Smoking is censored – so, what’ll be next?

Steven Shainberg, director of the speculative Diane Arbus bio, Fur, has a story:

“I was developing a project for a studio, and the character was this totally messed-up guy. He was in his mid- to late 20s; he frequented whores; he took an enormous amount of Ecstasy, and in many, many scenes he would smoke.

“Well, the studio was obsessed with him not smoking. And I used to say, `The guy’s doing all these other crazy things, you’re worried about him smoking?'”

Very worried.

Last week, the Motion Picture Association of America announced that cigarettes will now be a factor in movie ratings. In a statement, the body responsible for those parental advisories – the PGs, PG-13s, Rs and NC-17s accorded for scenes of sex and violence, for profanity, drinking and drugs – noted that “depictions that glamorize smoking or movies that feature pervasive smoking outside of a historic or other mitigating context may receive a higher rating.”

Fine, smoking kills. Studies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have linked movies to teen smoking, and health organisations, youth advocacy groups and outfits like Morality in Media have long lobbied Hollywood to kick those butts off screen. (Morality in Media wants any film featuring a lit cigarette to get an automatic R.)

“Think about it,” wrote consumer advocate and activist Ralph Nader in a Tobacco and Hollywood editorial. “The movies are glamorous, and they portray smoking as glamorous, whether or not it is a good guy or bad guy lighting a cigarette.”

With that kind of logic, it was only a matter of time before Hollywood officially ceded.

“Smoking is increasingly an unacceptable behavior in our society,” Dan Glickman, president of the MPAA, said in his statement last week. “No parent wants their child to take up the habit. The appropriate response of the rating system is to give more information to parents on this issue.”

OK. But where is all this going? What’s next – an R rating for a scene of grade-schoolers scarfing trans-fat doughnuts? What about a movie that offends vegans – stars chomping on meat, wearing mink, stopping the Mr. Softee truck for a vanilla cone? And who’s going to protect the moviegoing public from all the other potentially destructive, addictive activities “glamourised” in the movies?

Source: The Star

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One Response to “Smoking is censored – so, what’ll be next?”

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  1. Comment by E Cigarette Smoker | 09/15/08 at 6:02 pm

    Unfortunately there’s no easy answer to this problem. Few people want to live in a society that is heavily censored, but at the same time there’s no doubt that the glamourisation of smoking in movies contributes to the high numbers of teenagers taking up the habit. In my mind, keeping cigarette exposure in movies to a minimum is the lesser of two evils.

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  1. Comment by E Cigarette Smoker | 09/15/08 at 6:02 pm

    Unfortunately there’s no easy answer to this problem. Few people want to live in a society that is heavily censored, but at the same time there’s no doubt that the glamourisation of smoking in movies contributes to the high numbers of teenagers taking up the habit. In my mind, keeping cigarette exposure in movies to a minimum is the lesser of two evils.


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