By Clio V. Rourke | @cvrourke
When “Bully” opened nationwide last Friday, the movie’s initial R-rating had been changed to a PG-13 rating. The R-rating, which the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) had defended with the movie’s strong language, had been widely criticized for keeping Bully’s target audience, middle and high schoolers, from seeing it in the theater. That the MPAA eventually agreed to change the movie’s rating, after having denied a first appeal, is the result of a passionate social media campaign by filmmaker Lee Hirsch. Here is how Hirsch and his team achieved their goal:
To create a successful campaign, Senior Vice President of Marketing Bladimiar Norman at The Weinstein Company spent hours on researching the bullying phenomenon. According to Norman’s interview with Mashable, he “quickly realized the alarming level of bullying that occurs every second, every minute and every hour in our schools.”
Because bullying affects such a great number of students, Norman new that in order to turn #BullyMovie into a trending topic on Twitter, he had to base his campaign on the movie’s message that “13 million kids in America will be bullied this year, and 3 million of those kids will be absent from school due to the bullying they endure.” For the social media campaign “Anti-Bullying Twitter Tuesday,” Norman therefore created a call to action in form of the tweet, “RETWEET PLEASE Did u know 13 million kids get bullied every year? I support @BullyMovie. Let’s make it a trend: #BullieMovie.”
In addition to asking especially teenagers to support the campaign, The Weinstein Company reached out to celebrities asking for retweets, thereby creating even greater awareness for the issue of bullying through celebrity endorsement of the campaign. Among others, Ellen DeGeneres, Anderson Cooper and Kim Kardashian showed their support.
Katy Butler, 17 and former bullying victim, saw the potential of Bully to instigate social change when she watched the trailer. To make the movie accessible to younger students, she had started the campaign Change.org when she learned about the Twitter Tuesday campaign. Butler began to support the campaign with her Change.com petitioners, nearly 500,000 at the time, creating additional impact.
At this point, The Weinstein Company sent Bully to the MPAA for another rating round. Thanks to the massive support created through Twitter, Bully finally was rated PG-13.
As Hirsch told Mashable, “It was not just about beating the MPAA — it started the conversation about bullying and gave people a way to talk about it.”