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Author Topic: Rated R for pervasive smoking.
Sterling
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I just read this:

http://www.cnn.com/2007/SHOWBIZ/Movies/05/11/film.smoking.reut/index.html

...And, frankly, it makes me a little queasy.

Now, let me be clear: I'm not a big fan of smoking. Smoking put my mother in the hospital to have a tumor removed from her lung, led to a friend's emphysema which is slowly killing her, and, at best, costs several friends an arm and a leg for a nasty, addictive habit which some of them can ill-afford.

But even with a child of my own, certain arguments that amount to "Think of the children!" make me groan in irritation and annoyance.

The world was not meant to be child safe. I don't even know that it's necessarily good for our children that it be child safe. There's such a thing as taking reasonable precautions to make sure that your child doesn't seriously injure yourself on the playground, but you carry some things to their extremes and suddenly every tree in your local park is cut down because a child might try to climb it.

The things that up a movie's rating now, by and large, are things that can get you arrested for doing in public. Swearing in public? Misdemeanor. Sex and nudity? Indecent exposure, lewd conduct, and possibly other charges, depending on the circumstances. Violence? Assault or worse. Drug use? That's fairly obvious.

Smoking is still legal in public in most places. Yes, I know there's been an increasing number of laws that restrict smoking in proximity to buildings, in enclosed places, and so on. But you generally don't up movie ratings for the things you see teachers doing behind your high school.

(Well, probably not, at least. I suppose it depends on your teachers and your high school...)

If I'm concerned somewhere along the line about what my daughter thinks about smoking, I'll talk to her about it. If I think she's in danger of getting hooked on nicotine, I'll play dirty and tell her about her grandmother and that family friend.

I can't help but wonder if the real reasoning behind this is the shrinking amount of time parents spend with their children, and the amount people allow mass media to keep their children occupied. We put warning labels on records, V-chips in our TVs, slam retailers for selling our kids violent video games... And some of our kids accidentally asphixiate themselves, looking for a thrill.

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Snail
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That's just dumb.

But at least the movie ratings in America (as far as I've understood) are voluntary, and you're not required by law not to allow your children into R-rated movies.

In Finland if you let a child see something which is rated above his/her age you're breaking the law. So if you show Harry Potter to an 8-year old, King Kong to a 10-year old or Monty Python's Flying Circus to a 17-year old you're breaking the law.

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AvidReader
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Right. The law only applies to the theaters. They can't let people's kids in to R movies, and the others are guidelines. (They don't ID 12 year olds to keep them out of PG-13 stuff.)

But anything an adult wants to take a kid to see is fine. They don't even check to make sure it's your kid. (Technically, there's an NC-17 rating where you have to be 17, period, but I've never seen one in the theater at the mall.)

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pH
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You know, that gives Spider-man an R rating (or COULD...I don't know how they define "mitigating context").

-pH

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BlackBlade
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But isn't context important too?

What if in the movie underage smoking is portrayed? Why not take it a step further, what if underage smoking is encouraged? Just making the film's hero or protagonist a smoker is certainly something to consider when bringing children who are highly prone to influence. It may not matter to you or whether you bring your children, but clearly it matters to enough people that the MPAA has decided to take it under consideration. The MPAA in the article you linked is taking a middle ground rather then just saying smoking = R rating.

Not only that, your title of this thread is misleading, it says nowhere in the article that smoking by itself makes a movie rated R. It merely says that the MPAA will now consider smoking as a factor in a movie's rating. For all we know that simply means that an instance of smoking COULD make a movie go from G to PG.

I am glad with how the MPAA is making their rating system more understandable. I am very glad they added the text below the rating to explain why a movie got the rating.

Yes people smoke in public all the time, and some people do illicit drugs in front of their children too.

Making people more aware of the content of a movie is always a good thing IMHO.

edit: After rereading the article it is now obvious that the measure is designed to take underage smoking as depicted in movies into account. It is not doing any of the crazy automatic R talk people are trumpeting about right now.

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T_Smith
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"But at least the movie ratings in America (as far as I've understood) are voluntary, and you're not required by law not to allow your children into R-rated movies."

Yes, they are volentary, but movie studios that produce the movies take the rating as a way of predicting how many tickets will be sold, and becomes a direct link to how much that studio will fund advertising, and how many theaters that studio will release the movie into.

If a movie takes a NR (not rated) then it is the same effect of an R or NC-17, simply because movie goers will see the NR and ask "why isn't this rated?" The prediction of this again effects the amount of advertising dollars the film gets thrown at.


