Thanks, mom

posted by Michael Zoldessy on July 27, 2007 at 8:15 am

Are you kidding me? So I was reading this New York Times article about Disney for the most part banning cigarette smoking in their films. It’ll be completely banished from their family films and discouraged from their others.

Disney’s action comes amid increasing pressure from advocacy groups and regulators for media companies to purge movies of cigarettes. In May, the Motion Picture Association of America announced that portrayals of smoking would be considered alongside sex and violence in assessing the suitability of movies for young viewers. Films that appear to glamorize smoking will risk a more restrictive rating.

Mr. Iger said in a letter to Representative Edward J. Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts, dated July 25 that Disney would also “discourage depictions of cigarette smoking” in pictures released by its Touchstone and Miramax units. Last month, Mr. Markey, chairman of the subcommittee on telecommunications, held hearings on the effects of movie images on children.

Now, let me get this straight. I’m not about to advocate cigarette smoking in any way, much less in a medium that touches millions. My problem is with the idea that this is being addressed in this manner.

As mentioned in this article, there really isn’t that much smoking going on now in movies anyway. Any times it is included, I feel like it’s a conscious decision to convey something about the character. Filmmakers have been using smoking sparingly for a while now so why try to pluck it out of the last few occurrences to make a point.

I guess why it irks me so is because like so many other things, this meddling is getting in the way of the artistry. Imagine all the great film noir from the 40’s without cigarettes. Sure, that was so long ago and maybe a smoking protagonist is somewhat of a relic. I feel that’s only the case though with it being so common. Nowadays, different story. To take the cigarette out of the hand of the fitting character just detracts from the film just like the way many controversial issues are muted by the powers that be.

We all want people to go back to the theaters but little things like this could prevent that from happening. Movies and television have become the scapegoat for bad parenting. Instead of good old-fashioned entertainment, people just can’t seem to leave them alone.

Am I overreacting a bit?

(Thanks to JAMALadi for providing the photo.)

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Comments (14)

KJB2012 on July 27, 2007 at 10:11 am

No you are not overreacting! I have never smoked. I don’t like smoke. But I’m greatly offened by the anti-smoking nazis! Yes I said nazis.

It’s a real hoot that these left over relics of the drug drenched 60s, are so much up in arms against cigarettes. If they had any guts they would campaign to make cigarettes illegal.

Yes, ban the manufacture and sale of cigarettes. We know such bans worked well in the 1920s against beer and spirits. Why even today, our laws against illegal drugs work wonders.

But the Disney ban doesn’t surpised me. Much of the Disney product has already elimated the drama, so cigarettes had to next.

efriedmann on July 27, 2007 at 10:14 am

MZ – I don’t think you’re overreacting at all. I, too, would welcome an opportunity that would reduce the number of smokers I too often encounter.

What’s frightening here is the act of artistic censorship that’s taking place during this day and age in the United States. It starts with this one act and before you know it, we’ve returned to the days of the censorship code of during cinema’s golden age.

I was in high school in the early 1980’s when movies like FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH and SIXTEEN CANDLES showed underage kids drinking. When I started college in 1985, I drank and partied like every other crazy freshman. But I’m not about to blame Universal Pictures for that. That was my conscious decision and I don’t regret it.

Today, like always, it’s up to parents and education to prevent kids from smoking in the first place. We can’t blame the movie, television or even Ozzy Osbourne.

Roland L.
Roland L. on July 27, 2007 at 5:36 pm

Nope, you are not overreacting to the Disneyfication of American. Please keep in mind that Disney banned smoking in total from all of their resort buildings AND balconies and have designation smoking areas in the parks also.

They take up causes and become champions when it serves their purpose. However, I really don’t understand why they want to Disneyficate movies of smoking. Sadly, Disney has plenty of support from people who want to basically publicly hang smokers just because they smoke.

Didn’t we just hang people because of color as close to us as the 40’s? Like the gang mentallity of the race wars now comes the smoker wants.

America is slowly losing it’s grip on reality and a lot of people have forgotten the original purpose of their cause. Americans are very gullible and will believe the latest health scare. I’ve actually had ignorant people chastise me because I drank water out of the tap. Holy cow!!! I was almost publicly hanged for not buying bottled water. Oh yeah, now it comes out that 40% of bottled water comes from city water which is tapped water.

Be careful America…pretty soon going to the movies will be hiding under a blanket with a flashlight and the Sears catalog.

scorpio1949 on July 29, 2007 at 4:17 pm

This is just more of the slow erosion of our rights….I never have smoked, i prefer people not to smoke where i am dining or in a confined area, but this is a bit much. Some pictures have story lines from the 40’s…I mean can you imagine removing the scene with Bette Davis and Paul, that classic moment? Come on folks. The religious right radicals have been pushing to force all kinds of things out of the media that do not support “their” beliefs…You know the folks. It is time to say enough is enough. Either stand up and be counted or let these people get control and ruin film making, etc..

exit on July 29, 2007 at 9:40 pm

Can we take a moment here to reflect on all the illness and death that smoking has caused? It has also caused birth defects, illnesss and deaths of innocent people who were in a close proximity to smokers. It costs taxpayers billions of dollars in healthcare costs.

