'Rated R for strong graphic smoking...'

May 11, 2007

Article Text

Coming soon to a theater near you.

Is everyone so wrapped up in their personal crusades that they can't see anything from the standpoint of basic logic?

It was reported today that the MPAA will start using smoking as one of the factors in how a movie gets its rating. Smoking will also become one of the descriptors that will end up tacked onto movies and put into the MPAA "reasons" database.

So in addition to a PG-13 rating "for violence, sexual content and language," we will, no doubt, soon see helpful descriptions that say a movie is rated PG-13 "for violence, sexual content, language and smoking." When I look at that, it seems silly for some reason.

In the AP story, some critics of this move say it doesn't go far enough. Some want movies with smoking to get a mandatory R rating.

"I'm glad it's finally an issue they're taking up, but what they're proposing does not go far enough and is not going to make a difference," said Kori Titus, spokeswoman for Breathe California, which opposes film images of tobacco use that might encourage young people to start smoking.

— Associated Press

For those that want mandatory R ratings for smoking, what kills me is the blatant disregard for logical thinking. For crying out loud, get off your high horse and stop trying to put all the children in a safety bubble (that's a smoke-free bubble, of course!). So now we have to protect children to the point that we can't even expose them to the fact that smoking is something some people do in movies and maybe even in real life? Smoking is legal, for crissakes. I'm not a smoker or an advocate for smoking (and public smoking bans are just fine by me), but can't we all use some common sense regarding images of smoking in movies?

Given the amount of violence you can get in a PG-13 movie, with plenty of illegal behavior like, you know, murder and mayhem, what kind of sense does it make to have a mandatory R rating for an admittedly unsafe but legal activity? If smoking is an automatic R, then you'd think killing someone would be.

The severity of smoking will play into the MPAA's use of wording, with phrases like "glamorized smoking" or "pervasive smoking." I can only hope a film comes along soon that gets one of those lengthy descriptors that only the MPAA could write: "Rated R for intense sequences of pervasive graphic stylized smoking." Hell, a movie with a title like 200 Cigarettes probably couldn't even be advertised on TV anymore. Or made in Hollywood. Especially if it's illegal to smoke on a set, like it will be in Illinois.

And thank God for the MPAA's due diligence in this matter. Otherwise children would see a movie with smoking and then they'd have no choice but to leave the theater, walk to a gas station, buy a pack of cigarettes, and light up because of the power of persuasion of movies!

Unless, of course, Truth manages to intercede and save them.

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6 comments on this post

    Just curious, are they saying "mandatory R" for smoking, are you coloring it a bit for us? At any rate, many people don't use logic to make their decisions, but just follow the "logic" of their own interet. So am i surprised to hear this? No.. not at all. However, i agree that glamorizing smoking can encourage kids to do it. Heck... this is how the tobacco industry has made "loyal" customers since the turn of the century. Think of all the movies from the 40's and 50's. Seems i also remember reading somewhere that women smoking was part of the picture of the "liberated" women back in the 20's. Point being, people do (and buy) what they think is cool... if this is not true then I dont know HOW advertisers have made their millions over the years.

    There will not be mandatory R ratings for smoking. That's what some critics wanted, but the MPAA was actually sensible in this regard. Whether there could be R ratings for pervasive and/or glamorized smoking remains to be seen. It wasn't exactly clear from what I'd read. That said, I can see the argument that glamorized smoking could be dangerous to kids, but can you actually think of an instance in a recent movie where smoking was "glamorized"? What does that mean? Movies are about characters. If a character loves to smoke, that's a characteristic. It doesn't mean the movie is endorsing it. I don't know how/if the MPAA will make this distinction. Perhaps a movie could "glorify" smoking in the same way that it "glorifies" violence, but that seems unlikely to me. Smoking is a background-noise aspect of characters in movies. And until smoking is removed from our society, I see no reason why it should be removed from movies. Some people smoke, and if a movie shows that truth, that's morally neutral. That's not the same thing as advertising to kids.

    Here in the UK we have some pretty 'odd' censorship laws (to be fair, many were recently dragged out of the 1970s). Nunchucks for example where not allowed to seen on screen for many years (Big cuts in Bruce lee films). Headbutts are a no no for younger audiences, so we have the comical Judge Dredd with people being shot, robots ripping arms and legs off Judges, but they can't show Hershy headbutting Joan Chen in the fight scene on the old VHS version, as that will bring the rating up to an 18 certificate. And to add insult to injury, the VHS version also contains the making of the film, where you see 2 versions of the headbutt UNCENSORED. Utter madness.

    Problem is, you mention the over-the-topness of rating smoking scenes, but pass over the fact that they rate "sexual content". Now everything you say about smoking - it's not illegal, people really do it, etc - can be said about sex too, with the additional point that sex is not bad for you and isn't something that it would be good to discourage. So, given that "sexual content" earns a rating, why would it be odd for smoking to do so? Or, conversely, if smoking shouldn't earn a rating, does that mean that "sexual content" shouldn't do so either?

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