"I am glad with how the MPAA is making their rating system more understandable. I am very glad they added the text below the rating to explain why a movie got the rating."

I agree, too, that the text explaining the rating is definately helpful for the audience, but I do still have a few disagreements with the MPAA and their rating system.

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BlueWizard
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Have you ever seen a beer commercial in which someone actually drinks beer (in the USA)? I don't think so, because that is against the law, but you do see people who look like they are about to take a drink or like they have just finished taking a drink.

I suspect the same thing could happen in movies. I person could appear holding a light cigarette but not actually smoking it, or appearing to be about to take a 'drag' or appearing to have just finished taking a 'drag'. That way they are never shown smoking, but at the same time it is so strongly implied, it is relatively the same as if they had.

Personally, I think the whole thing is Political Correctness run amok, as Political Correctness had a tendency to do.

I mean you can kill someone on screen, but heaven forbid that they see you smoking while you do it.

Steve/BlueWizard

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KarlEd
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quote:
Originally posted by AvidReader:
Right. The law only applies to the theaters. They can't let people's kids in to R movies, and the others are guidelines. (They don't ID 12 year olds to keep them out of PG-13 stuff.)

But anything an adult wants to take a kid to see is fine. They don't even check to make sure it's your kid. (Technically, there's an NC-17 rating where you have to be 17, period, but I've never seen one in the theater at the mall.)

I'm pretty sure you're mistaken about the "law only applies to the theaters". I don't think even the theaters are governed by actual laws regarding MPAA code enforcement, except perhaps in cases where the rating coincidentally matches indecency laws or something. I'm pretty sure that following MPAA guidelines is voluntary and something between the theater and the MPAA, not local law enforcement.
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littlemissattitude
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To reiterate what someone else said, the MPAA ratings are entirely voluntary. That is stated right up front on their website Filmmakers don't have to submit a film for rating (and some don't), and theatre owners and operators cannot be sanctioned in any official way by law enforcement for letting someone under 17 into an R-rated film, for example.

As far as the thing about giving movies that "glamorize" smoking an R rating, I'd like to know exactly how they are going to determine what does or does not glamorize it. Does it glamorize it if the character does not end up with some horrible disease from it? Does it glamorize it more if a physically attractive person smokes than if an old and unattractive person smokes? Does it glamorize smoking if the "good guy" smokes, but not if the "bad guy" smokes? Does a woman smoking glamorize it more than if a man smokes?

And that is the problem I've had with the MPAA's ratings ever since they began. And, yes I'm old enough to remember a time before movies were rated. I spent a blissful childhood going to James Bond Movies without having to be warned beforehand that they might contain "material not suitable for children", which they always seem to flash on the screen before one of those films are shown on TV today. The problem I have with the ratings system is that it seems so subjective and is left in the hands of a vanishingly small group of individuals...I believe the number of members on the board is between 10 and 13. Out of a population of 300,000,000 plus in the US, that isn't very many people.

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Amanecer
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I think that groups that want to keep their children so sheltered that they never see somebody smoking in a movie are doing their kids a disservice (I also think the same is true of cursing). To become offended at the sight of cigarrettes is going to limit somebody to meeting a lot less people and being in fewer social situations. I think you'd have to live in a cave at this point to not be well exposed to the dangers of smoking, but people still smoke. To try and sanitize a kid's exposure to the world so that they can't see this isn't going to prevent them from smoking when they are offered, but it does suggest a level of intolerance for smokers that is unnecessary and I think harmful.
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Sterling
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quote:
Originally posted by BlackBlade:
Making people more aware of the content of a movie is always a good thing IMHO.

edit: After rereading the article it is now obvious that the measure is designed to take underage smoking as depicted in movies into account. It is not doing any of the crazy automatic R talk people are trumpeting about right now.

Yes, I know the MPAA isn't giving an automatic 'R' for smoking alone; that much is clear in the article (and I do hope people are reading the article.) The thread title is intended to be provocative, though I suppose in theory a movie could, under these guidelines, be rated R largely for smoking. I suspect it would have to amount to a ninety minute tobacco propaganda piece, but it could happen.

Yet I really can't imagine a movie that I would actually boost up a rating for smoking. It's silly enough to think that, say, "Alice in Wonderland" might be "PG" because of the caterpillar and his hookah. That a "PG-13" might be pushed into "R" territory by a character lighting up is disturbing to me.

This is more than simply information; the difference between a PG-13 and an R can be millions of dollars in revenue.

In my grade school, we had anti-tobacco education; there are anti-smoking ads on TV, anti-tobacco billboards every few blocks where I used to live. We've gotten to the point where smoking is being digitally removed from old Hanna-Barbera cartoons.

