Red-Band Trailers Reach Underage Audiences

Posted on February 23, 2010 at 9:36 pm

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 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:
Marilyn Gordon
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)

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10 Replies to “Red-Band Trailers Reach Underage Audiences”

  1. This only a small aspect of the larger problem that children have easy access to all sorts of material that’s not age-appropriate on the Internet. Much of it is effectively blocked by responsible parents who choose to utilize software like “Net Nanny”, though much of it isn’t filtered, and I’m reminded of the news stories that came out during the Clinton admnistration and shortly after regarding the porn site “” (with their “intern of the day”), and how there were too many children who, in this case, were accidentally stumbling across the porn site when looking for the real White House (which is a “.gov” site). Similarly, I’ve had too many occasions where I’ve seen advertisements posted for red band trailers that highlight that they are indeed red band trailers, using it as a selling point to increase hits (and let’s be realistic, the primary audience who would be most motivated by the additional knowledge that it’s a red band trailer would likely be someone underaged who would see it as an easy chance to hear some bad words or see some brief nudity).
    I’m all for free speech, and red band trailers in front of an R-rated movie don’t bother me when I’m at the theater. In fact, as an adult and a moviegoer, I kind of appreciate red band trailers because they do give a better impression of the film’s content, rather than an all-audiences trailer that’s so sanitized it makes a hard-R or an NC-17 film look like a PG-13 at best. So in the right venues, they do serve a purpose.
    But there needs to be an effort to keep the porn peddlers, both soft and hard, from targeting children on purpose. And I would note that the majority of the red band trailers I’ve seen in the wrong venues have been for R-rated films that push sex/nudity/etc., for films like Superbad and The Hangover, not for films that earned their R for violence or other non-sexual content. Basically it’s just the American Pie-wannabe films that try to pull these stunts, not unlike their breathren that peddle in the harder smut that Blockbuster won’t carry. And of course we can’t expect that these people will police themselves – the FCC or some other agency needs to step up, institute policy, and enforce said policies.
    For me, I’d like to see porn sites having to register their services in whatever way necessary so that “Net Nanny” etc. can be effective in blocking them for those people who want that. And the red band trailers that started this conversation need to be carried only on sites that are also registered the same way. The age requirement or some sort of warning page, I agree those aren’t effective against keeping children out of an otherwise unblocked site, but they are nice for those of us who might accidently stumble into something and give us a quick firewall to warn us we’re about to enter a site we may or may not wish to. I don’t know of anything else that would work for children, though, other than parents responsible enough to use some sort of parental control software package.

  2. Mrs. Minow, I sympathize deeply with you, but bigmedia exert such power over our lives how can we do anything about this? And when people in your position complain they do so with so many qualifiers and excuses and apologies as to make the complaining worthless — and writing to CARA is worthless. The public can’t rely on pretty please anymore, if it ever could.

  3. Thank you, Gene. CARA needs to hear from people so that they will no longer be able to tell the Federal Trade Commission and their member studios that everyone agrees with what they are doing. A letter may not solve the problem, but not saying anything will just perpetuate it.
    Yes, sometimes we tilt at windmills. But once in a while, the windmill falls over and we find we have more success than we dared hope for. Worst case scenario, they know we are paying attention.

  4. I thank you, Mrs. Minow, for responding to me, which is more than most people would. The one good thing is that the MPAA has lost some of its overbearing clout in recent years, thanks to Jack Valenti’s retirement and a recent downsizing. Nonetheless it confidently welched on its minimal promise to open up CARA, and it still engages in the despicable practice of ratings creep; putting red-bands on the Web was of a piece with these, and it was intentional. Still, writing to CARA is better than nothing, and I may do so soon, just to let someone know a few of us out there are not happy. Again, I thank you.

  5. I am still trying to find someone who cares about this issue. I rented a Tim Allen movie, Crazy on the Outside, at Blockbuster. It is a PG 13 movie. The movie itself isn’t bad and does seem to qualify as a PG 13. But there is a movie preview before the film for a sequel to The 40 Year Old Virgin, that is an R rating for sure, with nudity galore and a realistic act (if you know what I’m referring to). Yes I had a family member exposed to this, Blockbuster does not seem to be very concerned, so I hope they are swamped with irate Moms and Dads, this is nothing that most 13 to 16 year old kids should be seeing. I did not see any warning before the trailer, and Tim Allen mostly has a family oriented reputation. Any ideas who to complain to?
    Thank you

  6. Whats Up
    Please, can you PM me and tell me few more things about this, my homie am really fan of your site! my homie just subscribed to your feed.

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