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.

· Paramount's Rango, PG with smoking, poses risk to children [Legacy]



Comments

  • CalGal says:

    THANK YOU! I saw this movie with my niece and of all the parts of the film she went on and on about, she never once mentioned that she now wanted to smoke because a couple of the characters smoked in the film. Of all the marvelous images to see in this fantastic film, which has a great message for kids, a character smoking is not what they will come away remembering.

  • CiscoMan says:

    I find it interesting that villains are more influential than good guys. For the health of the children, we should also heavily regulate the presence of "bad guys" and the ensuing dramatic conflict they invariably induce.
    And as someone who has tried a cigar, may I suggest every parent force their eight year old to take a puff. They'll avoid it like the plague for the rest of their life.

  • Strawberry Pain says:

    I think you should've closed with "Light(en) up!"
    (ahem).
    I am from the generation who grew up watching Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, Road Runner, Wile E. Coyote, and Daffy Duck blow themselves and each other to smithereens every Saturday. I have watched as "concerned" parents--worried that wee little ones will believe by example that one's head/beak may be blown off by a shotgun and that one might still live to be laughed at by one's cohorts--clean up said cartoons to near-unrecognizable results for the generation following mine.
    And I am here to say that, if these idiots would look at my generation (X) and note what big non-violent weenies we are, all thoughts that we are mindless imitators of anything animated will cease.

  • Maggie says:

    Agree 100% with this article's author - these people are ridiculous! We need fewer of them and more smart, fun, artistic films like Rango. They probably stopped watching after they saw the single cigar.

  • I think you should've closed with "Light(en) up!"
    Gahhh! Good one! Were I not rushing to finish so I could go smoke, it might have come to me.*
    [*: It would not have come to me.]

  • metroville says:

    Sometimes a cigar is just an excuse to subliminally promote Disney-animated movies in favor of an animated movie not made by Disney that you might happen to be reviewing at the time.
    WALT DISNEY IS KIND OF ON RECORD AS HAVING BEEN A NAZI SYMPATHIZER--*killed by "Pluto's Choice (Usually-Not-Exploding)" chewing tobacco*.

  • ILDC says:

    Please say you're joking.

  • These nutso groups took aim at MTV a number of years ago, saying it was "filled with smoking." With the help of TIVO I analyzed a straight 24 hour period of MTV, 1440 minutes, and found 3.5 minutes of smoking, with two of those 3.5 being repetitions of a single Frank Sinatra takeoff video.
    Meanwhile I found TEN full minutes of Tobacco Kids Antismoking ads, in which rougly 10,000 teenagers were killed.
    See Lie #2 at http://TheTruthIsALie.com for my analysis of that and 23 other antismoking lies.
    Michael J. McFadden,
    Author of "Dissecting Antismokers' Brains"

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