Teenager petitions to change R rating for `Bully’

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LOS ANGELES (AP) - Katy Butler hasn’t forgotten what it was like to be bullied in the seventh grade, when a group of boys surrounded her, taunted her and broke her finger by slamming it into a locker.

Now 17, Butler has become the face of a campaign to change the rating of “Bully,” a documentary that tracks victims and perpetrators of bullying in American schools. The film, set for release this month, has been rated R for its language content.

Butler, along with distributors the Weinstein Co., wants the rating changed to PG-13 so more young people can see it.

“This could change bullying and save lives,” the high-school junior from Ann Arbor, Mich., said.

The Weinstein Co. appealed the R-rating, but the Motion Picture Association of America, which oversees movie ratings, declined to change it. That inspired Butler to start an online campaign on Change.org, a website that publishes community petitions and funded Butler’s trip to Los Angeles.

The teenage activist collected more than 200,000 signatures in just 10 days and delivered them Wednesday to the MPAA’s headquarters in hopes it might reconsider its decision.

Among the signatories is Ellen DeGeneres, who discussed the film on Wednesday’s episode of her talk show.

“I can tell you after seeing this movie, the lessons that the kids learn from this movie are more important than any words they might hear _ and they’re words they already know anyway,” DeGeneres said.

She introduced Butler, who was sitting in the audience, and told the teen: “Good for you. I’m proud of you.”

So far, more than 224,000 people have signed Butler’s online petition with the headline: “MPAA: Don’t let the bullies win! Give `Bully’ a PG-13 instead of an R rating!”

Butler carted four boxes packed with papers containing the signatures she collected into the MPAA building in Los Angeles. Officials met with the teenager and her mother but have declined to revise the film’s rating.

“Even though we think this is a wonderful film and very worthwhile film for people to see, our main purpose is to give parents information on the level of content,” Joan Graves, chairman of the classification and rating administration, said in an interview. “She wants us to ignore the level of content because this is a good film, and we can’t do that. We have to be consistent.”

Graves said the organization often meets with individuals and groups seeking changes in film ratings, but this is the first time a teenager has spearheaded such a campaign.

“We always pay attention to groups who are trying to give us information about how they feel,” Graves said. “Our whole goal is to rate films the way the majority of American parents would rate them.”

Butler’s mother, Anne Butler, has seen “Bully” and calls it “important and empowering,” despite the profanity it contains.

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