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Jewish World Review
August 3, 2007
/ 19 Menachem-Av 5767
Brave, bold Hollywood
On the heels of the announcement this past spring by the Motion Picture Assn. of America to consider smoking a factor in rating movies, Disney has now announced that there will be absolutely no smoking depicted in their movies from now on. No word yet on whether they will also omit drinking, drug use, vulgarity, dirty words, gratuitous violence, or promiscuous sex. But don't hold your breath; (unless someone is smoking, of course) no major studio will ever stop depicting any of those things to do that would actually take courage. You see, smoking is the big no-no in today's Hollywood because it's the easiest thing to rally against. It's almost as easy a target for Hollywood as Christianity and traditional middleclass American values.
In their press release last May, the Motion Picture Association stated that some people want a mandatory "R" rating if anyone is shown smoking in a movie. Of course by throwing tobacco into the same classification as drunkenness, drug use, foul language, graphic violence and indiscriminant sex, the MPAA has succeeded in LEASENING the evils of those things that are truly bad. Think about it. If smoking a cigarette gets the same rating as using crystal meth or cocaine, then drugs must not be all that bad, right?
I don't say that smoking is a good thing, one third of all people who smoke cigarettes will die prematurely (of course, that means that two-thirds won't) but on the scale of really bad stuff in this world, tobacco just doesn't make the top ten. What's worse, you ask? How about having babies out of wedlock? Using the "F" word in every other sentence? Deteriorating moral standards, ethics, and manners? How about the constant glorification of the gangsta culture? Getting high on Crack or Heroin? Or binge drinking? Nobody ever beat up their wife and kids after smoking too many cigarettes. Nobody ever lost their ability to drive safely after smoking too many cigars. And I can't remember hearing about anyone who held up a convenience store at gun point to support his tobacco habit.
So, no more smoking in movies. Olay, but what about the classic films that are full of smoking? The Bogart and Becall films are the obvious ones, of course, but don't forget that famous scene with Bette Davis and Paul Henreid from "Now Voyager" when Henreid lights two cigarettes, hands one to Davis and they dreamily look into each other's eyes. Almost all the major stars from that era lit up on screen at one time or another.
The films of the 30's, 40's, and 50's had men smoking not only cigarettes, but pipes and cigars all the time and they weren't the bad guys, they were just ordinary men. Should all those scenes be cut out for future generations?
Winston Churchill smoked cigars. Franklin Roosevelt smoked cigarettes. What should we do about these things? Should we go back and alter the history of the lives of Churchill and Roosevelt? It is possible. We can now use computers to erase all offensive smoking in photos and on film. Our historical heroes can forever be "cleansed" of their filthy, dirty, unhealthy habits.
What about the hookah smoking caterpillar in "Alice in Wonderland?" The cigar smoking Lampwick in "Pinocchio?" The cigarette smoking Cruella DeVil from "101 Dalmatians?" Peter Pan smoking a peace pipe with the Indians. And the pipe smoking of dear old Uncle Remus in "Song of the South?" Do we airbrush all those off the film? Or do we just give them "R" ratings or add cautionary disclaimers at the beginning of the title credits?
And what to do about poor old St. Nick in "The Night Before Christmas?" Remember the line, "the stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth, and the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath." Santa smoked a pipe he has been a very bad boy! Very unacceptable by today's political correct totalitarian standards.
Hollywood won't make a movie supporting our brave troops in their fight against Islamic Jihadists. They won't make a picture which is proudly, unabashedly patriotic as was done during World War II. They won't portray Muslims or Arabs as bad guys in a movie. No, if they need a bad guy they will use the CIA or FBI or resort to the good old reliable Nazis. You can't go wrong making the Nazis villains. Guess what? It takes no courage to call Nazis bad guys, the whole world recognizes that Nazis are evil and no one will vilify you for it. But the studios are scared to death to label Islamist terrorist as evil scared to death. The movie industry is cowardly.
You know what would really be an act of courage? If the studios decided that it would no longer use vulgarity in their films. Or if they stopped celebrating promiscuous sex. It doesn't take any courage to be anti-smoking, and the studios know it. Studios always take the sure thing, the easy route. It's easy to make America the bad guy when all the people you hang with tend to blame America first for the ills of the world. Easy to laugh at traditional Judeo/ Christian values and principles when most of your pals tend to be non-religious, or have embraced some new-age type of spirituality. Easy to take a hard line at smoking when that fits right in with the direction the entire politically correct world is headed toward. Just jump on the bandwagon and grab a slogan.
All you need to know about Hollywood values is to consider that the big hit movie of the season is "Knocked Up" but the entertainment industry gets itself all hot and bothered over tobacco smoke. Once again Hollywood has proven that its courage and decency is about as solid as the cigarette smoke it claims to eliminate from movie screens.
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JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. A freelance writer in Southern California, you may contact him by clicking here.
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© 2006, Greg Crosby