No Smoking While Naked

Smoking Man
Photo by emdot — Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved

Week before last, the blog highlighted the dishonest system of the Motion Picture Association, which favors a certain kind of artistic expression (big studio, bigger technologies, and biggest violence) over art that is on an intimate human scale. For a quick reference, you can see the list of What Jack Valenti Has Taught My Children. (Valenti, who as the former chief of the Motion Picture Association was responsible for their ratings system, recently passed away.)

Now the MPAA has gone one step further. Movies distributed in America can receive restricted ratings if there are “depictions that glamorize smoking or movies that feature pervasive smoking outside of a historic or other mitigating context”

So, from the MPAA’s perspective, what’s the most dangerous image for our children to see? Clearly it would be a naked man smoking.

The anonymous rating’s board that previews all films and gives them their designation - which affects advertising placement opportunities, distribution and showing times, and box office - will now add smoking to their current up-periscope views on drug use, profanity, nudity and violence.

One of the trade groups behind this push wanted a film to automatically receive an R rating (restricted - no one under 17 years of age without a parent or guardian) if a cigarette was shown. Even Jack Valenti was against adding smoking to the smoke and mirrors of ratings. Valenti told a congressional panel in 2004 that he was concerned if the board added smoking to the list they would soon receive pressure from similar groups on the environment, alcohol abuse, and obesity. (Obesity??? Maybe he was concerned about pressure from films that featured abnormally thin people? Where’s the botox pressure group when you really need them?)

How stupid does an audience have to be to think that when a movie takes place in the 50′s and a character is smoking that’s ok because it is historically accurate, but when a movie takes place today and a character is smoking, that’s bad and could force you to start smoking on your own. Isn’t there such a thing as being “historically accurate” about our own times?

Perhaps, this is where the MPAA and politicians become one and the same: both work their hardest to make sure that we don’t see the reality of our own time. No matter how you slice it, or smoke it, it is about control — control of art.

There are festivals on that provide useful and complete information about their presentations. Letting an audience know the context helps them decide whether they want to bring their own children, to be prepared for issues of violence, language, and theme. There is a difference: festivals here inform an audience; the movie industry scolds an audience.

Good art reflects our times. Great art reveals our times.

Now I am all for convincing children not to take up smoking, especially my own. But isn’t this silly? Isn’t it a bit, well, provincial?

After all, I am pretty confident that my son won’t take up humping horses after seeing Equus on stage, nor will my daughter be running around the house naked after seeing Titian at the Louvre.

Maybe, Hollywood should get out more — go see a play, museum, or festival. All have had audiences for centuries. Maybe, they could learn something.

- Bill Reichblum

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7 Responses to “No Smoking While Naked”

  1. John
    May 14th, 2007 09:05

    This is a fascinating post! It could not have been expressed better.

  2. Legal System Abusers Bulletin » Blog Archive » No Smoking While Naked
    May 14th, 2007 11:47

    [...] More: Bill [...]

  3. Stephen Barth
    May 1st, 2008 11:10

    I thought you might find the following interesting:

    “Atlantic City recently closed a loophole in its state’s smoking ban, which allowed smoking in gambling halls. According to the Associated Press article, casino employees supported the initiative, wearing T-shirts with the slogan “Nobody deserves to work in an ashtray” emblazoned across the front. ”

    I challenge the industry to go non-smoking. Check out my blog on at

  4. Bill
    May 2nd, 2008 09:01

    Stephen, of course your work on behalf of the hospitality industry’s workers is admirable and needed.

    Still, the impulse to curtail artistic expression can hardly be the way to proceed, let alone the solution.

    Don’t you think?

  5. Ex-Smoker
    October 26th, 2008 13:13

    IMHO, they should not divide movies by the time when they were shot. Smoking is smoking, and if they want to remove it from our screens, they should implement the rules to each and every movie without exceptions. How to do that is another question.

  6. Ecigs
    May 2nd, 2009 04:09

    I would recommend people now switch to the concept of electronic smoking. I use it and am very happy to quit real smoking.

  7. KadmusArts Culture News » Blog Archive » On Stage Smoke: Protected Speech?
    May 31st, 2010 00:09

    [...] Denver Post No Smoking While Naked [...]

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