India bans smoking in films

If it was your dream to puff a cig in a Bollywood movie, you have till August. Old films with smoking scenes will now have to include scrolling health warnings. Poor Phillip Marlowe. I wonder, is it only fictional tobacco that fictional characters won't be able to smoke onscreen? What about yogis toking hashish or datura? What's next -- no depictions of skydiving, driving without a seatbelt, or living in Iraq? And how will they stop at films? If your book features smoking, and it's published in India, will it eventually have a Surgeon General's warning sticker on it?


the plunge said...

It's not like it's a free speech issue, really, Grendy. Even freedom of expression seems like a stretch. It's just a practical, if heavy-handed approach to eliminating the perception that smoking is glamorous. If you think about it, a cigarette in a movie is really nothing more than product placement. It serves no purpose except to advertise cigarettes. I mean, how much does a lit butt REALLY do for characterization, movie or book?

"Things have really gotten bad," said Bob-O. Outside, a yellow newspaper tumbled down the street. It was on fire.

"Real bad," said Reid, taking a long drag and exhaling it slowly, so the smoke drifted up and hid his face, as a gray cloud hides a red moon at night. "But they'll get worse."

It's a total cleesh. I say if it'll stop people from smoking and dying pointlessly, then please, let's ban the shit out of it and daren't look back.

chad said...

Except that smoking is glamerous and might i add, sexy. What about booze, clothing (which kills people who work in sweatshops), cars, air, and water. Don't all of these things kill people too?

Grendel said...
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Grendel said...

Oh, it's a free speech issue all right.

"Gimme a pack of Red Apples," said Vincent Vega. "Oh, wait. I guess I'll have a water with lemon."

You're just saying: so what? It's worth it to trample on it. It probably would save lives. But with freedom of expression, in for a dime, in for a dollar.

How does drug use REALLY characterize? How does drinking? Ban them. Aren't those just ads for brewers and pot, coca, and poppy growers? They glamorize risky behavior pointlessly. How does riding a motorcycle REALLY characterize (ahem!)? Getting on a bike is deadlier than lighting up. Thousands and thousands of senseless deaths every year. Ban it. They can ride bicycles with helmets or mini-vans with car seats.

It sounds silly, but once you let da gubment stick its foot in the door, there's no getting that foot out of the door. That's why we have the first amendment, no? Because this "so what" argument could be made ad nauseum, no?

kclou said...

Hunter S. Thompson is rolling in his grave, or, rather, his ashes are rolling wherever they landed after being fired into the air from a canon.

Jane said...

The more verboten cigarettes and drugs and motorcycles and sex and saturated fats become, the more they characterize, I'd argue.

Brando said...

In this day and age, if you need a scrolling warning to tell you that cigarette smoking is bad, you're too stupid to live anyway, and may as well start smoking.

I approve of the motive but not the method. Are they going to scroll nutritional information when a character eats a Big Mac? And imagine if they took the drugs out of Pulp Fiction or Fast Times at Ridgemont High. It would be like taking the swords out of Conan.

the plunge said...

Cigarettes are not drugs. Cigarettes are not drugs. Cigarettes are not drugs.

Take the cigarettes out of Pulp Fiction and you have Pulp Fiction. Take the drugs out of Pulp Fiction and you have Reservoir Dogs. Totally different thing.

Drugs (and look, I'm not talking about drugs in the strict "physiology-altering chemical" way, in which many foods and even the air in Mexico City would qualify--I'm talking about shit that gets you fucked up) dramatically change psychologies, they bring to the surface things long forgotten, they allow for deranged leaps of insight, violent behavior, out-of-body experience, spiritual revelation. All cigarettes do is make you nervous.

This reminds me a little of synthetic's argument about how, because EG is on the internet, it's just like all other completely non-similar web sites. Cigarettes can harm you, but yo ya'll, they're not dangerous. Danger is danger. Base-jumping is dangerous. Cigarettes are just really bad for you.

