Bully supports who are seeking a new petition may have found a hero in Katy Butler, 17, who was outraged when she learned that a sobering new documentary about the bully problem would be rated R, keeping those under 17 from seeing it without an adult.
Butler started an online petition in late February to change the rating of Bully — and over three weeks, her own world changed too. More than 300,000 people signed on. She met the producer and director in New York, then leaders of the Motion Picture Association of America in Los Angeles.
Last week, Butler’s whirlwind took her to Washington, where she visited lawmakers’ offices Friday.
Undaunted by a relentless spotlight, she retold her own story of torment as she insisted that students everywhere need to hear the personal stories featured in the film. The film’s R rating stems from a scene on a school bus, when a bullied boy is cursed out.
“These are real people, telling their real stories,” Butler said. “I think it could create a big change, and it could potentially save lives if kids are allowed to see it.”
Her rising profile comes as bullying gets increasing attention nationally. On Wednesday, Cartoon Network unveiled a 30-minute documentary on bullying at Stuart-Hobson Middle School. The film, which was to air Sunday evening, opens with a message from President Obama, who held an anti-bullying summit at the White House last year.
The motion picture association hosted a small audience Thursday for an early showing and discussion of Bully.
Asked to speak, she made another plea for changing the rating to PG-13. Seated beside her mother, Anne, a Michigan pediatrician, she said that with an R rating, “the kids can’t go to see the movie by themselves — and, honestly, how many 13, 14, 15-year-olds want to go to the movies with their parents?” she said. “That’s just not cool.”
The MPAA says its rating reflects language used in the film so that parents can make informed decisions. The movie has an initial release date of March 30.
Joseph Wright, who has worked on bullying issues for a decade and leads the Child Health Advocacy Institute at Children’s National Medical Center, said he has never seen a stronger interest in change — and believes students themselves are the best hope.
Other celebrities who embraced her petition include Meryl Streep, Johnny Depp, Justin Bieber, and NFL quarterback Drew Brees.