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 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.