A news story rang my alarm bells last week. It was just a quick blurb really, a time filler for a slow news day. But hearing it sent my blood to full boil.
My local ABC affiliate profiled Sharlene Bozack of the American Cancer Society. In an interview, Bozack was quoted as saying, "I’d like to see smoking banned in all movies."
The woman’s intentions were great. She believed movies glamorized smoking and thus influenced children to pick up the habit. And she is not alone in her convictions. According to Time Magazine,"…a mandatory R rating for movies that feature smoking has been endorsed by the World Health Organization and the American Medical Association…"
Okay, so we ban images of smoking on film. Smoking is bad for you; no one can argue with me there. So let’s ban it from the movies. Who’s s with me?
But hey, what about illegal drug use? Illegal drug use is bad for you, right? So let’s ban that from film too. Who’s with me?
Alcohol? Kids shouldn’t dink alcohol, should they? Let’s ban it. Captain Jack Sparrow can drink root beer.
Hmmmm, wait a minute. Root beer has a lot of sugar in it and sugar is bad for kids. Also, it does have the word "BEER" in its name. So maybe we better ban it too. Just to be safe. Sparrow can drink water.
What’s that you say? You don’t want to ban root beer from PG-13 films? What kind of SICK BASTARD are you? You must hate children.
My heavy-handed point is this–once you start banning things from art you create a slippery slope. It starts with good intentions and ends with ignorance, intolerance and bonfires stacked high with books.
I’m not a fan of smoking. It’s a filthy habit, and I’m convinced it took years off my father’s life. I’m also not a fan of the tobacco industry and their past attempts to use films as commercials for cigarettes. But banning images of smoking from movies is a horrible idea.
The world is full of sharp edges. You can’t put bumpers around all of them.