Feb 25, 2009

'He's Just Not That Into You' Makes Me Want to Smoke a Cigarette, or Two

(Surgeon General's Warning: The Cigarettes Depicted in the Photo Above are Fictitious. They Were Drawn, Poorly, Using Microsoft 'Paint', and Are In NO Way Meant To Condone Smoking And/Or Being Sexy In The Workplace.)

According to an article in the New York Times, the American Medical Association Alliance plans to present an official complaint to Warner Brothers (and it's parent company, Time Warner) about the "disturbing images" of specific cigarette brands in the recent film, He's Just Not That Into You.

A representative of the volunteer-member AMA alliance cites "various studies" estimating that 200,000 young people pick up cigarettes annually because of displays of smoking in films--and "there is," the rep is quoted as saying, "absolutely zero artistic justification for this."

The outcry stems from several appearances of a bright yellow cigarette box, suggestive of the Natural American Spirit brand of cigarettes, and the (questionable) appearance of a red Marlboro carton (a person who worked on the film disputed this).

...Nevermind that the film doesn't ever actually show anyone smoking those cigarettes. And nevermind that there is an entire subplot about losing your wife because of smoking. Yes, I imagine large quantities of 15-year-old girls will be picking up tobacco after seeing a vague, brightly-colored pack of cigs in the vicinity of Justin Long, in a romantic comedy based on a self-help book with a title taken from a Sex and the City quote. This is definitely a huge problem. Or not.

I understand--completely--the argument that there is no "artistic justification" for having cigarettes in He's Just Not That Into You; after all, there's no art in He's Just Not That Into You, and very little logical justification for much of anything. Ha ha. But seriously, people get riled up over this?

I'm definitely not condoning smoking, but to attack a movie studio on such flimsy grounds, based on conjecture and subjective artistic opinion, seems nonsensical. And to so clearly ignore the intentions of the plot--“It doesn’t really matter if the story line is negative or not in terms of the impact on kids”--in favor of pure images, like a glimpse of a cigarette box, seems dangerously obtuse and entirely beside the point. Even if movies do get almost a quarter of a million kids to start smoking every year, there must certainly be other factors weighing into this choice, no? Lifestyle habits, parental guidance, discipline, social pressure, etc. are, in my mind, more likely the culpable parties, with a child's taste in movies more of a symptomatic byproduct. To make movies into the bad guy, and to do so by trotting out phrases like "artistic justification," sounds too much like needless censorship.

Anyway, the MPAA already considers smoking when rating movies for young viewers, and as far as I can tell (I freely admit to not having seen He's Just Not That Into You) the movie is neither glamorizing nor ignoring the consequences of smoking in its (non-)portrayal. So what's the big deal?

...It is true, though, that that little yellow box is kinda pretty. And its kinda making me crave...something. I can't quite put my fingers on it.

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