Does anyone really think that kids haven't gotten the message? Maybe we should realize that at this point, given all the attendant physical, legal, and social hurdles, that a teenager who smokes is actually, however stupidly, choosing to smoke?

It's one more skewing of the ratings system that thinks "When Harry Met Sally" warrants the same rating as "Friday the Thirteenth Part V".

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AvidReader
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Huh. I thought the theaters had to keep kids out of R movies. I learned something new!
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Qaz
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In the 1960's divorce was awful and adultery was just an indiscretion; now adultery is awful and divorce is no big deal. In the 1960's you'd get rude comments if you shacked up but not if you smoked; today it's the reverse. It's not just style, though. I think it is a set of changes based on fundamental beliefs about what's good and bad.
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romanylass
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Actually, I think I like that idea. I find smoking ( even viewing it on screen) a much worse behaviour than say, swearing or sex, the former of which I don't get too upset about and the latter of which I fully expect my kids to do, someday. Smoking's the one I hope they never do.
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Juxtapose
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quote:
It's silly enough to think that, say, "Alice in Wonderland" might be "PG" because of the caterpillar and his hookah.
I know it's why I picked up the habit.

I take it back, it's actually because of the cigarette shaped bubblegum they used to sell. It had a fine powder in it so that, when you blew on one end, "smoke" would come out of it.

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rivka
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quote:
Originally posted by romanylass:
Actually, I think I like that idea. I find smoking ( even viewing it on screen) a much worse behaviour than say, swearing or sex, the former of which I don't get too upset about and the latter of which I fully expect my kids to do, someday. Smoking's the one I hope they never do.

Ditto.

If this change means that Hollywood is a bit more cautious about having characters in a movie smoke, I'm all for it.

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Snail
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Hasn't the amount of smoking been reduced in movies of late anyway, though?

I do remember that when Pierce Brosnan was James Bond they didn't allow him to smoke. Can't remember if Daniel Craig smoked. Might be he did, because they were going for "edgier" Bond with that.

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BlackBlade
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quote:

Yes, I know the MPAA isn't giving an automatic 'R' for smoking alone; that much is clear in the article (and I do hope people are reading the article.) The thread title is intended to be provocative, though I suppose in theory a movie could, under these guidelines, be rated R largely for smoking. I suspect it would have to amount to a ninety minute tobacco propaganda piece, but it could happen.

Would you be OK if THAT movie was rated G because it depicted no violence, sex, nudity, language, or any other factors that might otherwise adjust the rating? A movie's message to me is at least as important if not more so then the machinations it uses to present that message.

quote:

Yet I really can't imagine a movie that I would actually boost up a rating for smoking. It's silly enough to think that, say, "Alice in Wonderland" might be "PG" because of the caterpillar and his hookah.

So what if a tobacco companies pays $50,000 to have a well liked super hero in a movie franchise light up at the moment of victory, do you honestly think children ignore that? What if its now a kid lighting up, but its OK the actor was not actually smoking a real cigarette it was a movie special effect. I am reminded of a scene in Mrs. Doubfire where Robin Williams refuses to say the lines for a cartoon because the character is lighting up a victory cigar.

quote:

That a "PG-13" might be pushed into "R" territory by a character lighting up is disturbing to me.

Again I saw NO indication in the article that this could be the case. There is no mention that smoking can even potentially warrant an R rating in the worst case scenario, this is purely a speculative and specious argument.

Just because the MPAA is NOW deciding to consider the role smoking plays in a movie does not mean the incidence of smoking in movies has increased, decreased, or otherwise.

If alcoholic consumption effects a movies rating, I see no reason why smoking should not follow suit. It should be done in a mature and rational fashion. The presentation of the system in the article seems very even headed and fair to me.

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Amanecer
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quote:
So what if a tobacco companies pays $50,000 to have a well liked super hero in a movie franchise light up at the moment of victory, do you honestly think children ignore that? What if its now a kid lighting up, but its OK the actor was not actually smoking a real cigarette it was a movie special effect. I am reminded of a scene in Mrs. Doubfire where Robin Williams refuses to say the lines for a cartoon because the character is lighting up a victory cigar.
Except that most mainstream movies these days strongly avoid having main characters smoke. I'm reminded of a scene in Thank you for Smoking where the movie producer explains that they couldn't have a main character smoking in a modern setting, the questions of health effects would be too big. Our culture has changed and movies reflect that. I think the movies that this change is really going to affect aren't the PG-13 blockbusters, but the more fringe films.
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Sterling
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quote:
Originally posted by BlackBlade:
Would you be OK if THAT movie was rated G because it depicted no violence, sex, nudity, language, or any other factors that might otherwise adjust the rating? A movie's message to me is at least as important if not more so then the machinations it uses to present that message.



