GLAAD's Campaigns Intern, Katy Butler, writes a first-hand account of her visit to Washington Hill to share her work with the film BULLY. Her efforts to change the MPAA rating from R to PG13 earned her with a special award from GLAAD in 2012. Watch a video of her accepting the award at the bottom of the post.
BULLY is an incredible documentary film that follows the lives of five families from across America as they share their personal stories about what it is like to deal with bullying. The director, Lee Hirsch, made this small independent film because he was bullied as a kid. He wanted to change the culture around bullying in the United States through education and storytelling.
Yesterday I had the opportunity to join The Bully Project Team in announcing that we have reached our goal of showing the amazing documentary, BULLY, to over one million kids. I was joined on Capitol Hill by Kerry Kennedy and the Robert F Kennedy Center for Human Rights, Representative Mike Honda the Congressional Anti Bullying Caucus, Randi Weingarten, the President of the American Federation of Teachers and Dennis Van Roekel, the President of the National Education Association. So far, 1.8 million students have seen the film and the numbers are still climbing- that is almost 11% of secondary school students in the United States! BULLY, and the people behind the film are no longer just a movie; the passion and inspiration has driven a movement that has not only brought awareness to the seriousness of bullying, but has encouraged people to speak up and take a stand.
As soon as I saw the trailer for BULLY, I connected on a personal level to the kids in the film sharing their stories and I was fueled with inspiration to make a change, because I was bullied in middle school. In 7th grade I had a crush on a girl. I told my best friend and she told the rest of the school. I was bullied on a daily basis for something I was taught didn’t matter. I didn’t want to go to school because I (and my work) suffered. One day, a few guys came up behind me while I was putting my books in my locker. They called me names and asked me why I even bothered to show my face at school because no one wanted to go to school with a lesbian. I tried to ignore them because I was afraid of what might happen if I stood up to them. When I went to leave, they pushed me against the wall. Then they slammed my locker shut on my hand, breaking my finger. I held back tears while I watched them run away laughing. I kept it to myself because I didn’t know whom I could talk to about being gay. I saw myself in the five students in the film and I knew everyone else had to see this movie because I knew it had the power to change the climate of bullying in our schools.
The problem was this life changing film was rated R, for language, which meant no one under that age of 17 could see it without a parent and it couldn’t be shown in schools, the very place it needed to be seen most! So I went on change.org and started a petition asking the Motion Picture Association of America to give BULLY the PG13 rating it needed to create the change it was intended to make. After sharing my story through national television and media outlets, celebrity support and signatures from over half a million people the MPAA agreed to give BULLY the PG13 rating it deserved.
Now I am proud to say that I, along with all of you, are part of the one million (plus) people making a change in our country. BULLY inspires its audience to take action and speak out at injustices, using education as a tool. The Bully Project now has the tools and resources for both students, teachers or anyone else who wants to improve school climate and decrease bullying while enhancing student performance.
We have reached an amazing milestone and we have a trail of success behind us but that means now, while everyone is watching and fired up, we have to raise the bar! Now that we have reached 1.8 million student views, this is the time to inspire millions more because together we are the change.