Mind if I Smoke?

Thursday, Jan 28, 2010 9:00am  |  COMMENTS (18)

200px-Avatar-Teaser-Poster.jpgEntry by Stacey Gill Dastis…
A fresh controversy has just premiered at box offices around the country. Should movies be rated R if they depict smoking or even mention cigarettes?
That’s what anti-smoking activists want, and they are taking on Avatar. Despite its titanic popularity, Avatar is stoking the flames of this debate and has gotten some audience members fired up about lighting up in a movie that’s rated PG-13 according to an article in the Sunday New York Times.
For all its moneymaking and record-breaking prowess, the film has managed to spark the ire of moviegoers with a single line. Sigourney Weaver’s character generates the heat when she searches for a cig. But it is, after all, her character that craves a smoke.
The movie doesn’t attempt to lure little kids into a lifetime of lung abuse. As its rating indicates, the film is made for young adults and adults. Are teenagers really incapable of viewing smoking? Yes, teenagers are impressionable and prone to dangerous behaviors, but if watching an actor play a role in which he or she takes a drag is all it takes to convince a teen to smoke, I’d venture previous problems were in play.

A film’s goal is not to promote codes of conduct. It’s to create believable, engaging characters and an engrossing storyline. And, of course, to make money.
But one need not watch movies to witness untoward behavior. Try flicking on just about any channel on T.V. especially those aimed at school-age kids (they now show entry-level MTV videos starring/branding their child-actors). Or walk past certain teen stores in the mall (you don’t even have to walk in to be exposed to and repelled by the life-sized signage at the entrance). Or browse through any teenager’s video game collection (Grand Theft Auto, anyone?). I’m more concerned with my children growing up to be obnoxious, ungrateful, superficial, anorexic brats with a proclivity for violence and sexually-loose standards given the media that surrounds them than taking up smoking.
Not to mention the film is more about genocidal warfare than cigarettes. But I suppose we’ve become desensitized by all the fantastic violent and hyper-sexual images bombarding us that cigarettes seem to be the biggest threat to our children. Certainly, I don’t want to minimize the deadly nature of cigarettes, but I do want to place it in some perspective.
As a disclaimer, I have abject disinterest in this movie, even slight disdain for it due to a whole host of other reasons, but smoking isn’t one of them.
What say you?


  1. POSTED BY MFP  |  January 28, 2010 @ 10:04 am

    As much as I hate that any kid is exposed to even the idea of smoking, let alone actual smoke, I don’t think it should be completely removed from the media, nor do I believe movies depicting cigarettes/smoking should automatically be rated R. We all take our kids into the city where they are inhaling second-hand smoke on the sidewalks. Cigarettes and smoking are, unfortunately, a part of the real world – removing them from movies would be removing a part of life. I don’t think, however, that product placement of specific brands or brand look-a-likes should be used. If a cigarette is part of the story, fine; showing specific brands falls on the side of promotion.

  2. POSTED BY profwilliams  |  January 28, 2010 @ 10:32 am

    Considering AVATAR is has already made 1.5 BILLION dollars, and this fake controversy was discussed when it was at the 300 million mark, me thinks this is an old discussion that people have already answered with a resounding WHO CARES.
    And Georgette, if you didn’t see it, how do you know what it’s “more about”?

  3. POSTED BY Georgette Gilmore  |  January 28, 2010 @ 10:44 am

    Prof, the post was written by Stacey Gill Dastis. It says so right at the beginning. I didn’t write it.

  4. POSTED BY profwilliams  |  January 28, 2010 @ 10:58 am

    I missed the “entry” by…
    This has happened a few times here and on baristanet.
    Perhaps there is a better way to acknowledge who a “post” is written by?
    The term “entry” here is odd and confusing.
    And isn’t “posting” simply gathering and uploading via Movable Type? Do we really need to know who did that? Sure we need to know which of the barista’s is responsible, but the term “posting” is often used interchangeably by both those who post stories and those who post comments.
    Perhaps Edited by? THAT sounds much more important than Posted by… And it will be clear.
    Or simply:
    “Stacey Gill Dastis writes:”

  5. POSTED BY ogie_oglethorpe  |  January 28, 2010 @ 11:53 am

    kids don’t smoke because a character in a movie does or a camel in sunglasses tells them to. they do it for the same reasons adults do it – to relieve anxiety and depression.
    and the ones who do decide to smoke? let ’em. think of it as passive eugenics.

