I remember when I was in elementary school I heard a discussion between my mom and dad in which dad used some colorful language which my mom thought was inappropriate for young ears.  Why this sticks with me, I don’t know, but I distinctly remember my dad responding along the lines of, “You don’t think they have heard these words on the playground?”  What was funny is that he was right.  Even in elementary school I remember hearing, and sometimes using, language that I would never have wanted my parents to hear come from my mouth.  But I also knew that the playground and the dinner table were different places and comported myself accordingly.  As it is, I still prefer not to use bad language in front of my parents.

I think that society is out of touch with our children and tries to protect them at the wrong times and ignores them the rest of the time.  The current case in point is the new film “Bully” which has caused consternation around Hollywood with respect to the MPAA’s rating system.  If you are unfamiliar with the dispute, “Bully” is a documentary about bullying in schools across America and was given a rating of “R” by the MPAA because of the language. 

It seems that virtually overnight the subject of bullying in schools has become epidemic, in part because of the myriad outlets in which bullies can ply their wares.  It used to be just on the schoolyard, demanding lunch money, calling names and intimidating the weak or timid.  Now, with accessibility to the Internet, it seems like bullying goes on 24/7 and in response society is screaming for an end.  Public service announcements, after-school specials, school assemblies and now Hollywood, all are trying to eradicate bullies and allow kids to be comfortable with who they are so they not go to school in fear.

“Bully” is not a dramatization starring Brad Pitt or Jonah Hill but is real kids with real problems and real fears.  It is insight into the world of bullies that society would otherwise not have, especially when our children are unwilling to discuss these issues with parents and teachers.  Not only is it beneficial for adults to learn about the world of bullying, the students themselves need to know that when they are being bullied, they are not alone; that there are other kids just like them, all across the country, who are suffering the same torment and terror.

Except the MPAA has decided that those kids who probably need to see the movie more than anyone else will not be able to because the language is inappropriate for children under 17.

The MPAA is kidding itself if it thinks that our children don’t know the language in that movie already.  I knew it in third grade.  The lines of decency in society are blurring more and more every day—if it isn’t “swear” words it is sexual innuendo.  It used to be that the words “bitch” and “ass” and “damn” were taboo on television and radio—now we hear them in primetime and drive time.  But I think we will all agree that there are times when the language is appropriate and other times when it is gratuitous. 

With the rating of “R,” the MPAA has demonstrated that they are more concerned with protecting immature ears from language they already no doubt hear instead of taking a stance on a subject that needs to be addressed.  Our kids need to see what other kids are going through.  The 14 year old who is being tormented because he is gay needs to know that he is not alone, that kids all across the country are being treated the same way.  The very people who could benefit from this film are being excluded from its viewing audience.  Why?  To protect them? 

You want to end an epidemic, it sometimes requires bold statements and a dramatic stance.  What, just because the movie uses the “F” word it automatically gets an “R” rating?  What about the movies that get “PG-13” ratings but are rife with killing, murder, sex, and adult themes?  Is that protecting our children?

Members of the MPAA, you have got it all wrong and you are truly making yourselves look antiquated and out of touch.  The world has changed.  Our children are smarter, are more in-tune with what is going on in society, and are far less “innocent” then you think they are.  But they still have problems with self-esteem and self-image.  A movie that brings these to the forefront in a documentary, not a dramatization starring the beautiful people who we don’t believe are being persecuted, can provide so much more value than keeping bad language from them. 

The old idea of sticks and stones may break my bones… times have changed.  Words may actually have far more lasting affects than sticks and stones.  Broken bones will heal, but words that cut could lead to lifelong misery.  Our children need to know that they are not alone, that bullying has to be a dying institution.  How do you get rid of bullies?  Expose them.  What better way to do that then to give kids the power to stand up for themselves, to feel comfortable that they are not alone.

MPAA, do the right thing.  Change your position on this.  You truly are cutting off your nose to spite your face…  You think you are the protectors of what is decent- right now, you are its biggest offender.

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