Pat Tillman: The Documentary

I’m approaching the age horizon where “getting carded” means trying for the senior discount, so I won’t have any trouble seeing The Tillman Story when it comes out. Be nice if the same were true of the high-school kids who actually stand a chance of being recruited into the Army. From The Hollywood Reporter:

Despite protests by its producer, director and distributor that “The Tillman Story” is an important documentary that should be available to young people, it has lost an appeal to have the Motion Picture Association of America change its R rating to PG-13… That makes it unlikely that the picture will be made available to young people in schools and through libraries in years to come.
“It comes as a very big disappointment,” said Battsek. “We set out three years ago to make a very truthful film working in tandem with the family. This is almost another mini-blow to the family. It’s like they are being censored for their honesty in the film because the fact is Tillman used the F-word. It’s a really big disappointment.”…
The feature documentary tells the real-life story of a football player who quit pro sports to serve in the U.S. Army in Afghanistan, where he was killed by “friendly fire,” shots from other American soldiers. It tells the story of how Tillman’s family battled the Army and government to bring out the true story.
The R rating was for “language,” in particular a scene in which Tillman, as he is being fired on by fellow American soldiers, says “I’m Pat f—ing Tillman.”
Bar Lev said the movie shows Tillman’s “humanity” even if he did “favor the occasional F-bomb,” and that “is not contradictory. Who Pat Tillman was should be taught in schools alongside other great Americans. This sends a message that he is somehow not appropriate for young people, who by the way are subject to ROTC visits in their high schools, but can’t see the film about Pat Tillman.”
Insisting they are not anti-military, Bar Lev said they just want young people to have access to both sides of the story. “This is not an anti-war film,” added Bar Lev. “We’ve had very positive response from veterans. People who served in combat don’t like us to celebrate a sanitized version of what they do. It diminishes their heroism.”
The Tillman Story opens in theaters on limited basis in New York and Los Angeles on Aug. 20 and expands its run Sept. 3.

Just as well Tillman didn’t flash a nipple during his last battle, or the MPAA might’ve insisted on a X rating.

33 replies
  1. 1
    ItAintEazy says:

    Wait, so this documentary gets an R-rating for a non-sexual use of “fuck” but a movie like, say, “She’s All That” get’s a PG-13 rating despite the similar usage of that profanity?

    Well, MPAA’s sheer hypocrisy and pearl-clutching aside, I don’t see why they wouldn’t release a censored version in the theaters while releasing a DVD with an uncut audio version.

  2. 2
    Zifnab says:

    Maybe if they’d included a scene of him being slashed bloody with whips and nailed to a cross while chanting in Aramaic, he could have received better distribution.

  3. 3
    Svensker says:

    Why can’t they release an edited version for use in schools? That doesn’t seem very hard.

  4. 4
  5. 5
    c u n d gulag says:

    Ok, I get it.
    Mindless car chases, endless violence, T&A, and gratuitious sex are no problem. But, a soldier cursing in battle gets an “R” rating.
    What do they think soldiers in previous wars screamed, ‘war hero’ John Wayne (snark), not withstanding? “Darn it, I’ve been hit?” Or, “Shucks, they shot my pecker off?”
    But par for the course. You can’t offend the sensibilities of those easily offended by the foul language used in war, no matter how much they supported the FUCKING STUPID thing!!!

  6. 6
    soonergrunt says:

    @c u n d gulag: I don’t know about anyone else, but I NEVER used foul language in battle. Or anywhere else before the internet.

    Why must we continue to think that we should be “protecting” our young people from language they hear at home and in the halls of school every fucking day?

  7. 7
    Punchy says:

    1 f-bomb gets an R rating? What the fuck is that fuckin shit?

    That’s fucked up.

  8. 8
    DebTX says:

    They must not have kids or know any because that word has grown in popularity with the young ‘uns. It means nothing to them except just another dirty word they throw out there. Why are there so many idiots in this country?