My mother smoked around us as far back as I remember. One day, as a kid, I looked at her curiously while she smoked. She handed me the cigarette and I sucked in a huge breath of death. Imagine what thet tastes like to a child. God bless her for that. I like to think she knew what she was doing. I never had the slightest interest in smoking after that. I eventually became rebellious enough to refuse to buy her cigarettes when she sent me on errands. I would even “torture” her cigarettes when she wasn’t around, crumbling them up, thinking “Ha! THIS one won’t hurt her!” Back then we didn’t know the effects of second hand smoke. I have permanent respiratory damage going back to my childhood. My mother died of a heart attack at 58.

At 18, I met a talented charismatic actress from New York. The day we met I said something about her health when I saw her light up a cigarette. She advised me to be careful because unsolicited advice may turn some people off. I moved to NY and we became good friends. She eventually quit smoking but the damage was done. She threw away all evidence of her actng career, and moved to a little place in Westport, on oxygen 24/7, waiting for a lung transplant. When she died I was her only contact with “the biz' so I sent her obituary to the trade papers.

Movies in the Noir era glamorized smoking because they thought it WAS glamorous. On TV, I LOVE LUCY was sponsored by Phillip Morris – they had product placement IN the shows as well as having Lucy and Desi do commercials for the death sticks. Because they didn’t know any better. The toll that smoking took on them both was obvious. Even with an overwhelming amount of evidence that smoking kills, knowing how much it shortens lives, the tobacco industry deliberately targets young people to get them hooked so they can make the most money off them before they get sick and die. And they reach kids through the media. That is inexcusable, but it’s fact of everyday life today, and they continue to get away with it.

Where there was smoke, now there is fire. The media has been glamorizing violence beyond all reasoable proportion while rarely showing the results. A few years ago, to kill time in a multiplex, I stumbled into a Schwartzenneger movie – where he killed something like 30 people in five minutes before the opening credits. it bothered me for weeks. It’s appalling that such matter-of-fact violence is viewed as entertainment. It is certainly not “artistry.”

In the cartoons I grew up with, Popeye threw a punch, and the instant his fist came back, there was already an X of bandages there. Wile E. Coyote or Daffy Duck got blown up or shot repeatedly, looked momentarily damaged, then were perfect in the next scene, but they also walked on thin air, and did other things that clearly weren’t real. We could easily tell the difference and didn’t go around hitting each other with frying pans.

Live action movies now handle violence in the same way – when someone is blowing away numerous anonomous people, you rarely see the suffering, the bereaved families, the real loss of life, it’s all just a one-dimensional sight gag. In real life, the effect is not momentary, people suffer and die. I may be in the minority here, but I do not find that entertaining. It’s apparent that much of today’s society is more conditioned into apathy than empathy.

In our society, violence is glamorized and sex is censored. Have a look at THIS FILM IS NOT YET RATED to see how much violence is allowed vs. sex. As opposed to European countries where but violence is restrained, and sex is no big deal (frontal nudity in commercials, game shows, etc.). How many times have European school kids brought guns to school and massacred their classmates?

If you’re telling a story about an ignorant, unbalanced, irresponsible or destructive character, go ahead and let him smoke, but also show him coughing up a lung, getting cancer, and making innocent bystanders sick from second hand smoke. Instead, we have plenty of “Cool” or Average Joe" characters smoking, drinking, and killing, but we don’t see many of them get cancer, run over a pedestrian, facing a bereaved family and going to jail.

There is infinite proof of the media’s influence on everyday behavior through the years. We want to look, act, talk, eat, smoke, drink, and buy like the media images we find appealing. It’s long overdue for the media to take responsibility for their own influence by not glamorizing destructive behavior, and depicting the real life consequences. Disney is not the first studio to address the issue of onscreen smoking, they just got more publicity from it.

The idea that restraining the depiction of destructive behavior will eventually lead to the entire media being governed by “religious right and radicals” is just as naive as thinking that gay marriange will eventually lead to bestiality. There is plenty of room for “artistry” without being irresponsible.

scorpio1949 on July 30, 2007 at 12:44 am

I don’t care about seeing smoking on the screen either (I won’t miss it being gone) but what I was getting at is the slow and not so slow censorship movement from the right…do some research on how these people have harrassed the entertainment business in the past decade. I could list them here but won’t take the time as you know who they are if you read about their boycotts and so forth. These people are working constantly to push “their” agenda on the entertainment business. Their definition of destructive behavior covers a wide spectrum including gays and anyone not in line with their beliefs…now that is scary…My friends in Europe think it is weird we are ok with with the blood and guts action movies we send there but think sex is horrible and should censored…they do not get it. You mentioned this Roadshow and I agree but again that all boils down to the groups I mentioned earlier. We certainly do not need to go back to the days of the Hayes Office…

efriedmann on July 30, 2007 at 6:09 am

I’d just like to reitterate that my comments above deal directly with censorship in the movies, and not so much the issue of smoking.

