Taking My Responsibility

OK, this really isn’t a local topic but the article that spiked my interest this morning was written by Steven Rea on philly.com, so there is a local connection. Anyway, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) decried last week that smoking in films could put a film in danger of receiving a restricted rating as they have implemented a new rating standard, “depictions that glamorize smoking or movies that feature pervasive smoking outside of a historic or other mitigating context may receive a higher rating.” Let it be known that despite not being a smoker, I was against the smoking ban. I feel it is the right of the business owner to dictate what legal activities their customers can and cannot do in their business establishment.

Now before you all jump down my throat and attack me, claiming that no one has the right to slowly kill you please remember that smoking as much as it may disturb you is legal. Pouring bleach down someone’s throat is not. The fact that our government has stepped in and mandated to business owners you cannot run your business the way you want to is appalling to me. Regardless of my political standpoint on cancer sticks this article is actually about movies.

While the MPAA is not a government run entity, political and social groups influence it heavily. There are studies from all sorts of organizations that link on screen smoking with children picking up the habit and no one really wants to see kids smoking but I am sure there are just as many studies that show the reverse as well. That’s the funny thing about statistics is you can manipulate them however you want. But the more vocal group is obviously on the side of banning smoking from movies and while they didn’t get it banned they got a damn close second place.

With this new ratings factor a movie like “Armageddon”, an admittedly tame PG-13 film, would now receive an R rating because of the few scenes where characters smoke. A film like “The Matrix”, an R rated film, would receive an NC-17. An NC-17 is the equivalent of an X rating. In the Philly.com article, Stephen Rea asks what could possibly be next, films with kids eating trans-fat donuts getting an R rating? While that example seems extreme, it is because the MPAA is bordering on censorship.

This whole thing isn’t about smoking; it is about the fact that people are taking responsibility out of our hands. They are telling us how we should live our lives and that is not right. I don’t need people telling me that my kids shouldn’t play “Grand Theft Auto IV” or that they shouldn’t see “28 Weeks Later”. I don’t need that and neither should anybody else.

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