Monday, July 07, 2008

Smokin' hot re: smoking bans on stage and screen

In Britain, the British Medical Association has, according to the July 7 issue of the Guardian, asked film censors "to give an adults-only classification to all films that portray positive images of smoking."

The BMA's goal is to end smoking in Britain by 2035, the Guardian says. However, persons with an ounce of common sense have pointed out that many old and beloved children's movies would receive adults-only ratings under such a system. Idiotic? Certainly. But no more so than the current producers of children's favorite Sesame Street hawking early episodes of the series with parental guidance warnings because Cookie Monster not only eats unwholesome cookies, in a parody of the old Masterpiece Theater intro, 'Alistair Cookie' eats a pipe.

Can you imagine?

And in related news comes word that meddlesome busybodies in Chicago have forced the local production of the Jersey Boys to eliminate actors' smoking from the performance. According to Chris Jones' July 7 article from the Chicago Tribune online, someone complained to the police that actors portraying young people in the 1960s were smoking on stage during the show and, under Chicago's draconian anti-smoking ordinance, the "police have no choice but to issue a warning."

But... didn't young people actually smoke during the 1960's?

I do not smoke. (I did -- but I quit, over 20 years ago, after hundreds of attempts.) And I'm certainly not encouraging anyone to take up the habit.

But to tag movies as 'adults only' or to ban characters smoking on stage during a performance, particularly during a performance depicting a period when most people did smoke, strikes me as the height of lunacy.

On the other hand, I quite agree that producers should voluntarily avoid filming scenes with actors smoking for no particular reason. I am willing to accept that our films and TV shows help establish behavioral norms... in many ways encouraging impressionable kids to ape the behaviors they see on screen. And by voluntarily refraining from including smoking scenes, writers, producers and actors aren't being censored, they're simply being responsible citizens, right?

Of course!

And therefore, as long as we're all being responsible, I additionally suggest that writers and producers also stop having their characters use language that would make a sailor blush. Particularly in casual conversation. I realize that 'Great Caesar's Ghost!' may not be the most realistic substitute for the kinds of extreme verbal ejaculations one routinely hears in any shopping center parking lot... but don't we want to try and encourage more civil behavior?

And, while we're at it, why don't we stop portraying young people living together without benefit of clergy... or having children out of wedlock... or having sex on every possible occasion? Granted, all of these things sometimes happen in real life. Young people sometimes take up smoking in real life too.

But many among us are afraid that by showing this smoking behavior on screen our young people will emulate it. Why doesn't this same logic apply to these other problematic behaviors? Is it because these aren't considered problematic behaviors... unlike smoking? Or have we concluded that young people don't emulate these other behaviors just because they see them portrayed on screen... but smoking is somehow different?

I don't see the difference.


74WIXYgrad said...

WOW! Under that standard, the Andy Griffith show and I Love Lucy would get the adults only rating.

I complain on forums about language used by radio personalities and I'm told to grow up and change stations.

Empress Bee (of the High Sea) said...

i'm the wrong one to ask because i won't go anywhere near smoke any more. it's that whole lung removed/lung cancer thingy... and it still sucks. just sayin'.

smiles, bee

The Beach Bum said...

Curmudgeon -

An excellent Blog on which I wholeheartedly agree.

As a teen in the late 50's and early 60's I did not smoke (I started when I went into the Army). I don't believe that any actor or actress encouraged me to smoke by smoking in the movies or on television.

By the way, you may find my Blog today of interest.

The Beach Bum

Anna said...

I don't see the difference either. Movies, television, all kinds of 'entertainment' don't necessarily glamorize smoking and other problematic behaviors, but they do portray them as normal. I do wonder - are these behaviors normal? Is the entertainment industry merely reflecting the norm, or is society adopting many behaviors because they think it's normal, accepted and OK?

Whatever. I have to agree with banning smoking onstage. At least in the movies and on TV you don't have to smell the smoke. The least I would want is a huge warning so I would know that I could never attend that play. Of course that's a whole other thing - where I get frustrated about all the places I can't go, or won't subject myself to, because of the smokers who will be there.

Ralph said...

You can't take out smoking without really messing with the character of many shows. A while back, we saw a local production of 'Requiem for a Heavyweight', and they did offer a caveat about how there would be smoking in the show. I agree, that the cigars were an integral part of the production as Rod Serling wrote it in the 50's. The seamy underbelly of boxing in the day was enhanced by the cigars (the boxing business and cigars do stink together)...

Rob said...

Seems awfully funny that most people have no problem - and many are even quite zealous - with demonizing tobacco yet nobody would dare cast a disparaging glare at alchohol. We're so gullable that we buy into the "If you drink & drive, you'll get busted" bunk yet there are no bars I'm aware of that do not have parking lots. Who's driving home from the bar? People who've been boozing it up. Don't even try to con me with that "designated driver" nonsense.

I'm not opposed to alchohol in general, but I'll bet that more traffic-related fatalities can be attributed to Miller Lite than Marlboro...

Rob said...

"But many among us are afraid that by showing this smoking behavior on screen our young people will emulate it."

Yup, there's that double-standard thing in action again...

The people who're bellyaching about the negative effects of tobacco-use in the media upon their tender children are likely the very same ones who see absolutely nothing wrong with li'l Johnny playing Grand Theft Auto 4, Call of Duty, or any of a dozen other gratuitously violent videogames.