  9. 9
    Chad N Freude says:


    Why are there so many idiots in this country?

    Because they all perform the act that must not be named in front of unaccompanied children.

  10. 10
    adolphus says:

    I agree with Svensker. This seems like a tempest in teapot. Though the MPAA never ceases to piss me off, tamer versions of R and even PG-13 movies have been available for years to schools, rental stores, etc and labeled as such (similar to iTunes having “clean” and “explicit” versions of songs) for years if not decades. Hell, I remember seeing slides of art in 7th grade with electrical tape over the naughty bits. Yes it’s stupid, closed minded, and provincial, but the art and movies did otherwise get seen to be discovered in all their naughtiness in later years.

    So release the full version in theaters. But if education is the goal then a strategic “beep” over the f-bomb should get the Pg-13 for schools and other youths on cable/DVD/DVR/etc. while, a la The Daily Show, there will be no doubt what was just said.

    Not ideal and tiresome, of course, but I long ago gave up on the MPAA and sadly, their values probably reflect America’s in a boiled down, homogenized, “no risk” kind of way. If the makers of this movie feel its message is important enough, they can work strategically with the MPAA and school groups to get a slightly altered (yes, censored) version in front of the students who need to see this movie.

    Sometimes getting your message across is more important than your personal, artistic integrity.

    Now, if the MPAA has more problems than the word “fucking” and wants to take bigger scissors to the movie to the point of drastically altering the message, then my answer would be different.

  11. 11
    soonergrunt says:

    where the fuck did my post go?
    I mean, I posted a comment about how I never fucking swore in combat, and nobody fucking swears in combat and that anyone who claims otherwise is a fucking liar out to fucking denigrate the fucking honor of our fucking troops.

    Why, why, WHY do we insist on ‘protecting’ our young people from language they hear at home and in the halls of their schools and in the mall and on the street? What’s the f-ing point of that?

  12. 12
    NonyNony says:

    Be nice if the same were true of the high-school kids who actually stand a chance of being recruited into the Army.

    I don’t think kids have changed much from when I was in High School.

    Giving it an “R” rating would have been the surest way to get folks in my school interested in a documentary. A PG-13 rating makes it look educational – an “R” rating makes it something the adults don’t want you to see and therefore more interesting.

  13. 13
  14. 14
    Mark S. says:

    I’m also sure that realism demands that no f-words are ever heard in an NFL locker room.

  15. 15
    Bnut says:

    @Chad N Freude:

    Because they all perform the act that must not be named in front of unaccompanied children.

    Going to the d-e-n-t-i-s-t?

  16. 16
    debbie says:

    The silliest part is that these same, impressionable children can go to their library, check out Kraukauer’s biography on Tillman, Where Men Win Glory, and read the unabbreviated word for themselves.

  17. 17
    Mike in NC says:


    Kraukauer’s biography on Tillman, Where Men Win Glory

    Yes, it’s a very good book. The actions of the White House/Pentagon propaganda machines were particularly deplorable, as they were with the whole Jessica Lynch fiasco, which Kraukauer details.

  18. 18
    YellowJournalism says:

    @arguingwithsignposts: I love that documentary, especially the reenactments of the phone calls to the MPAA regarding the documentary’s rating using the actual audio from the calls.

  19. 19
    Ogami Itto says:

    The silliest part is that these same, impressionable children can go to their library, check out Kraukauer’s biography on Tillman, Where Men Win Glory, and read the unabbreviated word for themselves.

    Everybody knows that children don’t go to the library, or read books that aren’t mandated by their teachers, silly.

  20. 20
    stuckinred says:

    @soonergrunt: fuckin A

  21. 21
    zmulls says:

    I saw “All The President’s Men” in 1976. It got an R-rating, I believe, because in the very last scene, Jason Robards says the f-word.

  22. 22
    rachel says:

    @NonyNony: That was the first thing I thought of, too.

