The F-Word Isn’t What It Used to Be
High school kids and middle school kids (and their parents) use it with a frequency today that would have been alarming even 10 years ago. Today, it’s rare to walk down the halls of most secondary schools and not hear it a couple of times.
Kids by and large know the word is still forbidden in the classroom and in polite conversation; consequently it still carries the thrill of the verboten in those instances. Adults, even educated adults or maybe especially educated adults, use it the same way. Presidential candidates use it (McCain in Game Change?); vice-presidents use it (Biden and Cheney courtesy of hot mics). As the primo profanity under the right circumstances, it can be powerful. Used as a frequent adjective in normal every day speech, it loses its punch.
So here’s a newsflash, Motion Picture Association of America: Kids have heard the F-word, and their heads didn’t fall off. Some kids even use the F-word and live to tell about it. So MPAA folks, you blew it when you assigned Bully an R rating because of the language. You don’t know kids, do you?
Directed by Lee Hirsch, the film depicts a year in the lives of five kids bullied by their classmates. It’s a documentary, and as David Dobkin, director of The Wedding Crashers, points out in the LA Times, “a documentary is a form of reporting, artfully told, and it should be protected and rated in a completely different way than a Hollywood movie.” As one kid noted, if the documentary is R-rated, does that mean that kids’ lives in high school are R-rated?
The Weinstein Company, producers, finally decided to release the film as unrated, a move that many think will keep kids from seeing it or theaters from showing it. After all, hearing the F-word on a big screen instead of in the hall at school is WAY worse for kids than the kinds of brutality that some of them have to live with daily on school buses, in the halls, and in the cafeteria – not to mention in cyberspace.
So I’m hoping that smart teachers and administrators will ask for parent permission to take kids to see the movie. Not all parents will allow it, of course, but maybe enough will to make a difference, especially if they can go along with the students. It’s an action I took many times as a teacher and administrator with books, videos, and movies with very good results.
As a parent, teacher, and school administrator, I’ve dealt with bullying more than I want to think about. I’m not alone in this, I know. We need to do something to stop the epidemic of bullying in schools, and the film could help. But as Entertainment Weekly points out, “The very audience that Bully was made for still might have a hard time getting near it.”