Thus we have vaguer descriptions such as "adult situations" or "action peril".


quote:
So what if a tobacco companies pays $50,000 to have a well liked super hero in a movie franchise light up at the moment of victory, do you honestly think children ignore that? What if its now a kid lighting up, but its OK the actor was not actually smoking a real cigarette it was a movie special effect. I am reminded of a scene in Mrs. Doubfire where Robin Williams refuses to say the lines for a cartoon because the character is lighting up a victory cigar.
I can think, besides Mrs. Doubtfire, of at least one other case in which the opposite was true. Marvel Comics' Nick Fury stopped smoking cigars over a letter of protest.

And I think in the unlikely event of a payoff such as you describe, there would be a huge stink about it.

So why is this necessary?

quote:
Again I saw NO indication in the article that this could be the case. There is no mention that smoking can even potentially warrant an R rating in the worst case scenario, this is purely a speculative and specious argument.
Um, no:

quote:
In line with that evolution, the MPAA ratings board "will now consider smoking as a factor among many other factors, including violence, sexual situations and language, in the rating of films," he said.
If it's considerd as a factor it stands to reason that it can and will "bump up" a rating, just as sex, nudity, violence and profanity do.

quote:
Just because the MPAA is NOW deciding to consider the role smoking plays in a movie does not mean the incidence of smoking in movies has increased, decreased, or otherwise.

If alcoholic consumption effects a movies rating, I see no reason why smoking should not follow suit. It should be done in a mature and rational fashion. The presentation of the system in the article seems very even headed and fair to me.

Virtually every movie that has mentioned alcohol consumption as a ratings descriptor has specifically mentioned alcohol consumption by teens. This addition to the system appears more geared to tobacco consumption by adults.

If a character in a movie is shot and killed, that can be a PG or a PG-13 or an R moment. (Or perhaps even a 'G', if you site "Bambi".) Sex can be fairly explicit, or it can be a "diagonal bedsheet" morning-after scene. Language can be temped down, although sometimes it stilts dialogue or renders it unrealistic. About the only mitigating factor that's mentioned in the article is, say, setting the movie fifty years ago.

I hate to imagine a writer realizing that a character has to be changed or shown in an unflattering light just because of a detail that feels right for the character.

If Gandalf and Bilbo blowing smoke rings convinces a child to smoke, that's not something wrong with the movie.

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Nathan2006
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Oo, I'm so jealous! I heard about this months ago on the radio, but I didn't post because I couldn't find an article to link the topic too!

There will come a day, Sterling, and I WILL beat you to a topic. You will rue the day, RUE the day, you posted before I could!

Personally, I think it's a good thing. Kids who have always wanted to watch a rated R movie, but weren't allowed by their parents, may be allowed to watch them now. Who's going to know whether or not the violence in a hypothetical movie was worthy of an 'R' rating. For all the parents know, it could be rated R just for the smoking, while the violence was no worse than the violence is 'Ice Age'. If only that thing had passed a couple of years ago. <Sigh>

As far as I know, it just for movies that show smoking in a positive light... Or, don't show it in a negative light...

"You know smoking will kill you?"

"Do you plan to live forever?".

I don't think this will boil down to anything. If a movie is given an R rating, and Parents think that smoking is a stupid reason to rate a movie 'R', they have the freedom to take their child to see the movie, just as they would a PG-13 or PG movie. If parents think that the new rating system is a good idea, they have the freedom not to take their child to see the movie. So, actually, most of the content of my post has been useless. But, as I've already gone to the trouble of typing it, I'll leave it in.

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Tresopax
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quote:
The world was not meant to be child safe.
I'm pretty sure the entire point of the movie rating system IS to make movie theaters child safe, though....
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Krankykat
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And old reruns of "The Andy Griffith Show" and "I Love Lucy" on TVLAND need a parental warning and and/or R rating. There is a lot of smoking going on in those old shows. I think we need to blame smoking habits of about 1/2 of older Americans on Desi-Lu productions and the movie industry for the rest of Americans who smoke.
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0Megabyte
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I really dislike the cencorship of smoking. Where I live, you can't even smoke in the middle of a wide open park anymore. What's up with that?

