Set your scanners to Smashin’, people. Anti-tobacco Nazis are waging war against Rango for its numerous depictions of characters smoking and holy crap I want to put my fist straight through this story. After the jump, I plan on losing my mind until my blood pressure hits 600/400 and I just stroke out and die where I sit. Eh, I had a good run.
But before I do that, let me get two things out of the way. First, I used to be a smoker. Every day for 7+ years, I smoked anywhere from a handful of cigarettes to well over a full pack. After trying to quit a crapload of times, it finally stuck and I haven’t had one in five-ish years. Big whoop. I didn’t do it for applause or anything. I did it because it’s gross and expensive, and daddy likes breathing and having some change jingle-jangling in his pocket. Second of all, now that I’m not essentially breathing fire a few dozen times a day, I certainly understand people who want to go to a bar for happy hour and not come out smelling like Lindsay Lohan’s voice. My issue lies not with these people. My issue lies with people who want to pass ordinances restricting smoking outside (OUTSIDE) or in your own home. Or, in this case, people who want EVERY MOVIE THAT CONTAINS A SINGLE INSTANCE OF SMOKING TO BE RATED R. These people are not to be trusted.
Ok, let’s take this story apart limb by limb.
The film, which opened Friday and topped the weekend box office with a gross of $38 million, includes at least 60 instances of characters smoking, said Kori Titus, CEO of the Sacramento-based non-profit Breathe California.
One of Breathe California’s projects is “Thumbs Up! Thumbs Down!” — in which trained young people and adults analyze films’ tobacco content. Each time a character is seen smoking is counted as one instance, Titus said, adding she was taken aback when she received an e-mail Sunday about the frequency of smoking in Rango. The only other animated film on par with that, she said, was 101 Dalmatians, with about 60 instances of Cruella De Vil smoking.
Well, this is certainly a worthwhile endeavor. Counting up every instance of smoking in every film ever made and comparing them to each other? I’m sure as Kori Titus lays on her deathbed (with her pristine lungs intact), she will turn to her children, and say with her dying words, “My only regret is that I didn’t count more instances of smoking in popular culture.”
Additionally, and I think this is an important point, Cruella De Vil was a crazy woman who wanted to murder dozens of puppies to make a coat. If I was an anti-smoking advocate, I’d be ELATED she was a smoker.
Because there are so many scenes in which characters smoke, she said, her group might not be able to get a definitive count until Rango comes out on DVD.
“Oh my! Whatever will I do whilst awaiting to hear whether there were 63 or 64 instances of smoking in Rango? How can I go about my day without this important knowledge? AND FOR THE LOVE OF GOD WILL YOU TURN DOWN THE COVERAGE OF THAT STUPID JAPANESE EARTHQUAKE?! I’m trying to tell if this nameless background character in Twilight is smoking a cigarette or eating a lollipop.”
“A lot of kids are going to start smoking because of this movie,” said Stanton Glantz, director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California-San Francisco. Youths who frequently see smoking onscreen are two to three times more likely to begin smoking than peers who rarely see it depicted, he said.
Let me be very clear about something: Stanton Glantz is not a real person. He can’t be. An anti-smoking advocate named Stanton Glantz who lives in San Francisco and makes conclusory doomsday statements like “A lot of kids are going to start smoking because of this movie” sounds like something even Michael Bay would dismiss as being too on-the -nose. No, I’ll not be fooled by this.
Additionally, and I don’t even know if this is possible, but I’m picturing him with two sole patches.
On Feb. 23, Smoke Free Movies, a project of Glantz’s, ran a full-page ad in Variety and the Hollywood Reporter that slammed the smoking in Rango. “How many studio execs did it take to OK smoking in a ‘PG’ movie?” the ad asked.
Said Glantz, “If we had known it’s as bad as it is, this ad would have been even tougher.”
I love that he thought the original ad was tough in the least. I just picture him sitting around saying, “Yes, this smugly worded question will surely cut through these executives like a samurai sword. Wait, I take that back. That is an unacceptably violent metaphor that will certainly lead to dozens of ninja-related deaths among children ages 12-14. This ad will strike them down like so many victims of lung cancer. Much better, Stanton. (*farts into wine glass, swirls it around, inhales deeply*)”
Virginia Lam, a spokeswoman for Paramount, Rango’s maker, said the title character never smokes. “The images of smoking in the film … are portrayed by supporting characters and are not intended to be celebrated or emulated,” she said.
From 2007 through 2010, Lam said, the number of Paramount’s tobacco-free films across all ratings increased 25%, and only one G- or PG-rated film, a documentary, depicted tobacco. Lam said the studio also has included anti-smoking public service announcements on DVDs of youth-related movies that depict smoking.
Well, that seems like a sensible argument. People smoke in real life all the time, so completely turning a blind eye to it on film isn’t really doing anyone a service. Furthermore, as Ms. Lam points out, it can be used as a teachable moment. Kids can see these characters smoking and associate it with the PSAs. I mean, it’s not like the characters are being glorified as bastions of cool like Dean or Brando riding a motorcycle in a leather jacket and bedding female townsfolk. Surely, anti-smoking advocates like Stanton Glantz can accept such a reasonable approach and we can all move along wi-
Nevertheless, Rango has renewed the call by Glantz and other anti-smoking advocates for the Motion Picture Association of America, or MPAA, to rate any film that shows smoking as “R.”
(*spins directly off planet*)
Look, I don’t want kids smoking any more than the next guy (provided the next guy isn’t Joe Camel). But these morons who take it upon themselves to try to eradicate tobacco use from the planet one city ordinance and petition at a time need to be stopped. I’m sorry if your enjoyment of the park is lessened because Johnny Motorcycle lit up a Marlboro Light and the smell of smoke just drives you batty. But tough sh*t. I don’t like country music, but I’m not going to go out and picket every Keith Urban concert. As I said up top, I can understand banning smoking in tight, confined spaces like bars or airplanes for the health of consumers and employees. But when your argument devolves into “ALL MOVIES WITH SMOKING SHOULD BE RATED-R REGARDLESS OF CONTEXT,” then you’re no longer doing a service to your cause.
And you’re an asshole.
And I hate you.