Bully Daily: Does the MPAA Really Have a Secret F-Word Study?

While the latest chapter in the rapidly expanding mythology of Harvey Weinstein involves the mogul shooting down a pitch from President Obama ("I sent him an e-mail back saying he was the most overqualified book scout I've ever had"), I remain preoccupied with the saga surrounding Bully, the Weinstein Company doc still embroiled in a battle with the MPAA ratings board to overturn its R for strong language. The publicity clamor continued Wednesday with a young bully victim dropping off a petition with a reported 200,000 signatures to MPAA HQ and Ellen Degeneres discussing the "controversy" on her show. But it's what quietly came the day before that seems the most intriguing.

In an interview published Tuesday, Harvey confided to his LAT pal Patrick Goldstein that Bully's ratings appeal — which the Weinsteins say they lost by one vote — was itself the victim of a mystery MPAA study on language in films. And what a study! These idiots make Harvey look like Clarence Darrow:

“After the language in King’s Speech became a big issue, we did a survey to see if parents wanted us to overlook the language,” [MPAA ratings board chair Joan] Graves told me. “And what we discovered was that, overwhelmingly, parents said they wanted to know what kind of language there was in the film. We asked specifically about the F-word, which clearly bothers a large number of people. That’s just how they feel. Language matters.”

According to Weinstein, Graves brought up the still-unreleased survey as an argument against “Bully” in his appeal hearing. “It was like a scene out of ‘Perry Mason,’” Weinstein recalled. “The news of the survey came out of nowhere. Joan summarized it in our hearing and it really hurt us. We lost our appeal by one vote and I think the survey cost us that vote.”

Graves told me she would eventually make the survey public but wouldn’t commit to a specific timetable. Weinstein argues that there’s no time like the present. “If it says what Joan says it does, she should release it,” he said. “If it makes a strong point, maybe we could learn from it. But I’d like to see the scientific evidence myself.”

I love it — this idea of the MPAA drawing up some Middle American focus group of parents and asking what alarms them most about contemporary movies. And that all these parents yelped, "It's the language! All those F-words in the King's Speech! What about the children?" before sobbing into the survey-taker's cardigan. Because "that's just how they feel." No wonder Graves won't release the study: It's trapped in her lower intestine with the rest of her shit.

Anyway, if giving it a PG-13 means that none of us ever have to hear about Bully's ratings imbroglio again, then fine. Do it. Who cares? Harvey's 60th birthday is coming up in a couple weeks. I want Joan Graves to jump out of a huge cake clutching a big PG-13. Maybe those 200,000 kids can sign a card next. And Obama can clasp a Medal of Freedom around his neck to go with the French Legion of Honor designation, commemorating everything Harvey has done for those ravaged by the tsunami of caprice and illegitimacy known as the MPAA ratings process. Or whatever. Let's put this tragedy behind us. We've got a P.T. Anderson movie to get to.



  • SD says:

    In order to achieve a lower rating and potentially make more money Harvey was previously happy to cut the swearing out of a Best Picture Oscar winner that was directed by a Best Director Oscar winner and starring a Best Actor Oscar winner.

    But now cuts are simply inexcusable.

    Has anyone seen the film who can comment on whether bleeping any of the naughty words would really affect the message?

  • James Freud says:

    S.T. VANAIRSDALE must be a riot at parties.

  • j'accuse! says:

    May not be 100% on point, but what new ground is this film breaking? Kids are mean little bastards who say and do mean things. This is news? Kids have always been mean bastards.

    • S.T. VanAirsdale says:

      Now you're just being a bully!

      Kidding. Actually we had this conversation on some other Bully thread: Speaking for myself, upsetting as it was at the time, I think having the fear of God bullied into me during junior high -- and being called out by teachers when my own behavior crossed a line -- only made me a better person. But the ways bullying is disseminated today -- on YouTube and social media, almost like a sport -- and the suicides we've seen as a result make it a fairly advanced phenomenon.

      All judgments of the Weinsteins' cynicism aside, I wouldn't wish adolescence today on anybody.

  • Sam R. says:

    Not the F-word, anyyyyything but the F-word!!!

    "Won't somebody PLEASE think of the children!?!"
    -Helen Lovejoy

  • KevyB says:

    This is the usual "logic" from the MPAA. He's not asking for a G rating! A PG-13 tells parents that the movie isn't really for those under 13. What teenager these days has ANY reaction to Fuck? Just imbecilic.