Personnaly, I detest being around smokers. I look forward to the day when it becomes illegal to smoke in ANY public surrounding, even the streets. Because if I have to choose between myself and the rights the smoker feels he/she has, then sorry, I selfishly choose myself!

exit on July 30, 2007 at 11:28 am

There will always be fanatics who complain. Jessica Rabbit not having underwear? NO cartoons have that kind of detail until they’re in a close-up. They don’t fingernaills, or individual teeth either… People complained about the villains in Aladdin being arabs. It was set in Arabia, so they shold import the villians from England? Hearing things: “good teenagers, take off your clothes.” right. the script says addresses the tiger, telling it to “take off.. go.” Then they complained that there were gay and ethnic stereotypes in THE LION KING, You remember what Disney’s reaction was? “It ’s a CARTOON!” they actually changed the ads to feature all four of the things people complained about, as if to say “get over it.”

Not everyone gives into these boycotts and protests. Remember the episode of “thirtysomething” that showed David Marshall Grant and Peter Frechette in bed together? it was apparent that they were naked, and the writers had them smoke only to confirm they had just “done it.” They weren;t even allowed to kiss or even touch, but ABC did not cave into pressure – they ran the episode and lost millions of dollars in ad revenue. Years later they showed Doug Savan’t gay character on Melrose Place all but kiss another man. It was clear they did it but they cut away before contact. Brothers and Sisters has a matter of fact gay character whi is not treated any differently than the rest of the quirky family. He had a full on kiss with a man, on Mulholland Drive, yet! Not a lot of censorship there, or much protesting, if any, according to the show’s producers.

I think it’s long overdue that the media stop glamorizing destructive behavior. Show it if you want, but also show the consequences. How many kids do you see playing with guns and saying “Bang! bang! you’re dead!” they don’t get the reality of it, because violence is made to look cool.

i really don’t think a studio’s own decision not to promote smoking can be construed as censorship, nor will it lead to a total whitewashing of the media. No way. Prople watch broadcast television less and cable more because of the extra freedom from network censorship. Have you watched FX lately? The Riches and Damages both have totally realistic unbleeped language. Networks have had to loosen up. You can go back several years to the ABC series Once and Again with Sela Ward and catch a casual shot of Billy Campbells handsome butt. You can hear “son of a bitch” and “bastard” on any sitcom. there is no way we can go back to the kind of censorship of the Hayes office. It’s not profitable.

I totally agree about smokers in real life. It’s not just their own health they’re ruining. When they smoke outdoors, where do they think the smoke goes? Ban it entirely! And how about some decent socialized medical care while we’re at it? L.M.– H.G. you sound like you’d be at home on another website I know of.

Bottom line is I just don’t agree that this voluntary decision not to glamorize smoking indicates a huge media-wide trend toward bowing to pressure from overzealous conservatives and hyper-religiious fanatics. It just won’t sell.

exit on July 30, 2007 at 11:47 am

PS: Obviously I need to work on brevity and typing. Please excuse my verbosity and typos.

MiltonSmith on August 1, 2007 at 1:04 pm

This is rediculous. However, coming from Disney it doesn’t surprise me. First smoking, then drug-use, then sex, then violence, then language.

Can you imagine an action movie with the hero walking into the room after the ummm bad guy of nondescript origin does something “bad” and saying “golly gee, that guy really steams me, but maybe we should sit down and discuss the problem!”. Yeah, that would make for a GREAT movie. rolls eyes

This is the movies people, not real life!

scorpio1949 on August 2, 2007 at 2:58 am

Unfortunately Roadshow there has been a major decrease in gay characters in shows on TV in the past couple of years. Some good articles have been written regarding this. You mention Brothers and Sisters (yes they have a wonderful gay character on that show), yes Disney has been threatened with boycotts in the past for their support of gay days at Disneyland/tv shows and they stood up to it. I am afraid that I wouldn’t be setting on my laurels thinking that these people are not working to get rid of more stuff from films. They are working at the grassroots level to get people into office that support their views. The cable industry has been under heavy fire the past two years. The one thing that these people are learning is to slowly eat away at stuff…not be as aggressive as they have been in past years. As they call it “stealth” action….I have worked in the political scene and know what they are up to. All I can say is BEWARE!

exit on August 22, 2007 at 2:54 pm

I understand that we live in a precarious world, David, I just don’t see the restraint of smoking images to be anywhere near on a par with how we are represented in the media. Sure we have a long way to go, but I don’t see how curtailing smoking in films will lead to losing our civic rights. The former is not worth protesting, the latter is very much so.

MPol on July 18, 2008 at 10:19 pm

Frankly, I think smoking really should be outlawed in movie theatres and oher public places where there are many people in close quarters. Nobody should be forced to inhale second-hand smoke!

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on August 8, 2010 at 2:50 pm

“LICENCE TO KILL” the first non-smoking 007,even mentioned in the end credits.

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