Shield Those Innocent Teens
There's a movie coming out soon called Bully. You have probably heard about it. It follows five families and their experiences with bullying. From what I've read, the film sounds real and raw. Apparently, that's a problem. Apparently, it's too real. So disturbing, that this documentary received an R rating. Yes, it's only appropriate for those 17 year old and older. Therefore, many of the teens who experience bullying today will not even be able to see it.
The language, say some parents, is too graphic. The content, they continue, is too troubling. Yes, let's shield our teens from the harshness. It's just a movie, right? Not like it's real. Oh, wait. What's that? It IS real. It's a reality many teens face today. But it's too upsetting to let them see what they already know? Really?
Yes, I know the rating doesn't mean that teens can't see it. They only need an adult to be present. But what about those kids who don't speak up about the bullying or wait until it's too late to do so? What about those who suffer in silence? This movie would make them feel less alone, let themselves be heard.
To me, seeing this movie with a guardian is beside the point. I feel the rating and parents' “concern” speaks to a greater issue regarding abuse and bullying. We want our children to be safe, so much so that we protect them from the very things they already know and are trying to come to terms with.
My new novel, PIECES OF US, comes out this week, and some reviewers have said that this book is not appropriate for teens. Not, “best suited for mature teens,” not “best for the older teen,” just “not for teens” OF ANY AGE. A few even went so far as to say they would not let anyone under 25 read this book. Yes, it has mature content: abuse, cyberbullying, rape, graphic language, and dating violence. But the words can be heard in hallways in high schools across the country. Cyberbullying has driven kids to suicide. Rape is a reality too many teens live with as well. And dating violence? Let's not even pretend that there aren't too many young women out there who stay with the guy because they think that's what love is.
Lest you think I'm not a parent, I am. My son is little now, but when he comes to me with the tough questions or is a teenager and wants to read books like PIECES OF US or see a movie like Bully, I'll use these opportunities as teachable moments. I'll watch the movie with him, read the book as well. We'll talk about what the characters' behavior means. If he's seen anything like that. What he can and should do in those situations.
The bottom line is this. Not all teens are the same. Some CAN handle the painful issues. Some can't. Often, the teen knows which category she or he falls into. The problem with saying a book should not be read by ANY teen or that a movie should not be seen by ANYONE under 17 is that you're hiding material many kids CAN handle and desperately need. Don't take it upon yourself to decide what's best for all teens. Odds are many have lived and seen the very things you're trying to hide.
To learn more about Bully and sign a petition to give it a PG-13 rating, check out it's website: http://thebullyproject.com/#/abouttheproject
Thanks, Margie! Come back on Friday to see my riveting interview with the awesome author of Pieces of Us.