I am quoted in Brooks Barnes’ New York Times article today about the “red-band” trailer for a new superhero movie called “Kick-Ass.” Red-band trailers contain R-rated material and are supposed to be shown to adults only. In theaters, they are restricted to being shown before R-rated movies but online it has been impossible to stop them from being virally disseminated. The name comes from the red background on the notice of the content at the beginning of the trailer. In theory, it is red like a red light for a car, meaning stop. In reality, it is red like a red cape for a bull, meaning full steam ahead.
In the red-band trailers for “Kick-Ass,” an eleven-year old girl uses some of the strongest language possible and engages in a good deal of violent mayhem, killing many people. The girl is played by Chloë Moretz, who is now 13.
“Studios hide behind the notion of an age requirement for these trailers, but it’s pure fiction,” said Nell Minow, a lawyer who reviews films for radio stations and Beliefnet.com under the name Movie Mom. “It’s easy for kids to access, and that’s exactly how the industry wants it.”
Moreover, the severity of age policing varies, with some sites — including the Trailer Park section of MySpace, which had the red-band version as of Tuesday — seemingly leaving it to the honor system and asking for only an easily lied-about birth date. (A MySpace spokeswoman, Tracy Akelrud, said the site used other controls to detect under-age users. “If you are under 17, you will be blocked,” she said.)
The global nature of the Internet poses another challenge: foreign Web sites, which do not fall under control of the motion picture association, are easily reached through Google.
The studio, Lionsgate, has a good point when they say that the “suitable for appropriate audiences” green band trailer for the film gives a misleading impression of the movie’s content. Barnes quoted their statement: “It’s really important for people to know what kind of movie this is so they can make an appropriate decision about whether or not they want to see it.”
But it is also really important for people to be able to make that decision without exposing themselves or their children to the very material they think is unsuitable.
To express concerns about this issue, contact:
Vice Chair of the Classification and Ratings Administration (CARA)
15301 Ventura Blvd., Building E
Sherman Oaks, California 91403
(818) 995-6600 (main)
(818) 285-4403 (fax)