of the house, like the living room or the kitchen. That way you can see what they’re doing and intervene as quickly as possible.

      I really hope this movie comes to my area.

      Reply
  • Jen
    Twitter:
    March 19, 2012, 6:47 pm

    I understand the rules are what they are… but how can you talk about this subject with real information if it is prohibited from being seen by those who need to see it? Wow.
    Jen recently posted..Game of Life – zAPPedMy Profile

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    • Bellesouth
      Twitter:
      March 19, 2012, 7:21 pm

      It’s just sad. as I said before – there is no curse word that is as offensive as a bully.

      Reply
  • Theresa
    Twitter:
    March 21, 2012, 11:19 am

    Bully s are the worst! So important. There is a zero tolerance at my kids school & they are very strict about it! & I think it helps to have parents that support their kids & kindness. When there isn’t support from home I hope things like this make kids/ teens more aware of the cause & affect of actions.
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    • Bellesouth
      Twitter:
      March 21, 2012, 11:32 am

      I’m so glad your school has a no-tolerance policy on bullies. I’m glad the “kids will be kids” excuse is slowly withering away. I want my state to pass anti-bullying legislation. Our kids deserve to be safe!

      Reply

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