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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

MPAA says smoking might get yer film an R rating

From today’s New York Times:

In a significant change to its movie ratings system, the Motion Picture Association of America on Thursday said portrayals of smoking would be considered alongside sex and violence in assessing the suitability of movies for young viewers. Films that appear to glamorize smoking will risk a more restrictive rating, and descriptions of tobacco use will be added to the increasingly detailed advisories that accompany each rated film.

But why stop there? There’s so much objectionable in movies these days that we should be protecting tender hearts and minds from. I suggest the MPAA also be on the lookout for:
• Car chases. Are action filmmakers using low-emission, fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles when they’re staging their high-speed multicar pursuits? I don’t think so: I see lots of muscle cars and other poorly designed products of the modern American automobile industry. Any movie featuring more than three minutes of car usage above the posted speed limit should be “Rated R for gratuitous burning of irreplacable fossil-fuel products.” And any new Michael Bay movie featuring a Hummer would be an automatic NC-17 — my goodness, do we want our children to get the idea that 3MPG is somehow cool?!

• Junk food. Mystic Pizza? The Coca-Cola Kid? Chocolat? Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle? Oh my god, won’t someone think of the obese children? All movies that feature sympathetic characters consuming non-whole-grain carbs, saturated fats, or products containing high-fructose corn syrup who don’t immediately suffer negative consequences for their bad food choices should get an automatic R rating. Fried Green Tomatoes should come with a warning about “unnecessary deep frying.” Milk Money’s rating should take into account whether that milk is low-fat or, even better, soy.

• Self-esteem. Are we seriously considering the impact the appearance of Jessica Biel and Scarlett Johansson on film is having on our ugly daughters? Must we force our precious young boys to constantly compare themselves to Ashton Kutcher and Orlando Bloom? And self-esteem is not just about physical appearance. Should we be surprised when our children size up their athletic ability next to, say, Will Smith as Muhammad Ali or The Rock as himself and find themselves lacking? Should we be surprised when our children look at their utter lack of brains and talent and feel belittled next to the prodigious gifts of a Meryl Streep or a Phillip Seymour Hoffman? I propose that from now on, films featuring anyone gorgeous, brainy, or artistic or athletically endowed receive an automatic NC-17.

We can’t be too careful when it comes to our children, after all.

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  • *snicker* I love the way your mind works…

  • David C

    Well, we have to protect the children from Bad Things, like cigarette smoking, that they would never, ever see but for Hollywood’s insidious depictions!

    …er, what? They’re allowed to do that? Really? Out in the open, in front of public buildings?!?

    My, my, clearly we have a larger problem here! We must act at once to prohibit smokers from smoking in public places where children must see them. Yes, it’s time to restrict smoking so that it will only occur indoors, in the workplace, where no child will accidentally see it!

  • strongsilenttyper

    The tobacco companies have long used movies to promote smoking, spending millions as industry documents show. And no wonder. Movie smoking is worth $4.1 billion in lifetime sales revenue to the tobacco companies for every year’s crop of new young smokers recruited. It’s a bummer to think that our entertainment is being exploited this way. It’s even more of a downer to think that some bloggers earn their beer money by writing “junk science” screeds and billing PR agencies for it. But we’re grown-ups. We can take the trashing of our innocent illusions, can’t we?

  • MaryAnn

    Which bloggers are you referring to, strongsilenttyper?

    You’re right about the tobacco companies and product placement. But the same can be said of high-calorie sodas filled with high-fructose corn syrup, which might well be the worst crap marketed as “food” that you can put into your body. Should the MPAA be taking the presence of soda into account when rating films?

    The problem isn’t tobacco or soda or sex or violence in film — the problem is the MPAA and its arbitrary ratings system, and parents who don’t police what their kids are watching.

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