So I don't but the slippery slope thing. Smoking isn't in the same category a swordfighting--it's not fun. You can't stop people from doing dangerous things for fun, because those people really like doing those things, and in many cases, there are lots of payoffs to them. For instance, if a man and a woman go base-jumping together, they are likely both to remember the experience in great detail because of the adrenaline and consequent extreme heightening of consciousness (not unlike drug use) and then to fuck each others brains out afterwards. Smoking? People have sex in order to make SMOKING better.

The government is not banning dangerous behavior--it's banning addictive and pointlessly harmful behavior.
Who decides what's pointlessly harmful and what's not? Answer: everyone. Everyone agrees smoking is without value, including smokers. So get rid of it--not by outlawing it, of course, since we are free peoples and can make our own decisions about which risky behavior we'll engage in--but by slowly reversing decades of concerted effort by tobacco companies to plaster their product on every screen big and small, moving or static, until we no longer question the ubiquity of it. I for one don't mind being reverse-brainwashed; hell, no one asked me if it was okay to do it to me the first time.

They're not going to ban motorcycles or guns from movies, guys--those things are cool. They make loud noises and involve fire and death and speed and romance.

Trust me, when cigarettes are gone, movies and books will go on without them. If your smoker character seems too wan and one-dimensional now that his pack has been taken away--I got news for ya.

NicFitKid said...

As a smoker of six years who is currently on day eighty-six without nicotine, I'd like to make a few points.

I didn't start smoking because of a movie or TV show or any other media image. I started smoking because I was working with and hanging out with a lot of other smokers in a close-knit working environment. That and it was a great excuse to take a break every half-hour or so.

I didn't embark on my current cold turkey quest (no nicotine means no nicotine gums, patches, inhalers, etc.) because of "reverse brain-washing" or any other media influence. I stopped smoking eighty-six days ago because I was taking in two packs a day (expensive), I felt like crap, and I couldn't climb stairs very well anymore.

Smoking or not smoking is a personal decision like any other, and most smokers are not going quit just because polite society tries to ostracize them, and most non-smokers will not light up just because their favorite actor or fictional character chainsmokes their way through a pack of Gitanes.

Grendel said...

Courier, way to go on quitting.

Plunge, your argument is more twisted than an overwound clock in a blender on ... uh ... on a ... Tilt-a-Whirl. I think you protest too much. Either you believe it's the government's business to tell filmmakers what they can film or you don't. You do, which is surprising, granted, but why can't you just say that?

I don't.

Of course tobacco is a drug. Ask any doctor or shaman.

Brando said...

Plunge, my good man, I respect where you're coming from. I also agree that you don't need a character to smoke. But what I don't like is retroactively sticking some kind of PSA in a film where someone is smoking. Want to run an announcement beforehand? Sure. But during a scene. Absolutely not. Next thing you know, they'll be digitally inserting carrots in their hands.

SER said...

While I'd like to agree with Plunge very, very badly, and even tried to at first, I had that feeling that I was rationalizing, that little tickle in the gut that Scott McClellan must feel every goddamned day, except that he's probably inured to it by now. Anyway, my points are these:

1. I hate smoking. Hate hate hate HATE. I still like MSF, though.

2. I think smoking in movies - at least currently - does not really characterize. By that, I mean that it's overused, that people who wouldn't really smoke in real life smoke in movies. I mean, go to California sometime - hardly anyone smokes anymore. But in movies, which are often set in California, people are smoking away, in all settings. It's portrayed as something as normal as drinking iced tea in South Carolina.

3. All of that having been said, I don't think that smoking should be banned from movies. But a smart filmmaker would use smoking in a different way than (it seems to me) it's used now - that is, in a way other than either suggesting glamour or hinting at imminent death from lung cancer. You really could use smoking to make a character more complex, if you *also* portray the smoking as something that, even in the world of the movie, has a different place in society than it used to (and a different place in different regions, socioeconomic classes, in-groups, etc.). Then it would likely be less glamorous and more interesting.

Incidentally, I love Plunge's online persona. I also love his real-life affect. The two, however, are different. Try to dispute that, Bs and Gs!

the plunge said...

Without the braggadocio I suppose I'm warranted here, I'll just say that this Slate article confirms what I've known all along: on this issue, I sit firmly in the more enlightented camp.