When I'm in Hollywood, as protest for all the annoying anti-smoking stuff, I'll have as many of my characters be smokers as is feasible. Because, you know what? I have no love for tobaccoo companies but smoking is no moral sin nor should it be treated as such.

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BlackBlade
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quote:
Originally posted by 0Megabyte:
I really dislike the cencorship of smoking. Where I live, you can't even smoke in the middle of a wide open park anymore. What's up with that?

When I'm in Hollywood, as protest for all the annoying anti-smoking stuff, I'll have as many of my characters be smokers as is feasible. Because, you know what? I have no love for tobaccoo companies but smoking is no moral sin nor should it be treated as such.

It is when you try to force me to participate by blowing your smoke where I can breath it.
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The Reader
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Originally posted by Amanecer:
quote:
Except that most mainstream movies these days strongly avoid having main characters smoke. I'm reminded of a scene in Thank you for Smoking where the movie producer explains that they couldn't have a main character smoking in a modern setting, the questions of health effects would be too big. Our culture has changed and movies reflect that. I think the movies that this change is really going to affect aren't the PG-13 blockbusters, but the more fringe films.
I thought the lack of smoking was part of the parody.

Movie ratings are a joke anyway. They rarely reflect the actual content. I've seen a lot of PG-13 movies that were certainly not suitable for teenagers. The movies received that rating because they were marketed to teenagers, and the MPAA bit. I don't think that marketing is wrong, but the rating system has been allowed to be abused by studios.

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Sterling
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quote:
Originally posted by BlackBlade:
It is when you try to force me to participate by blowing your smoke where I can breath it.

And, you know, within reason I don't have any difficulty with laws putting some restrictions on smoking. I'm glad that wait staff and flight attendents don't have to breath smoke for their entire shifts anymore, for instance, and the ill in hospitals aren't exposed to second-hand smoke.

It's more the idea of the idea becoming verboten that bothers me.

There was a period where movies were warned against showing criminals in a positive light; suddenly, nearly every movie featuring crime had to have a "crime doesn't pay" moral comeuppance. On a vague level, that sounds good; in the details, it prevents a movie from examining real issues.

I hope parents never have to explain to their children that no, Uncle Dan isn't evil just because the only people who smoke on screen anymore are mustache-twirling villains.

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theamazeeaz
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quote:
Originally posted by rivka:


If this change means that Hollywood is a bit more cautious about having characters in a movie smoke, I'm all for it.

I think this is a good point. Studios usually know what rating they want to be, since it determines what they think is their target audience. Making a movie PG 13 or R means that it's for adults. The movies that older people see on their own that are G or PG are relatively small, and it's only the best movies that can draw the older crowd.

Meaning that characters in movies aimed at kids won't glorify smoking because that's not the audience the studios are hoping for. Some parents don't care about letting 8 year olds see PG 13 movies (heck they don't get half the jokes anyway), but it will stop enough that it will change the tone.

Making a movie "R" because some character lights up is a little much (and I HATE HATE HATE smoking).

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BlackBlade
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quote:
Originally posted by Sterling:
quote:
Originally posted by BlackBlade:
It is when you try to force me to participate by blowing your smoke where I can breath it.

And, you know, within reason I don't have any difficulty with laws putting some restrictions on smoking. I'm glad that wait staff and flight attendents don't have to breath smoke for their entire shifts anymore, for instance, and the ill in hospitals aren't exposed to second-hand smoke.

It's more the idea of the idea becoming verboten that bothers me.

There was a period where movies were warned against showing criminals in a positive light; suddenly, nearly every movie featuring crime had to have a "crime doesn't pay" moral comeuppance. On a vague level, that sounds good; in the details, it prevents a movie from examining real issues.

I hope parents never have to explain to their children that no, Uncle Dan isn't evil just because the only people who smoke on screen anymore are mustache-twirling villains.

I fully agree. I have no desire to see smokers vilified in the media, or in social settings. I personally think smoking is a terrible habit, but when my friends chose to take it up I just accepted it and still socialized with them. My own uncle struggled with drinking, drug use and smoking, he managed to kick cocaine, and alcohol, but he cannot kick smoking, he has tried for years and spent thousands of dollars. We spent just as much time with him as any other member of my family, we love him just the same, smoker or not.

But if I am about to take my kid to a movie and it says, "PG for pervasive smoking" I will be grateful for the heads up and decide what to do from there. I've never walked out of a movie and that is largely in part because I have a good idea what to expect going in.

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The Reader
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I agree with Sterling. I voted for a harsh smoking ban last year, but I don't hink the idea is evil, nor should it be considered such. People are not bad just because they smoke.
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