AN: My final research paper for AP English. I think it came out kind of funny. Please Review!
In May 2007, a law was passed that required all future movies that contained smoking to be considered for an R rating. The idea was to discourage production companies from even putting smoking in its films in the first place, thus limiting the amount of smoking minors viewed at the movies. For some odd reason they thought this would make minors less prone to smoke at all.
"The U.S. film industry has consistently exaggerated both the number of smokers and their social status," says Stanton A. Glantz. "In the real world, smokers tend to be poor and less educated. In the movies, it is the powerful and successful who smoke the most." Right, like Cruella De Vil from 101 Dalmatians, always toting her fancy cigarette holder. She's really rich and successful, isn't she? Who doesn't want to be like a puppy-stealing maniac? I mean, that thought alone makes me want to go out and buy a pack of Virginia Slims.
In reality, smoking has been declining since 1976, when America reached an all-time high of 2,905 cigarettes per capita. Today, that number is only 860. So then, if the government didn't think smoking in films was a problem in 1976, why do they see it as a problem now, in 2008, when smoking is steadily decreasing? Are children being influenced that greatly, or are parents becoming too over protective?
Tom and Jerry, a 57-year-old cartoon whose re-runs are now played on children's cartoon channels, was recently sent a complaint. Not because of its horrific violence as Tom and Jerry each try to murder the other in cruel and unusual ways, but because in two separate episodes, a minor character smoked. Apparently the violence was ok, but the smoking was "not appropriate in a cartoon aimed at children."
"If you are honest, I think you will admit that most smoking in movies is both unnecessary and clichéd, and serves to make smoking socially acceptable to kids," says Dean Barry R. Bloom of Harvard School of Public Health. There are many things about movies that are unnecessary and clichéd and are made to look socially acceptable. If Mr. Bloom wants to ban smoking from movies because it has a bad influence on children, then he must take into account how easily it can spiral out of control. If smoking within movies creates future smokers, then depressed drinking in bars within movies creates future alcoholics. And maintaining an undying devotion to a lover who has walked out within movies creates future stalkers. And agreeing to go off with a random person because they look kind within movies creates future kidnap victims. Don't think parents won't come up with this stuff (and more) and write screaming letters complaining.
But truthfully, do children really notice these things, or is it just the parents? Apparently—and this is news to me, although I saw all these movies and wasn't aware of it—the movies Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, P.S. I Love You, and Juno are just a few out of many recent movies that contain smoking. Personally, I think teens and children will be too preoccupied with Harrison Ford's motorcycle riding through buildings, Hilary Swank's drunken dancing around her apartment, and Ellen Page's pregnant stomach to notice a person or two in the background smoking a cig.
There are plenty of things in movies to attack. Whether or not they are justified is another matter. Smoking, which isn't even illegal, should be very low on the censorship to-do list. In fact, there shouldn't even be a censorship do-to list. Pretty soon, the only movies for kids under the age of 18 will be about perky, perfect, politically correct people who all have happy endings. What a great way to enter the real world.