As I have already discussed, the red-band (mature material) trailer for the upcoming film “Kick-Ass” has an 11-year-old character played by a now-13-year-old girl using extremely crude language. The New York Times article focused on the accessibility of the trailer online, though it is supposed to be limited to adult audiences. But there is another aspect I’d like to look at as well. This movie is the third in recent months to feature a child using very crude or obscene language as a source of humor or as a signifier of coolness. I think it is because we are now numb to the shock value of even the strongest language used by adults, so all that is left is to have those words said by children.
In Cop Out a child who is referred to as the top local car thief uses a string of obscene epithets, kicks another character in the crotch, and then is himself kicked in the crotch. Bobb’e J. Thompson, now 13, has pretty much made a career of being the outrageous kid in movies like the 2008 release Role Models, where his character’s extreme and raunchy language is supposed to be funny.
We have a lot of rules to protect child performers. Their work hours are limited and the production is responsible for making sure they do not miss schoolwork. Their earnings are set aside so they cannot be appropriated by managers or family members. I do not want to impinge on anyone’s freedom of expression or artistic integrity, but I do not think that is what is at stake here. This is just exploitation of children who are not capable of protecting themselves. If an adult approached a child in the playground and used that language, he’d be arrested as a sexual predator. Is it really all right for us to allow children to use that language in a movie?