Friday, May 11, 2007

where there's smoke, there's ire

Here's an article in the New York Times about how the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) has been persuaded by anti-smoking groups to consider the prevalence of smoking (of tobacco) in movies when assigning ratings. That is to say, a movie that depicts no sex or violence, but merely some guys lighting cigarettes is unlikely to get a PG rating.

This is ridiculous, and it's the kind of thing that makes anti-smoking groups lose their credibility. Those who know me know that I (a non-smoker) am a proponent of the campaign to ban smoking in bars, and may wonder how this is any different. Well, it's not that I don't ever want to SEE anyone smoke, or because it may influence or tempt me, but simply because second-hand smoke bothers me personally. I shouldn't have to pay a potential health cost (however miniscule) for somebody else's (voluntary) actions.

Watching people smoke in movies, on the other hand, does NOT affect anyone directly. By upping the rating, the MPAA is merely saying that you should watch a movie in which people smoke only after you are old enough to decide whether or not to smoke yourself. If that's the case, we may as well not allow PG movies to depict drinking, driving a car, or for that matter, working for a living. Our kids, since they run out and do everything they see in movies, may become alcoholics, underage drivers, or child laborers. Or all three. In fact, we should all watch Sesame Street for the rest of our lives. That way we won't ever be exposed to anything untoward.

Strange how through all this, a movie like Home Alone will retain both its PG rating and its status as a children's classic, despite the fact that in it, we root for a child who assaults a man by hitting him in the face with a hot iron and jamming a nail through his foot.

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