Movie-Smoke Lobby Targets Rango For 'R' Rating
I shouldn't publicize them, but the zealots lobbying for the automatic 'R' rating of movies containing any depiction of tobacco usage are back and crazier than ever. Take their latest missive singling out Rango -- the PG-rated No. 1 film in the country -- for some characters' occasional consumption of cigars and "a cigarette." Noooo! What about the children?
"The hero, a chameleon, swallows a cigar and breathes fire in the face of a villain," notes a joint press release from Legacy, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and the American Academy of Pediatrics -- a group of organizations responsible for otherwise valuable strides in the advancement of children's health and wellness. Yet in the grand tradition of would-be censors and other cinematic tobacco-phobes, this doesn't seem like one of those strides:
"While some in the film industry have taken preliminary steps to protect young audiences by making more movies smoke free, Paramount's decision to include smoking in a movie designed for kids is really troubling," said Cheryl G. Healton, DrPH, President and CEO of Legacy.
"The public health community has made great progress in making every studio aware of the harm to America's youth when they release films with smoking and animated films are no exception," Healton said. "Even the cartoon Joe Camel has long been barred from reaching children to sell cigarettes. So it is a mystery why Hollywood's masters of storytelling and visual effects have not found a better way to depict their characters without the danger of influencing young people to light up."
Ah, yes -- the old "danger of influencing." Filmmakers! When a young person swallows a cigar and flamethrows a belch in someone's face, consider yourselves implicated. And never mind the characters who get shot in the film; U.S. gun violence doesn't kill an average of 20 young people a day or anything. Smoke characters, not tobacco!
Let's see, what else:
Rigorous research finds grade-schoolers exposed to on-screen smoking are more likely to start smoking as teens. Researchers have also found that each instance of bad guys' smoking in films has more impact on teens than good guys' smoking. A surprising number of kid-rated movies feature cigars, attractive to new young smokers.
Mm-hmm. Your mileage may vary, but I have never met a person under the age of 30 with any interest or experience in smoking cigars. If a cigar has ever been more than a prop to a filmgoer at a "kid-rated" movie, I'd love to see the data.
Oh, this is good:
"While the incidence of smoking in the movies has declined in recent years, the presence of smoking in a youth-oriented cartoon like Rango underscores the need for Hollywood to take stronger, mandatory action to protect our children. It's time for the Motion Picture Association of America to require an R-rating for movies that depict smoking," said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
First of all, Rango is not youth-oriented. It's rated PG, and its team at Nickelodeon and Paramount may be marketing it as kid-friendly, but across the board it's been recognized as a gorgeous, intelligent and wryly conceived story for adults. Second of all, Hollywood's job is not to "protect our children." It is to make billions and billions of dollars, turning out generally terrible movies for nine months out of the year and a few good ones for which it pats itself on the back every February, with the goal of making even more money. Rango's great shot at receiving one of those pats on the back can only irritate these clowns further, so I doubt we've heard the end of their bitching.
But ultimately, the idea that they'd want to limit the potential audience for -- and thus financially cripple -- a film of substance, wit, charm and overall mass appeal in such an uninspired era for movies because the title character swallows a cigar should be more appalling to kids and parents alike than any fleeting, casual tobacco use throughout Rango. Inform kids of the dangers of smoking? Fine! Encourage parents to monitor their kids' media for tobacco and cigarettes? Go for it! Torpedo art and culture for the sake of some quixotic public health non-issue? Seriously, people, give it up.