‘Hating Breitbart,’ ‘Bully,’ And The MPAA’s Approach To Language

A documentary about the life, work, and opponents of the late conservative publisher Andrew Breitbart, Hating Breitbart, is on its way to theaters, and its director, Andrew Marcus, is perturbed that the movie received an R rating from the Motion Picture Association of America. He told the Daily Caller that the rating should have come from “gutter behavior of the Congressional Black Caucus and their enablers in the progressive institutional left media” depicted in the movie because ““The hatred aimed at Andrew and the tea party was pornographic!” But like Bully, the documentary about children who are tormented for reasons ranging from their sexual orientation to simple social awkwardness, Hating Breitbart was rated R for the language that appears in the film. And like Bully, which eventually cut a number of incidences of the word “fuck” to earn a PG-13 rating, Marcus is trimming Hating Breitbart to try to bring the rating down.

The best argument for giving both Bully and Hating Breitbart PG-13 ratings even with all the original language in them intact is that it’s a realistic, honest look at the behavior of both sets of subjects. There was something perverse about protecting children from words in Bully that were spoken by children in the target demographic. And Breitbart’s use of language was a part of his style, as the Daily Caller suggests in a description of one of the scenes in the movie:

But Breitbart is the one uttering a few choice adult words. During one sequence early in the film, he looks into the camera and inveighs against what he saw as a conspiracy among liberal media elites to cast conservative politicians and commentators as Neanderthal throwback villains.

“What the left has stood for with political correctness,” he says on screen, looking into the distance, “is to try and get those with whom they disagree to shut up. And the tea party movement, and Sarah Palin, and Michele Bachmann, and Allen West and all the people who have gone out there against the mainstream media and said, ‘You’re going to call us racists? You’re going to call us potential Timothy McVeighs? Fuck you!’”


Then Breitbart looks into the camera and takes a pregnant pause before half-whispering his conclusion.


Marcus may be irritated that his movie got an R rating, but the decision is in no way inconsistent with the MPAA’s previous decisions. I’d be in favor of a standard that recognizes that life, even as 12-year-olds are exposed to it, is sometimes obscene. But as it is, the ratings are fairly consistent in shielding younger viewers from obscene language, if not the ideas that animate it.