Most movie trailers shown in theaters are “green band” trailers. Even though the movies they advertise may be rated PG-13 or R, the trailers themselves have been approved for all audiences by the MPAA Ratings Board, as they make clear with an advisory at the beginning. But there are also “red band” trailers for R films, so called because they begin with a red background, that include mature material. These trailers are only shown before R-rated films, the idea being that since those films are for audiences 17 and older only, there is little likelihood that underage audiences will see them.
Of course, the Internet has changed all of that. Red band trailers are available online with the flimsiest of protections. All anyone has to do to access them is type in a name and birth date that match driver’s license records. A middle-schooler who knows his parents’ birthdays has everything he needs. In some cases, unauthorized versions of the red band trailers are added to blogs and myspace pages without any age restrictions.
This week’s “Saturday Night Live” had a commercial for the R-rated “Tropic Thunder,” starring teen favorites Ben Stiller and “Iron Man’s” Robert Downey, Jr., that invited viewers to access the red band trailer online and conveniently provides the URL.
Parents should make sure that their conversations with older children and young teens about their use of the Internet include discussions of family rules about material like red band trailers.