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. Now the Motion Picture Association of America is stepping in for somewhat different reasons and declaring that smoking will now affect movie ratings….maybe. A few too many self-conscious lungfuls and a film may end up with…what? An R rather than a PG-13? A PG-13 rather than a PG? Something along those lines.

Variety‘s William Triplett is reporting that the MPAA, “responding to years of criticism from child advocacy groups and health organization, announced Thursday it is expanding its current consideration of teen smoking to all smoking when evaluating and assigning a movie rating.”
“‘In the past, illegal teen smoking has been a factor in the rating of films, alongside other parental concerns such as sex, violence and adult language,’ the org said in a statement. ‘Now, all smoking will be considered and depictions that glamorize smoking or movies that feature pervasive smoking outside of an historic or other mitigating context may receive a higher rating.” Higher? Economically compromising, they mean.
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.
The key MPAA declaration is that smoking in movies “outside of an historic or other mitigating context” will be more closely examined. But what’s an acceptable mitigating context? 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. Thee are all kinds of characters who could light up in a valid way.