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Sunday, June 03, 2007

Apropos controversy over the recent MPAA announcement that gratuitous smoking will now be part of the criteria for earning an R rating, Craig Mazin blogs:
Anyway…the operative question is simply this: do parents want their unaccompanied children to see a movie that glamorizes smoking?
When we created our series NAKED JOSH, we had a discussion about whether the characters would smoke. And they were, for sure, the kinds of people who would smoke. A lot.

We decided not to let them smoke. I didn't want to be responsible for any kids picking up a cigarette because Eric, who is cool, smokes. (We did do one story where a hot girl tries to get him to start smoking again. He wound up dumping her.)

Not glamorizing smoking is an easy choice for me, because it seems to me so morally clear-cut. (Like not working non-union, for example.)

I also think writing smoking into a TV show or movie becomes a crutch. It gets in the way of a good story. Instead of acting, actors wave around a cigarette. Instead of coming up with clever and original -- perhaps thematically ironic -- business, writers stick a cigarette in the actor's hand. Cigarettes are not only toxic. They're boring. They are so last century. If you want a character to have a neurotic quirk, come up with something original.

I'm all for the MPAA narcing on gratuitous smoking onscreen. Considering how little they narc on horrible behavior -- driving dangerously, shooting people, punching people -- this is a small step in the right direction. I agree with Craig: I don't want my kids getting hooked on smoking because the cool villain smokes. And if it's a restriction on creative freedom, I think it's a mild one that can only encourage deeper, truer creativity.



But don't you think it's a slippery slope? ANY restriction on creative freedom should make us all nervous. Today it's smoking tomorrow it's drinking. Then it's something else.

I have a character who's majorly screwing up his life. He would make smoking very unglamorous and I feel like he's definitely a smoker. I wanted smoking scenes to show him alone and smoking while everybody else is inside having a good time.

But I don't want that to affect the rating so I have to take it out.

Then again this will probably be R anyway. Maybe I shouldn't bother.

By Blogger Emily Blake, at 1:12 PM  

Read the article. Smoking generates an R rating if it glamorizes smoking. If the point of the scene is that smoking sucks, you're not going to get an R.

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 1:19 PM  

I think Mr. Mazin's sophomoric, puerile, imbecilic movies have a worse effect on youngsters than James Dean smoking a Camel.

By Blogger Jon and Kate, at 3:27 PM  

It'll be a tricky thing to prove what constitutes "glamorizing." What, if the main character is shown getting emphysema, you're off the hook?

Anyways, I don't have a problem with smoking making an "R." It's adult behaviour, like sex and violence, so why not?

But how is smoking a "crutch" anymore than any device of modern life -- like cell phones or wardrobe?

It's an item and action that reveals character. It's a tool. Like any tool, overuse becomes boring. Good use illuminates character. Like having a guy drive a Hummer, or eating a Big Mac every day -- also bad for you, and possibly the rest of society. Are we gonna avoid showing that too?

It's a tool. Why limit yourself the use of a tool?

By Blogger Adam in Whitby, at 4:57 PM  

Ha! Looks like Matt's been hitting the thesaurus again. :)

To Emily's point, the MPAA doesn't restrict creative freedom at all. It's the filmmaker's choice if they wish to seek a particular rating.

By Blogger Craig Mazin, at 7:57 PM  

No, Mr. Mazin. I was using the synonym-izer.

By Blogger Jon and Kate, at 10:08 PM  

In Malcolm Gladwell's book Tipping Point, he describes smoking as something to which someone "cool" is psychologically predisposed to be attracted, so anyone likely to be a smoker would probably be exposed in other ways to it, by friends, for example. I don't have an issue with the ratings criteria change, personally, but I have my doubts that it will impact underage smoking.

By Blogger Dave Mowery, at 2:38 PM  

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