Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Anti-Smoking Groups Insisting on Different Treatment of Smoking in Movies from Alcohol, Violence, and Sex

Not satisfied with the Motion Picture Association of America's (MPAA) decision to consider smoking in movies as a factor in movie ratings, anti-smoking groups, led by the SmokeFree Movies Campaign, have taken out another advertisement insisting that any non-historically correct depiction of smoking trigger an automatic R-rating.

The policy adopted by the MPAA states: "All smoking will be considered and depictions that glamorize smoking or movies that feature pervasive smoking outside of an historic or other
mitigating context may receive a higher rating...Additionally, when a film's rating is affected by the depiction of smoking, that rating will now include phrases such as 'glamorized smoking' or 'pervasive smoking'."

The policy that anti-smoking groups are calling for states that: "Any film that shows or implies tobacco should be rated 'R.' The only exceptions should be when the presentation of tobacco clearly and unambiguously reflects the dangers and consequences of tobacco use or is necessary to represent the smoking of a real historical figure."

The Rest of the Story

Two things don't make sense about the anti-smoking groups' desired policy.

First, why should smoking in movies be treated completely differently from alcohol, violence, nudity, and sex? The depiction of alcohol use in movies does not trigger an automatic R rating. The depiction of violence, nudity, or sex in movies does not trigger an automatic R rating. So why should the depiction of smoking?

I could understand the initiative better if it aimed to clear non-R movies of all smoking, alcohol use, nudity, sex, and violence (Of course, who would want to go to such a movie?). If the principle is that any depiction that could have adverse health consequences for children by demonstrating or glamorizing unhealthy behaviors should not be allowed in films that children can view on their own, then why single out smoking as the sole depiction that requires an automatic R rating? This doesn't make any sense.

Second, why should the historical correctness of smoking give it an exemption from the policy? If the depiction of smoking is going to kill 120,000 kids every year, then it is going to kill them whether the smoking is fictional or historical. Why would one exempt depictions of historically correct smoking if such depictions are going to contribute to 120,000 deaths per year? This doesn't make any sense.

Can you imagine a similar policy for violence? Any film that contains violence will receive an R rating. However, if a film contains violence that actually occurred, it may still be rated G, PG, or PG-13.

How about a similar policy for sex? The MPAA will not increase the rating of a movie that contains sex if that sex actually occurred.

I have come to the conclusion that this is all a bunch of mishegas and that the anti-smoking groups are out of touch with any semblance of reason. But as I am learning, the policies advocated by anti-smoking groups do not need to make sense. They only have to be intended to save the children.

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