Dean Barry R. Bloom’s advice to the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) to restrict on-screen smoking in films sadly neglects the implications for artistic freedom in his otherwise admirable effort to discourage smoking.
Smoking is often an integral part of character portrayal and has been for decades; R ratings for movies with smoking scenes would prevent minors from viewing such classics as Good Night and Good Luck; Casablanca, and Breakfast at Tiffany’s–to name a few–as well as animated movies like 101 Dalmatians in which the villain, Cruella DeVil, smokes incessantly.
It also assumes that film scenes showing adult characters smoking causes young people to smoke. Amidst all the cultural messages young people receive, film dramatizations can’t compare to the influence of friends, family, teachers, and doctors, among others. Besides, if we accept the fact that minors should not see films depicting unhealthy behavior, they will not see movies about anorexia, war, drug abuse, suicide, and many other topics – even though these films might help them understand the world better.
Instead of censoring films, we should educate children both to think critically about the cultural messages bombarding them and to make healthy life choices.
REBECCA L. ZEIDEL ‘06
New York, NY
May 16, 2007
The writer is research assistant and coordinator at the National Coalition Against Censorship.