  6. POSTED BY Nellie  |  January 28, 2010 @ 12:46 pm

    I don’t think rating movies with people smoking “R” will deter kids from smoking..The cigarettes are still out there for the purchase.
    There’s already a stigma associated with cigarette smoking..Don’t think it needs to be further emphasized.

  7. POSTED BY Right of Center™  |  January 28, 2010 @ 2:12 pm

    Georgette, it’s bold, italicized and at the very beginning of the post. I’m not sure how you expected the prof to see it.

  8. POSTED BY profwilliams  |  January 28, 2010 @ 2:42 pm

    You’re so cute when you try to puff up the barista’s.
    I don’t mind being used that way.
    Maybe, just maybe— Georgette will write you back!!!!
    Then your cool, dispassion self might be thrown.
    But as Lisa Loeb said, “I think that I’m throwing, but I’m thrown.”

  9. POSTED BY butterfly  |  January 28, 2010 @ 5:57 pm

    Hmm, this might be how the cigarettes got into the movie:

  10. POSTED BY profwilliams  |  January 28, 2010 @ 9:33 pm


  11. POSTED BY mtcmom  |  January 29, 2010 @ 8:14 am

    I also note that Avatar had 2 of the characters “couple” or “mate” or whatever they called it, without the benefit of marraige. Clearly another reason why it should have been rated R.

  12. POSTED BY brightside  |  January 29, 2010 @ 8:52 am

    “and the ones who do decide to smoke? let ’em. think of it as passive eugenics.”
    That’s a really horrible thing to say.

  13. POSTED BY brightside  |  January 29, 2010 @ 8:54 am

    Actually, dispassionate.

  14. POSTED BY profwilliams  |  January 29, 2010 @ 9:13 am

    “Actually” (one of my least favorite words…) brightside,
    (a 5 second search would show that just ’cause MS word doesn’t know it, it is STILL a word…)
    a. 1. Free from passion; dispassionate.
    Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, published 1913 by C. & G. Merriam Co
    Dis*pas”sioned, a. Free from passion; dispassionate. [R.] “Dispassioned men.” –Donne.
    Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, © 1996,
    Donne’s passage in full seems appropriate:
    “And I comfort myself, because I see dispassioned men are subject to the like ignorances.”

  15. POSTED BY monongahela  |  January 29, 2010 @ 9:26 am

    So much for all movies made in the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. No “Casablanca” for you junior!

  16. POSTED BY profwilliams  |  January 29, 2010 @ 9:51 am

    Too funny monongahela!!
    Boys and girls will smoke.
    Boys will have a false sense of entitlement.
    Girls will have “abandonment issues.”
    Movies are bad.
    (All kids will have left are those deemed “family” movies– BARNEY 6, with music by Brady Rymer!!!– Till they’re 30…)

  17. POSTED BY brightside  |  January 29, 2010 @ 10:35 am

    Gosh, I’m sorry you don’t like “actually.” I’ll try not to use it any more.
    Thanks for the lesson, though; I see the words are synonymous.

  18. POSTED BY chopper1  |  February 20, 2010 @ 6:00 pm

    I like that Stacey has identified the hypocrisy of giving violence a pass, while wanting to give an R rating to films that include smoking. It reminds me of the time I spit soda out of my nose while watching Rambo on regular TV. While they were torturing the guy, they “bleeped” out SOB or some similar bit of “foul language.”
    I think there’s a place for foul language, and there’s a place for realistic depictions of life. But . ..
    When you have a friend in their 30’s with 3 little kids battling lung cancer, and you’ve watched people you love sit on a respirator for a while, it gives you a little bit of perspective.
    Smoking exists in our society because of apathy. The companies that make massive profits from it would like to compare the behavior to drinking coffee, or having a beer.
    Let’s face it, smoking is much worse than alcohol or drug abuse. The CDC estimates 1 Million die per year world-wide of smoking related illnesses. The money we pay to combat health issues related to smoking is staggering.
    The world turns a blind eye, since the majority of those killed are in third world nations. In the US, overwhelmingly the epidemic targets minorities and the poor.
    Sure, smokers “do it to themselves, right?” If that’s your position, you probably have never faced an addiction. Good topic anyway. Thank you!

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