  23. 23

    When my eldest went into high school, she asked why any movie that reproduced the language used on the school bus or in the hallways would be automatically rated “R”. As unsuitable for the people using it.

    Note that she went to a very nice upper-middle suburban high school, which is only not “white” by virtue of the PhDs of the world who are sending their children there.

    So: why is the language used in public places by 14-17 y.o.s not appropriate for them to hear in a movie? Are we protecting them from *anything* — or are adults protecting themselves from recognizing what our precious angels’ lives are actually like? Why is a teenager’s life not suitable for teenagers?

  24. 24
    RareSanity says:

    I don’t know, and maybe this is the developing crotchety old man in me talking, but, when I look back at movies that received R ratings when I was a kid, they are tame compared to even PG-13 movies today.

    Think about it, remember how “controversial” Porky’s was when it came out? Wouldn’t raise an eyebrow today. Cut out the shower scene, it’s PG-13. Fast Times at Ridgemont High? Purple Rain? Movies that were generally accepted to be “adult” movies then, are not viewed as such now.

    I’m on the other end, I think most of the ratings are too liberal, it’s the “adult themes” part that concerns me more than language or a random breast. I’m no Bible thumper, but I truly believe that kids are being exposed to “adult themes” earlier than they should be.

    Oh…and get the hell off my lawn, also, too.

  25. 25
    trollhattan says:


    Yup, loved it. Even if it raised my BP several notches. MPAA is a completely worthless system, trying to act relevant.

  26. 26
    Steve says:

    I’m not saying the movie deserves an R-rating, but really, it’s pretty obvious this is a movie that includes violent battle scenes, including one where a soldier gets killed by friendly fire. So I don’t know why people are bothering to act like this is all about a single f-bomb.

  27. 27
    Non-Existent Patricia says:

    @Steve: Ummm, because the article being referenced says it is. Anne even bolded it for you.

  28. 28
    Patrick says:

    If there is any institution in America where we are truly afflicted with “czars”, it’s the MPAA. I dare anyone, anywhere in the U.S. to walk into their local multiplex (or the closest one to you), look at what carries an R and what carries at PG-13, and in that context try and make sense of this decision.

    How fucked is the MPAA’s rating system when this movie is tagged as an R while “Salt” (loads of violence) and “The Other Guys” (language) are both tagged PG-13? Fortunately, as someone noted upthread, giving this movie an R will probably make it more desirable for some teens.

    Fuck you, MPAA.

  29. 29
    Patrick says:


    I agree that the ratings system is all but useless any longer.

    Kids are being exposed to adult themes earlier in cinema than they were 20 years ago. I also tend to think that the most adult theme is violence, particularly violence where people are killed onscreen. You have to be particularly gore-y these days to even rate an R for that kind of stuff.

    If there was some balance to exposing kids to violence and sex, I honestly don’t think it would bother me as much. The bias in the ratings system towards violence and against even the slightest hint of sex irritates the hell out of me.

  30. 30
    Lurking Canadian says:

    Ebert said it best:

    – Man kisses woman’s breast: R rating
    – Man lops off woman’s breast with chainsaw: PG-13

  31. 31
    chris says:

    “Men, when you are out there in the battlefield and you’re looking into the beady eyes of a Canadian as he charges you with his hockey stick or whatever he has and people are dying all around you just remember what the MPAA says…Horrific, deplorable violence is OK, as long as nobody says any naughty words. That’s what this war is all about.” –Sheila Broflovski, “South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut”

  32. 32
    estamm says:

    Woody Allen’s ‘The Front’ was PG (before there were PG13’s), and he said “you can all go fuck yourselves”.

    Beetlejuice was a PG (before PG-13’s), and he said ‘fuck’ (something or other) and grabbed his crotch.

    I think there were other motives behind this R.

  33. 33
    Egypt Steve says:

    “We train our young men to drop fire on people; but their commanders won’t let them write ‘fuck’ on their airplanes, because it’s obscene!”

    Col. Kurz in “Apocalypse Now.”

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