WHOA -THE HUMAN SIDE
IN DEFENSE OF THE UNDERDOG -
EVEN THE ALREADY FAMOUS HAVE TO FIGHT FOR THEIR ORIGINAL ART
Bonnie Warren, Staff Writer
Many of us, as original artists – visual artists, musical artists, film makers, screen writers, all of us out there who CREATE to SHARE for THE purposes of enjoyment, or to make a social statement, or to inform and educate — “hear ye hear ye”— there is a quiet revolution going on in art that we need to discuss and participate in.
It involves an already established film producer and director trying to make their new groundbreaking film available to as many people as possible, especially to those who can benefit from it the most.
It is the story of the documentary expected to be released at the end of this month, entitled “BULLY”. It’s a new film produced and directed by this year’s academy award winning Producer Harvey Weinstein and Director Lee Hirsch, who just won acclaim for their incredible work on the film “THE ARTIST”.
They made the documentary film “BULLY” to address the rise in teen bullying by sharing the compelling real life stories of teens across America who have been bullied. The issue of bullying and how to stop it has certainly been receiving more attention and coverage of late, and rightfully so. It’s on the news, it’s in songs and videos (the “It Gets Better” Project). As a matter of fact, the Grammy for the Best Children’s Album of the year at this year’s February Grammy Awards went to the record “All About Bullies, Big and Small”. Produced in the suburbs of Philadelphia, it included 37 songs and stories about bullying, some performed by nationally known veterans of the music business, and some by personalities more local to the area. And of course, let’s not forget the hit series “GLEE”, which addresses bullying on a regular basis for reasons relating to sexual preference, same sex relationships, participating in the arts, and having disabilities.
Particularly disturbing is the recent rise in the amount of teen and young adult suicides of individuals who have been bullied relentlessly and just couldn’t see a way out other than to take their own lives. Moreover, brutal statistics show that more than 160,000 children miss school every day because they fear attack or intimidation by other students. (Online Access Press, March 9, 2012) In addition, children who are bullied are more likely to develop depression and anxiety disorders, so the effects of bullying can either cut a lifetime short, or cause disturbing issues for a lifetime.
Part of the problem is that bullying in recent years has taken on a whole new life. Young people of all ages are not only being bullied in traditional ways, like in the locker room or in the cafeteria at school, but through social media. Social media attacks can be devastating. The wonderful tools of Facebook and Youtube and Twitter are double edged swords. They can popularize the good, and unfortunately the embarrassing….. But we’re not talking about a celebrity sex tape here, which is certainly wrong but the celebrity has the maturity and the money to fight back. We are talking about the act of humiliating the young and innocent, who aren’t yet empowered enough to standup for themselves, let alone really fight back. And if you have been a target of bullying through social media, you know that it gets to everyone everywhere in a matter of viral moments, and has the potential to create a “herd behavior” phenomenon that is scary beyond belief.
Now the film “BULLY” is essentially itself being bullied. Mr. Weinstein and Mr. Hirsch want to see their film rated PG-13, to make it accessible for viewing by middle and high school students, where too many live the horrors of being bullied every day. The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has given it R rating, which – in case you forget – means you need to be 17 to see it without a parent or guardian. There is a movement gaining momentum, where people are trying to change the rating of BULLY, since so many young people won’t get the chance to see it if it is an R.
There is one particular teen activist who deserves some positive attention here. Katy Butler (Los Angeles) started an on-line petition through Change.org to help the cause. She has collected over 300,000 signatures (my own included) to help convince the MPAA to rate “BULLY” PG-13. The R rating is just for language…..as if these kids haven’t heard four letter words before….. And to drive the point home to our MPAA even further, kudos go to the Canadian Motion Picture Rating Authority, which has given the film a much more lenient rating of PG. At least in Canada, more young people will be able to see this film. At this point in time, the MPAA is not interested in changing their rating designation of “R”.
Let’s not lose sight of the fact that Weinstein and Hirsch’s THE ARTIST won 5 Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Harvey Weinstein and Lee Hirsch do not want to edit the film BULLY, because they feel that to water down the language would be to water down the impact of the film, and by definition that would water down the real life experiences depicted in the film. As a matter of fact, Mr. Weinstein has threatened to withdraw his future films from the MPAA rating system.
This whole issue of the rating of the movie “BULLY” is so relevant to the mission of this magazine that we felt the need to address it and help garner support to get the rating changed. It’s not only about doing the right thing, but it is central to the very nature of art. Art always pushes the envelope, gets people to see and feel things they wouldn’t normally, opens people’s eyes. How many movies, photographs, paintings, and songs have taught you about a cause or an issue that became important to you? How many times has some kind of ART showed you a world you knew nothing about, broadened your view, made you a better person, made a difference in your life?
This is about art, about change, about an issue that so many people in the arts can relate to — being bullied. How can we, as original artists, be silent here? How many of us were bullied because by definition, original artists are not part of the mainstream. We are often not the jocks, not the cheerleaders, not our class presidents, not the popular ones in the popular outfits. We dress and act according to our identities and these are part of our means of expression. We exist in the mainstream, but let’s face it, we are different. This should be celebrated. Unfortunately though, the problem is that some people just can’t accept us for who we are, and so they bully us.
Bullying on all levels must stop, and the MPAA must put down their bully sword as well, and we have to help them. If parents don’t want their kids to see this movie, they don’t have to drive them to the theater. But I, for one, hope they do, and hope they see the movie too. There have been too many teen and young adult suicides because of bullying, and we all have to take a stand to help prevent EVEN ONE MORE sad story from becoming true. We must speak up, express, support, and create on behalf of those who can’t, who are too scared, or who don’t know how. We must support original art as a means to help an important cause. To sign the online petition requesting the MPAA to give “BULLY” a rating of PG-13, please go to http://www.change.org/petitions/mpaa-don-t-let-the-bullies-win-give-bully-a-pg-13-instead-of-an-r-rating.
No one should be ostracized, left out, teased, hurt, attacked…. Bullied. Patrick Swayze had it right when he said “No one puts Baby in the corner”. Nobody deserves to be shoved in the corner….. in dance, in art, in life.