It’s hard not to sympathize with the Walt Disney Co.’s decision to become the first major Hollywood studio to ban depictions of smoking [by] “saying there would be no smoking in its family-oriented, Disney-branded films and it would ‘discourage’ it in films distributed by its Touchstone and Miramax labels,” according to a 7.25 Reuters report. They’d be wrong to push this too far with Touchstone and Miramax films, however. Life is life and some people still smoke for this or that reason, and any film that artificially suppresses that reality will devalue itself.
Last May the MPAA decided to consider giving R ratings to movies that “glamorize smoking or movies that feature pervasive smoking outside of an historic or other mitigating context may receive a higher rating.” I said at the time that “this is almost akin to prohibition and will probably raise a stink among who make their living playing bad guys, but anything that cuts down on a truly offensive acting tendency is okay with me, even though the MPAA’s idea is on the dopey side.
Point #1: “Smoking is a shorthand device for characters who are meant to be seen as outlaw-ish or anti-social. But what about an actress playing a middle-aged divorcee with self-destructive or low self-esteem issues? What about a nervous 15 year-old who’s trying to look cool in front of his friends. There are all kinds of characters who could light up in a valid way.” Point #2: “It’s not smoking in movies per se that’s so bad, but actors who use constant smoking as a behavioral crutch. Smoking can look marginally cool depending on how skilled or preternaturally cool the actor is, but it becomes extremely tedious and off-putting when done to excess.”