Smoking might not be big or clever but it does make you look cool and more grown up, regardless of how much manky dirt-coloured phlegm it makes you hack up into a grotty tissue each and every morning – but you try telling that to the Motion Picture Association Of America.
In an attempt to slow the rate of children taking up the habit, the MPAA has unveiled a new set of rules that place scenes of glorified smoking alongside scenes of graphic violence, graphic sex and foul language as a determining factor for rating movies. There's no doubt that smokers will now hit out at the MPAA's decision for utilising a draconian method of censorship, or that anti-smoking groups will welcome the decision as a step forward in the fight against a habit that kills five million people a year – but we're just relieved that Basic Instinct 2: Risk Addiction was released before this new ruling came out, otherwise the scenes of smoking within it would have prevented the children of the world from being constantly bombarded with images of Sharon Stone's 48-year-old tits and minge.
Smokers of the world are increasingly becoming social pariahs. Bars and restaurants are banning smoking – ruining that delightful feeling non-smokers get after a night out when they realise their hair smells exactly like Emphysema – while not even Keith Richards can smoke onstage during his own concert without someone complaining. Nor can Russell Crowe, although we obviously care less about him. Even Tom And Jerry have been banned from smoking, although luckily they are still allowed to horrifically injure each other with a range of household objects in the home of an offensively stereotypical black woman.
And now not even the movies are able to escape this creeping anti-smoking sentiment. The MPAA – the American movie ratings and censorship organisation – has decided to stub out scenes where smoking is pervasive or glamorised. Stub out. See what we did there? Reuters reports:
MPAA Chairman and CEO Dan Glickman said in a statement, "The rating board … will now consider smoking as a factor, among many other factors, including violence, sexual situations and language, in the rating of films. "Clearly, smoking is increasingly an unacceptable behavior in our society. There is broad awareness of smoking as a unique public health concern due to nicotine's highly addictive nature, and no parent wants their child to take up the habit. The appropriate response of the rating system is to give more information to parents on this issue."
Full credit to the MPAA for at least attempting to be socially aware, but will this new ruling actually change anything? Do children really start smoking because they saw an extra smoking during Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London? Or are kids smart enough not to dumbly copy everything the see in movies. For instance, after seeing Evil Dead 2 as a child, we didn't slam a witch's head under a trapdoor and jump on it until its eye popped out. Admittedly this was because we couldn't find a witch, forcing us to do the same with a puppy and three babies instead, but the point remains.
It will be interesting to see how the moviemaking process is affected by the MPAA's smoking ruling. Perhaps the 'Contains Moderate Scenes Of Fantasy Peril' warnings on movie posters will be joined by 'Contains A Scene Where A Docker Smokes A Fag Outside A Warehouse When Nobody is Looking' warning. Maybe nervous producers will digitally alter their movies so, for instance, in Goodnight, And Good Luck all the characters could walk around eating carrots.
Or maybe directors making films containing scenes of smoking will realise that they'll be rated harshly and add lots of gratuitous slaughter, nudity, swearing and drug-taking because it won't make any difference.
Yeah, we thought that Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed needed that too.